No on Proposition 10 ‘ Stop T. Boone’s Pickpocket Initiative

by Richard Holober, Consumer Federation of California, The Desert Sun

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Hang onto your wallet. Texas oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens is spending a fortune on Proposition 10. His initiative would cost California taxpayers $10 billion.

Pickens’ Clean Energy Fuel Corp. wrote Proposition 10 and put up $3 million to place it on the November ballot.

Proposition 10 spends billions in tax giveaways to manipulate the marketplace to favor natural gas as a ‘clean’ vehicle fuel to the disadvantage of cleaner alternative energy technologies.

Proposition 10’s biggest bonanza goes to ‘ you guessed it ‘ Pickens’ Clean Energy Fuel Corp. This corporation dominates the natural gas fueling station business. The initiative could increase California natural gas vehicle sales by 500 percent. That translates into a giant increase in fill-ups at Mr. Pickens’ gas stations.

Proposition 10 is a $5 billion bond, with $2.9 billion funding rebates for purchasers of ‘clean’ vehicles. The taxpayer cost to pay off the bonds is $335 million a year for the next 30 years.

Vehicles subsidized by the measure will be rusting in junkyards long before our grandchildren have finished paying for Proposition 10. We’re already struggling with a $15 billion state budget shortfall, and $335 million in new spending means more cuts to schools, public safety and public health programs.

Proposition 10’s definition of a ‘clean alternative’ vehicle excludes hybrids and includes natural gas-powered vehicles, provided their emissions are no worse than the pollution caused by gasoline or diesel powered vehicles. That’s a neat trick: re-label the status quo as clean and you qualify for a big handout ‘ as long as you fill up at Mr. Pickens’ gas stations.

Proposition 10 hands out $50,000 per ‘clean’ heavy duty truck on a first-come, first-served basis. A trucking company could buy a fleet of new ‘clean’ trucks, register them in California for one day, collect $50,000 per truck from our taxpayers and permanently relocate the trucks to any other state.

A trucking company could collect a $50,000 rebate to replace an older ‘dirty’ truck, then turn around and sell the used ‘dirty’ vehicle to another trucker who continues belching its fumes on California roads.

Proposition 10’s corporate authors could have written language to guarantee clean air improvements. In fact, such a program is already up and running.

California’s Goods Movement Program administered by the Air Resources Board also provides subsidies of up to $50,000 to replace an old ‘dirty’ truck with a new clean truck. Unlike Proposition 10’s first-come, first-served payouts, the Goods Movement Program has a competitive application process. Applications are ranked based on the amount of pollution reduction achieved. The trucks with the highest emissions are replaced first and their owners get funding priority. Unlike Proposition 10, these dirty trucks are crushed, permanently removing them from our roads. To get a rebate under the Goods Movement Program, the trucker must accept a GPS device to track the clean new truck’s movements. If the truck leaves the state, the trucker pays a penalty.

Proposition 10 could have included these accountability measures, but it didn’t.

Proposition 10’s corporate authors aren’t dummies. They threw in some funding for alternative energy research. Proponents will claim that the initiative gives equal rebates to natural gas, electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. This window dressing may help sell the initiative, but it’s lipstick on a pig. Rebates will be long gone, spent on natural gas vehicles before affordable hydrogen or electric vehicles are on the market.

Californians simply cannot afford to cut our schools, public health and public safety programs further to enrich a Texas billionaire. Vote no on Proposition 10.