California Puts Oil Production Tax on the Ballot

After a brutal primary season in which the main candidates for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination all but challenged each other to a dual, Californians are likely ready to forget about electioneering for a while. One item that's sure to get a lot of attention as the election season heats back up in the late summer, though, is a ballot measure calling for a tax on oil production to fund alternative energy efforts in the state. Candidates for the governor's mansion may be staying quiet right now, but two aptly-named groups, Californians for Clean Alternative Energy and Californians Against Higher Taxes, are already staking out their positions and firing warning shots on this proposal:

Supporters are painting the vote over the ballot measure as between friendly environmentalists who want to cut energy prices versus polluting Big Oil and corporations seeking to drain consumers' wallets.

Opponents say the initiative is a sheep in wolves' clothing that if passed will create an unchecked bureaucracy and not only higher taxes but also higher fuel prices in the end.

"In the absence of a federal energy policy, the oil companies have a business-as-usual plan for California's energy future: higher gas prices, more pollution and greater dependence on insecure foreign sources of oil," said Dan Kammen, professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and founding director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory there.

Scott Macdonald, spokesman for Californians Against Higher Taxes, said his side can't be cast as against alternative energy.

"We all believe we need more alternative fuels and we need to find new ways to power our economy and we need to do that in a hurry," Macdonald said. "But this is not the way to do it."

At stake is between $200-380 million in new tax revenues. California is the third largest oil-producing state in the US, but currently charges no tax on oil drilling. While the current rhetoric seems pretty standard for these kinds of proposals, California has a wild and wacky history of ballot proposal campaigns turning into bloodbaths. While the state won't lead the way in taxing such activities -- three other states already do it -- it will be interesting to see if this sets off other efforts around the country to make oil companies pay more for the privilege of drilling. :: Yahoo! News

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