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Why Californians Should Vote YES on Proposition 10

By Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher

Electing someone for public office is rather easy; you simply vote for the best looking or the best dressed or the one with the nicest voice, or the one with the best looking daughter/son/wife/husband.

But voting on initiatives and propositions, that’s something else; this requires working through the minutiae of the propositions’ details, as well as the manure of interpretive spins placed on the propositions by both its opponents and advocates.

Next week California voters face several state-wide propositions that merit national consideration because their respective outcomes in California will probably impact how other states handle similar questions. Two of the CA propositions are of particular interest to The Auto Channel, and our audience, because they focus on alternative fuel/energy/vehicle issues: California’s Proposition 10 (aka BIG WIND), and Proposition 7 (aka BIG SOLAR). Although there is an underlying similarity in the issues they address, the two propositions are not aligned and one doesn’t impact upon the other in their implementation (should they both be approved by the voters).

Proposition 10 would authorize the raising of $5 billion via the issuance of General Obligation state bonds. The funds would be used to “stimulate” alternative fuel activity in the State of California.

About a week ago, Plug In America ( sent us a “No on Proposition 10” story that set forth their reasons for opposing the initiative. We published the story on, along with my comments concerning the points raised in the story.

Suffice it to say that due to my understanding of the related fuel and energy issues, my comments were anti their anti-positions, which is to say that my comments were pro-Prop 10.

Of course I offered our friends at Plug In America, and anyone else, the opportunity to respond to my comments. Jay Friedland, PIA’s Legislative Director, was good enough to pick up the gauntlet and organize a response. For everyone’s benefit the entire text of the original story, my comments, and Jay’s response can be viewed by CLICKING HERE.

(The Auto Channel has the ultimate respect for Plug In America and all of the other organizations and individuals that have labored tirelessly in the pursuit of winning over America to the needs of alternative fuels, energy and vehicles: They are truly heroes.)

After reading the response I received from Jay, and doing some additional fact checking with the independent Legislative Analyst, I remain firmly convinced that the opposition to this initiative is ill-founded, self-serving, and ironically inconsistent with the overall goals of the “green” groups that are part of the opposition. Therefore, Californians should approve Proposition 10.

For those seeking a quick sound-bite reason/endorsement to VOTE YES ON 10, here it is:

“It’s good for California, it’s good for the U.S., and it’s good for the world.”

For those interested in the thought process that resulted in this declaration and learning more about the proposition, please read on.

As I stated above, Prop 10 authorizes the raising of $5 billion which would be used to “stimulate” alternative fuel activity in the State of California. The complete text of this and all current propositions can be found by CLICKING HERE.
A shorter overview can be found by CLICKING HERE.


The primary unifying protestation voiced by all opposition surrounds T. Boone Pickens and his Pickens Plan. The opponents consistently characterize his efforts as evil. They have abject dislike for this man. In response to a query I made to one writer at the Huffington Post who seems to go out of his way to find fault with anything related to Boone Pickens, he wrote “Yes, I do (go out of my way to be critical)…because he is a slimy snake-oil salesman.” I’ll address this anti-Pickens sentiment in my closing remarks.

Including the universal Pickens opposition all the arguments against Proposition 10 can be summarized as follows:

• 1) Under Prop. 10, a "clean alternative fuel vehicle" doesn't have to be any cleaner than current gasoline or diesel vehicles (another version of this opposition argument is that Prop 10 doesn’t set any minimum emission improvement standards relative to gasoline/diesel emissions). Often, opposition on this point starts with words to the effect that “Proposition 10 is so poorly written and conceived that it doesn’t even require…” This argument is intended to instill the notion that it offers no environmental benefits.

• 2) That CNG is being unfairly touted instead of other alternative fuel/energy sources that offer better environmental results.

• 3) CNG vehicles are too limited in their range between fill-ups and that filling stations are either non-existent or inconvenient, thereby being consumer unfriendly.

