November 17, 2008
Brian Kennedy (202) 346-8826

Expensive “green” energy rejected on ballot initiatives across the country, greater access to domestic supplies of conventional sources still the preferred choice for consumers

Washington, DC – Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) won the election, but voters, even in states where he won handily, voted down the very plans he favors with respect to energy policy.  President-elect Obama says he will require electric utilities to produce more electricity from renewable sources, wants to provide massive subsidies for alternative fuel vehicles, and will increase taxes on oil and gas producers.  But the President-elect didn’t have any energy coattails.  Ballot initiatives supporting these plans failed on Election Day, as studies from the Institute for Energy Research (IER) illustrate.  Robert J. Michaels, Senior Fellow at IER, issued the following statement:

“Sold to the voters as expressions of environmental concern, renewable energy mandates and taxes on fossil fuels are just old-time special interest legislation in a new disguise.  The interests range from environmental elites to heavily-subsidized producers of wind power, and the 2008 election shows that people are catching on.  Where they were given the choice both Democrats and Republicans voted for affordable, conventional energy.   Even supporters of the single initiative that passed (Missouri’s renewable power requirement) acknowledge that the use of conventionally-generated electricity must increase while it is in effect. “

Independent, bipartisan public opinion research conducted on IER’s behalf just before the election found that 70 percent of the American people support increased oil and gas exploration and production on the outer continental shelf as a means to combating the energy challenge facing the United States.  Election Day results appeared to confirm this sentiment, as voters in several states rejected ballot initiatives that proposed new energy taxes and costly renewable energy mandates.

In California, President-elect Obama defeated Senator John McCain by a comfortable margin of 61 percent to 37 percent. But that did not help the “green” ballot propositions to pass.

California’s Proposition 7 would have required power companies to produce 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2010, 40 percent by 2020, and 50 percent by 2025.  Despite the Golden State’s impeccable “green” credentials, its citizens nonetheless decided that an economic downturn is no time to increase regulations on power companies and drive up energy prices for consumers.  Proposition 7 was handily defeated, garnering a mere 35 percent of the vote.

California’s Proposition 10, the California Alternative Fuels Initiative, was supported by businessman T. Boone Pickens and benefited from the favorable media attention Mr. Pickens has garnered. Prop. 10 would have used taxpayer money to fund research in renewable technologies such as solar, and given grants to cities and colleges for renewable energy projects. The Proposition also would have used tax incentives to favor consumer purchases of high fuel economy or alternative fuel vehicles, including natural gas vehicles.  Prop. 10 failed with 40 percent of the vote.

San Francisco’s Proposition H would have authorized a municipal take-over of the electrical business in the city. Prop. H also required that 51 percent of the city’s electricity be produced from renewable sources by 2017, 75 percent by 2030, and 100 percent (or all that is “technologically feasible”) by 2040.  Opponents ran a successful campaign to defeat the measure, focusing their efforts on the “blank check” granted by Prop. H, referring to its provision allowing the Board of Supervisors to issue bonds in order to meet the ambitious renewable targets.  Even San Francisco, the home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, did not trust the city to run the electric grid and Prop. H was voted down, receiving only  41 percent of the vote.

In Colorado, the President-elect defeated Senator McCain 53 percent to 45 percent, but a ballot measure that increased taxes on energy companies was defeated by a wider margin.

Colorado’s Amendment 58 would have increased severance taxes on oil and gas companies by $321.4 million dollars annually in order to fund renewable energy projects, college scholarships, wildlife conservation, environmental clean-up, and water treatment. The Amendment was handily defeated 58 percent to 42 percent.

Nationwide Exit Polls
Nationwide exit polls showed that Americans overwhelmingly support increased access to energy resources. According to MSNBC’s exit polls, 67 percent of all voters support increased access. In addition to the above examples of regions that voted for Obama, but against the spirit of his energy policies, exit polls found that almost 50 percent of Obama voters support drilling for oil and gas offshore.

Americans Want Affordable Energy
The results of Election Day are clear. When it comes to energy, Americans indeed want change. They want affordable energy prices. They understand that increased mandates lead to higher energy costs and a worse quality of life and that increasing taxes on energy companies leads to higher energy prices.

In these challenging economic times, it is important for our energy policy to focus on increased access to our proven energy resources and less taxes. With more access and low prices, all of America is better off.

The Institute for Energy Research (IER) is a not-for-profit public foundation that conducts intensive research and analysis on the functions, operations, and government regulation of global energy markets.  Founded in 1989, IER is funded entirely by tax deductible contributions from individuals, foundations and corporations. No financial support is sought or accepted from government (taxpayers).


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