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Proposition 87: To Tax Or Not To Tax?

by quinne anderson (writer), Los Angeles, October 24, 2006

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Elections. They're right around the corner. We keep seeing ads for the various candidates and propositions on television, interspersed between partisan newscasts and anything-but-reality shows.

Elections. They're right around the corner. We keep seeing ads for the various candidates and propositions on television, interspersed between partisan newscasts and anything-but-reality shows.

And we have also seen the cost of gas at the pumps rise exponentially, while oil companies bear record-breaking profits. It makes us angry, but what are we to do? Especially here in California, where gas prices are some of the highest in the country. Legislation currently at hand is attempting to address our concerns about fuel consumption.

The problem with elections is that it's nigh impossible as a layperson to make an educated choice at the polls. Though none of us want to just close our eyes and blindly pick a side, it is difficult to intelligently choose what's best for ourselves and for our local, state and national communities. We're just assailed with biased ads that are often funded by corporations and lobby groups trying to better serve their own financial interests. Before we march ourselves off to the ballot box, we must educate ourselves on the fine points of all of these issues. And since most of us have to juggle the stresses of our daily lives: full-time jobs, relationships, children and other commitments, little time is left for hunting down information on all of the different proposals at hand. When we do find the information, the proposed legislation is invariably written in long-winded political/legal jargon that makes the average person's head spin. I know this firsthand because today, I forced myself to wade through ten pages of text for Proposition 87.

For those of you who are currently unaware, Proposition 87 is a measure also known as the Clean Alternative Energy Act. Upon perusal of its eleven talking points under SECTION 3, PURPOSE AND INTENT, it becomes clear to me that the intentions of this legislation are indeed noble. I would really like to have faith in its endeavors. But we all know that intention and actuality do not always jibe.

The general idea of 87 is to implement new legislation regarding California oil production and energy conservation and to form yet another government bureaucracy (composed of nine persons, all of whom would be appointed by current state offices, including the Hummer-driving governor) to preside over it. Of the top five states to produce oil in this nation, California is the only one who does not currently impose an assessment on companies extracting oil from California oil wells. The idea is that by enacting such an assessment (through Prop. 87), California would raise approximately $4 billion to spend on a number of things relating to the research and support of more efficient and cleaner energy consumption in our state.

The proponents of this bill expect it to enhance California's energy independence--on oil both foreign and domestic, and to help bring us a better overall quality of life by reducing the quantity of pollutants and toxic emissions produced by transportation vehicles. The legislation intends to support education on energy efficiency and renewable energy sources, as well as launch programs to enhance current technologies and make them more readily available to the public. Prop. 87 claims that the new costs imposed on the oil producers will not be passed along to the consumer, that they simply won't be allowed to gouge us. But we all know how well bureaucracy, inaction, government, taxes and corruption get along together. Can we really trust that the state can protect California consumers from feeling the pinch? Certainly we will suffer some price increase at the pumps.

In fact, many economists argue that the new assessment would only cause prices to raise in the long run, and would actually increase rather than decrease our dependency on foreign oil sources. A new tax would discourage and slow local production, and would likely cause oil producers to shut down low-volume wells altogether for lack of profitability. A decreased in-state production rate would increase our need for importing, and the cost of transporting that imported fuel would easily be passed along at the pump.

One of the points of the legislation is to reduce California's consumption of petroleum transportation fuels. As of last year, we used 16 billion gallons of fuel for transportation purposes annually. The goal is that with the programs, education and technology to be funded by the new assessment, by 2017 we will have found a way to reduce this usage by 4 billion gallons annually. The tax would end when the funding reaches $4 billion or in 2017, whichever occurs first.

I really want to believe that Proposition 87 will help make our future brighter, preferably with solar power. Anything that says, "Screw you!" to big corporations (especially big oil companies) is O.K. in my book. And anything that is progressive to our environment and energy conservation, especially when big money corporations are footing the bill, seems to be on the right track to me. But upon closer inspection, it's just never that simple. The words "evaluate," "ensure," "two-year plan" and "ten-year plan" are thrown around like confetti in this document. It sounds like a lot of talk, with very little walk to me. It sounds like yet another big wad of bureaucratic red tape for us to fight our way through.

It's tough to say how such legislation would pan out in the long run. Ideally, everything the proposition claims to do would be executed: reduced overall petroleum fuel consumption, reduced pollution, better availability of energy-efficient vehicles and fuel, reduced dependence on foreign oil sourcces, improved environment and public health, advanced technologies and new job opportunities in their development. But who can be sure? The road to hell is paved with good intentions.





Nobody can choose for you. Educate yourself at:

www.voterguide.ss.ca.gov/pdf/prop87_text.pdf





About the Writer

quinne anderson is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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1 comments on Proposition 87: To Tax Or Not To Tax?

Log In To Vote   Score: 0
By Noa on October 24, 2006 at 06:02 pm
Phenomenal article. Kudos. Does a great job of highlighting the difficulties we have in deciding which way to vote and raises a lot of interesting issues. Wouldn't it be nice if we had the right answer?! Then we could at least begin to interact within the democratic process.
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