• 4) That we need pollution-free plug-in vehicles, powered by renewable domestic energy, from GM, Toyota, Nissan and other major automakers. That Prop 10 wouldn’t reduce emissions and that we’d still be reliant on foreign oil from people that want to kill us.

• 5) There are relatively few mechanics who know how to service natural-gas engines. Another version of this argument is that there are too few mechanics that know how to properly convert existing gasoline vehicles to CNG or propane; thereby suggesting that we’d be stuck up the proverbial creek without a paddle or the know-how to build one.

• 6) Prop 10 would require taking $10 billion out of the state's general fund over a 30 year period at a time when the state is already in debt.

• 7) It would divert precious resources away from better alternatives like plug-in vehicles.

• 8) That the opponents to Prop 10 form a knowledgeable, well-intentioned, objective group. This group includes the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Teachers’ union, State employee’s union, and some daily newspapers.

• 9) Only T. Boone Pickens and his corporate entities (Clean Energy, Inc. and Chesapeake Energy) would derive any significant benefit.


• 1) The text of the proposition does in fact require improvement in the environmental effects and emissions of the fuels and vehicles subject to this bill. Specific references to these requirements can be found in several places of Chapter 2: Definitions of the bill’s text.

The references are set forth both with numerical values and in relative terms versus gasoline and gasoline-powered engines. It is frankly very disconcerting to note the intentional omission of this information by the proposition’s opponents. It’s dishonest at the least, but even worse, it may indicate that they simply never took the time to read the initiative they are objecting to.

Moreover, even if there were no specific numerical or referenced improvements required, each of the “alternate” fuels and vehicles that are included in the text are by default cleaner and more environmentally-friendly than the gasoline and diesel fuels and vehicles they will replace. Consequently, this objection to Prop 10 is just a deliberate attempt to mislead voters.

• 2) There is nothing in the text of the proposition that makes any one alternative fuel or vehicle propulsion system favored over another, and there are none expressly eliminated. In fact, in virtually all instances where a specific fuel or energy system is identified, electricity and electric propulsion systems shares equal billing with any other alternative option.

In the Plug In America response, Jay Friedland writes, “…Prop 10 would provide a disproportionate amount of funding to just this one fuel and give short shrift to other options, such as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, that are more efficient and pollute less.” However, I found no paragraph or clause in the bill’s text that makes this delineation. The same incentive opportunities that would be offered to purchasers of natural gas vehicles would be offered to purchasers of electric vehicles.

If I wanted to find something wrong with the text I might question why propane, ammonia and compressed-air powered vehicles are not specifically included by name in the text. But in my reading of the text I’d say that the words are inclusive enough to accept those alternatives without concern of their disqualification. This should be particularly true of propane, which is not only a respected beneficial alternative fuel; it is and has been used with great success by numerous California school districts, local governments, taxi and airport transportation fleets, and in thousands of motor homes and campers.

• 3) The argument that CNG, or for that matter propane, vehicles have too limited a range, or that refilling is too inconvenient is rather remarkable in its hypocrisy of a comparison to ‘existing’ electric vehicles.

Jay Friedland writes, “Consumer Reports tested the 2008 Honda Civic CNG car…, and found that it has a real-world range of 150 miles before the warning light comes on, for a total range of maybe 180 miles... Ten years ago, EVs of that size had a real-world range of about 140 miles, and today's EVs can go farther. Refueling at home takes 5-6 hours in my EV and 16 hours for CNG if you buy the Phil CNG home refueling unit. Steering resources toward improving public infrastructure for EVs makes more sense than for CNG infrastructure, which is a short-term, fossil-fuel scenario.”

For whatever the real reasons are, the EVs of ten years ago (i.e., GM’s EV1) are no longer produced or available (except in limited resale situations that usually make the vehicles’ price to high to make it economically advantageous). Therefore comparisons to last century’s vehicles are mostly irrelevant (I’ll explain why I say “mostly” instead of “entirely” below). The fact is that there are currently no widely marketed 100% electric vehicles that are capable of traveling at highway speeds for distances that compare with a filled CNG car. And if usage research is correct, then the average driver drives 40 miles or less per day. Consequently, he or she need only fill their vehicles a bit more than once per week (assuming they went from full to empty). If the in-home Phill unit takes 16 hours to completely fuel a Civic GX CNG car (a figure disputed by FuelMaker Corporation), the average driver would only need four hours or less of daily in-home top-up refilling, which is not too much different than the daily recharge time that the average cell-phone user experiences upon arriving home.

In addition, it should be pointed out that California (especially in the LA and SF areas) has an adequate number of commercial CNG filling stations (open to the public) that would allow most longer-distance drivers to go from point A to point B, and back again without too much trouble. These filling stations require about the same amount of time to fill a CNG tank as conventional gasoline does.

Interestingly, I live in a rather highly populated part of Sacramento, where the closest gasoline station to my house is nearly three miles away. However, there is a 24-hour CNG filling system that is open to the public and is less than one mile away. It is not owned by Boone Pickens or any of his companies.

I frequently drive from the Sacramento area to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Lake Tahoe, and Napa Valley. There are CNG stations I can use in all areas. CNG Filling Stations

As compared to gasoline, there is some inconvenience to using CNG, but then this whole mess is inconvenient and the whole point of Proposition 10 is to try and make it all more convenient.

Incidentally, regarding propane, it’s available nearly everywhere and can even be dispensed into a vehicle at home by the same commercial re-fillers that fill a home’s propane tanks.
Propane Filling Stations.

Furthermore, to the comparison of any natural gas vehicle versus future electric vehicles, there still remains an imbalance that favors the selection of the natural gas vehicles for two reasons: First, vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt will only have a 40 mile electric range. After 40 miles the vehicle will have to be recharged or use its on-board gasoline-powered engine to recharge the car’s batteries. The shocking problem with this scenario is that the Volt is built to use any gasoline. Isn’t this what we’re trying to get away from?

If anything, the Volt should be built to use a propane (or CNG) powered generator, like motor homes, rather than a gasoline generator. In any event, the plug-in hybrid Volt would only have a 140 mile range before it requires its small gasoline tank to be refilled (in order to keep its batteries charged). Keep in mind that the Volt-style system is being considered for several other GM models and even for license to competitors.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
Honda home hydrogen fueling station
Second, one of the other major alternative “electric” propulsion systems being pursued is hydrogen fuel-cells. Well, guess where the hydrogen will come from (either entirely or in great part) to generate the electricity? From CNG. And, it’s intended that the CNG-produced hydrogen will either be dispensed via an in-home refilling unit or at filling stations that will make the hydrogen on site (this has been one of Toyota’s initiatives to help promote its FCX vehicle). So, where does this leave us? It leaves us in need of an enhanced CNG distribution infrastructure! Defeating Proposition 10 goes against this distribution infrastructure and doesn’t help the situation one bit.

• 4) Yes, we need 100% pollution-free vehicles. We owe it to ourselves; to forth-coming generations; and for all the great reasons related to national security issues. Unfortunately, until the time comes when every home or commercial filling station is able to produce electricity that is created from solar, wind, thermal or nuclear generators, we will never have 100% pollution-free vehicles. Somewhere along the chain coal, oil, gasoline or natural gas will have to be utilized to create the electricity.

Contrary to the promises made by several smaller electric vehicle manufacturers since 2005, they have sadly missed their 4th quarter 2008 projections for bringing their fully electric highway-speed cars, SUVs and pick-ups to market. Even in its response to my initial comments, Plug In America estimates that fully electric plug-ins are at least three years away, and they agree that with automakers like Ford we could be 12 to 17 years away.

You can say what you want about Ford, but it is still one of the top automakers in the world. If they’re seriously projecting that it will take more than a decade for them to deliver mass quantities of electric cars, and we have to wait for them, we will be mired in petroleum oil for a long time.

Plug In America and the other opponents to Proposition 10 want us to wait, to do nothing for 3 to 17 years because they don’t want us to move off course from the may-never-to-be-seen 100% electric future. And in the meantime we’ll all think happy thoughts and use more gasoline. It doesn’t make sense. It especially doesn’t make sense because, as I point out in Response paragraph #2, above, Proposition 10 allows for all the same financial incentives for the use/development of all fuels and vehicles, regardless of whether the fuel source is derived from ethanol (from plants we do not eat), natural gases, electric, solar, compressed air, or rubber band (there are currently no working models of a rubber band powered passenger vehicle).

The good news is that 100% electric cars are not really an entirely dead issue for the short term. We do know that there are some electric vehicles out there that use batteries other than the anxiously anticipated lithium-ion batteries. These other batteries can and are being used to power lower-speed neighborhood and highway-speed vehicles. But these two options require help…the kind of help that Proposition 10 offers in the way of financial incentives to develop and purchase these vehicles in a quantity that could affect not only the environment, but the ultimate cost of the vehicles and their practical availability to consumers.

With this in mind, what we would like to see is Plug In America (and whichever other opposition really cares about the underlying issues being discussed here) bringing all their strength to bare to getting California to change our laws regarding low-speed vehicles to recognize a “medium-speed” designation; that is, to permit those low-speed vehicles that are very road worthy to do a simple software upgrade that makes them capable of traveling at 45 miles per hour. These MS vehicles are perfect as a family’s second or third car, as the primary vehicle for urban dwellers, and as the first vehicle for young people. Without belaboring this point too much, these vehicles look like normal small cars, drive like normal cars and can have all the creature comforts that a teenager would want. At a time when state governments and parents are thinking of ways to make a teenager’s initial driving experiences safe and sane, these may be a god-send. For more information about Medium Speed vehicles please visit


• 5) Yes, there are not enough qualified mechanics that know how to service natural gas vehicles, and even less that are qualified to convert existing gasoline-powered vehicles to use CNG, propane, ammonia, or 100% ethanol. In his new book THE PLAN, Edwin Black raises the point that if America was hit with a catastrophic oil crisis, in which our supply of gasoline would be severely rationed, the government should mandate that EPA and CARB restrictions against natural gas conversions be rescinded. But, Edwin states, that solution only reveals another problem: There are not enough trained mechanics to make the conversions in a timely, meaningful way. Edwin suggests that the government take steps to get people trained now, before it’s too late.
To learn more about THE PLAN Click Here

Coincidentally, and fortunately, the University of West Virginia has worked to develop the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium, which includes a program to train mechanics to handle all these issues. There are 27 affiliate schools in the NAFTC; two at the moment in California. Yuba College in Marysville (north of Sacramento) is one; the other is Rio Hondo College in the Los Angeles area. I’ve visited Yuba College and spoken at length with Mike Morse, Program Director of Yuba College’s Automotive Department. He is excited about, and convinced, that the NAFTC program can help answer the need for qualified mechanics (who will be competent at working on all types of alternative fuel vehicles, electric included). There are just two things that the program needs: awareness that the program exists, and funding for students that require financial aid.

Well guess what? Proposition 10 makes funds available for the education and training of those wishing to instruct or become qualified mechanics. Hmm, sounds like opportunity is knocking.

• 6) Investment in the bonds issued pursuant to this initiative being passed would be made on a voluntary basis. No one would have their arms twisted, and no funds to buy the bonds would come from other initiatives.

Yes, the California government is in debt. There are two ways to get out of debt: raise revenues and cut and/or limit expenses. A State raises revenue from taxes. The best way to raise tax revenue, without having to burden individual wage earners with additional income tax is to encourage the development of new industries, and raise revenue via an excise tax, sales tax and/or license fees. Stimulating the growth of a new industry ultimately results in increased state revenue.

The economic future of the world rests with alternative fuel and energy. One way or the other, governments will have to provide incentives to help stimulate this activity. Financial help must also come from the private sector, but the private sector will still look to government to make the “landscape” fertile for private sector investments. Rejecting Proposition 10 puts a roadblock in the way to the only solution to the world’s economic misery.

To help get out of debt, the government can also cut expenses, such as reducing state-workers’ salaries, or eliminating additional feather-bedding of state jobs. A big part of the opposition to Prop 10 comes from California’s teacher and workers unions. If these groups don’t have informed scientific reasons for opposing the proposition, which they don’t seem to, what could be the reason for the opposition (other than the fear of losing jobs or pay raises or negative consequences for their pension investments in oil companies – assuming that they have such investments). While the fear of losing a job and future pay raises is cause for concern, wouldn’t it be better if the unions could become a part of the solution, rather than to cut their noses to spite the faces of future generations?

In any event, what the opponents such as Plug In America must realize is that even if Proposition 10 did not provide for all the incentives that they would want to help the growth of electric vehicles (which it does), that they will eventually have to deal with the same problems of California debt when it comes time to fund electricity incentives.

Imagine three years in the future when lithium-ion battery availability is no longer an issue, fuel-cell technology can be economically deployed, and California and the world await production of the new electric vehicles. Would they then first propose funding measures to stimulate the sale of the electric vehicles, the creation of the fueling infrastructures, the training of personnel to be able to service the vehicles and their diverse propulsion systems? How much longer would that delay making California and America and the free world economically healthy? And wouldn’t the workers unions then have the same concerns regarding their self-serving financial well-being, thereby making them opponents to this future proposition as well?

If a global warming climate catastrophe is as imminent as many make it out to be, how could workers’ unions reject this proposition? How can any of the opponents, especially the Union of Concerned Scientists, agree to wait even one month longer to reduce ‘deadly green house gases?’ Are they really willing to risk the survival of our planet on their selfish need for a pay increase?

You know, you can’t have it both ways. If we’re on the precipice of extinction, how do you put a price tag on the solution? And if we’re not teetering on the precipice, and we really have years and years before a climate catastrophe (if ever), then maybe we should knock off the fear mongering and just work on perfecting techniques to turn tar sands into oil and not get all worked up over spurious end-of-days predictions (I’m not saying it’s all a hoax, at least not at the moment, I'm just pointing out that there’s many scientists who believe that we can’t wait another year. Worrying about pay raises in 10 years is rather inconsequential when compared to global demise.)

One of the comedians on Saturday Night Live does a recurring character in which he portrays an economic expert. In this role he tells the audience that he knows what’s wrong, that the system “Is broken.” The solution, he says, is to “FIX IT.” He repeats this simple instruction with hilarious results. Our system is broken, we have to FIX IT! Doing nothing and waiting another two or three or twelve years to do nothing won’t FIX IT!

• 7) As I’ve stated above and can be seen in a perusal of the initiative’s text, our precious resources would not be diverted from better alternatives, like plug-in vehicles; our “precious resources” will be used to deploy and enable all good alternatives, with electric plug-ins at least equal to any other alternative.

Positing that Proposition 10 diverts resources from better alternatives is a deliberate effort to mislead voters.

• 8) Again, I’m disappointed with the “green” groups that have mischaracterized what this proposition proposes and all the fuel/energy alternatives that are part and parcel of it. They should know better and be in support of Prop 10.

There’s enough reported about the Union of Concerned Scientists to suggest that it is nothing but an anti-American socialist organization. They have a high-sounding name, like the Justice League of America or the United Federation of Planets, but unless you’re a fan of Superman comics or Star Trek, those names don’t mean much. Check Wikipedia to learn more. I think that at best, the UCS’ opinion is just that, an opinion. I’d rather rely on my own eyes to comment on what the initiative says and what it doesn’t say by reading the actual text of the proposition. If the UCS supports a contrary position after reading the text in its entirety then I suggest they need remedial reading help.

To the unions’ position, I’ve already stated two possible scenarios for their opposition. Other than that I don’t see how they could be against Prop 10.

Regarding those newspapers that are against Proposition 10, I’m not surprised. Large daily newspapers have historically been anti any technology that would impinge on their influence over the public. Whether it was radio or television or the Internet, if they couldn’t control the distribution and dissemination of the respective media’s content, they were against it. It’s only because the public has so overwhelmingly accepted these media that the large dailies have begrudgingly adapted. For years, the publishers of the LA Times and SF Chronicle have carried themselves as if they were privileged members of royalty. They have deluded themselves into thinking that the “Fourth Estate” rules by divine intervention. They are out of touch with the public, which is one of the reasons why their circulation has plunged, and they have no relevant position that can be tendered on this matter.

Their own very probable significant investments in oil and gasoline companies, along with probable investments in their entities by foreign oil interests make any so-called objective endorsement of any issue related to energy and transportation highly questionable. Time and time again, these two newspapers have come down on the wrong side of issues related to the Middle East. I believe that oil-money has directed those positions as I believe it has influenced this issue. However, to which there can be no question is that newspaper advertising revenue derived from oil and gasoline companies over the years has been enormous*. They wouldn’t bite the hand that feeds them. To this point allow me to quote opposition comments made by the LA Times and SF Chronicle:

LA TIMES: “Spending bond money on something as intangible as privately owned vehicles is a terrible idea unless there is a clear public benefit.”

SF CHRONICLE: “The chief backer and bill payer for the measure is T. Boone Pickens, the folksy Texas oilman and apostle for energy independence who founded a firm that just happens to supply natural gas for cars and trucks.”

To the LA Times I say: There is nothing intangible about privately owned vehicles in the State of California. They have been the primary source of air pollution; they are accused of causing or adding to the effects of apocalyptic “climate change.” Private vehicle sales and uses are the single largest expense incurred by California’s residents (outside of home ownership). And the revenues earned from the sales and uses of private motor vehicles have traditionally powered California’s economy. What could be more tangible? Why would efforts to mitigate climate change or the reduction of the cost of fuel not be a “clear public benefit?” Only those that live their lives through “Let them eat cake” glasses can make such an irresponsible statement.

To the Chronicle: Is your complaint that Pickens is folksy, that he’s from Texas, that he professes the desire to be energy independent from regimes that would like to kill us, or that he happens to supply one of the fuels that is included in the proposition?

Which of these points are illegal or immoral? The absurdity of the first four points speaks to the quality of intelligence behind the Chronicle’s opposition to Proposition 10. To the point that Pickens is a supplier of natural gas, and that there is something inherently wrong with that, I’ll move to the final argument in favor of Proposition 10.

• 9) Yes, T. Boone Pickens is indeed in the business of supplying, or investing in the supplying of energy fuels and energy generation. The CNG product that he markets is American produced. And if I can believe what the State Ballot Initiative authorities report, then he and his associates and affiliated companies have been the primary contributors to this proposition. Okay, fine, we all know where he stands.

However, there is not one paragraph, not one sentence, not one word that makes T. Boone Pickens or any of his associates or companies the primary beneficiary of the proposition. There is not one instance in which competing suppliers of similar fuels or technologies are disqualified from inclusion in the provisions of Prop 10. And all readers of this document should rest assured that there are competitive suppliers of natural gas fuels and services.

And finally, to the writer at the Huffington Post or any other entity that personally dislikes Pickens; so what if he is a slimy snake-oil salesman. If the opponents of Proposition 10 have their way then it means at least 3 more years of enslavement to gasoline and foreign oil suppliers. Pickens at his worst couldn’t be worse than the slimy snake-oil salesmen at the top of Exxon-Mobil, or Chevron, or BP/ARCO or Hugo Chavez or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or the Libyans or any of the other OPEC leaders. At least Pickens is a proud American, and regardless of anything negative that you hear about Pickens, no one accuses him of blowing up U.S. ships, or flying jets into buildings, or kidnapping tourists.

To me, the idea that the LA Times or SF Chronicle or Huffington Post could position a possible Pickens’ windfall as being the equivalent of the certain windfall benefits that the oil companies and foreign oil suppliers would make from the rejection of Prop 10 is totally unconscionable.

To this end, I repeat, California should VOTE YES ON PROPOSITION 10.

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