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Opinion

Prop. 10: Fueling a cleaner California

VehiclesFinanceElectionsDiesel FuelMetal and Mineral

The Times' Sept. 19 editorial, "Reject Proposition 10,” misses the mark on what the ballot measure would do for California and why it is necessary. Proposition 10 would authorize the state to sell $5 billion in bonds to finance alternative-energy projects -- a move that would bolster California's reputation as the nation's leader in investigating ways to clean up the environment.

The Times makes the point that bonds are generally used for "bricks and mortar" programs rather than projects such as replacing fleets of diesel-fueled trucks because of the long-term aspects of bond issues. The founding idea behind the promotion of Proposition 10 is to begin the process of weaning Californians from gasoline and diesel fuel -- as much as 70% of which is imported from foreign sources -- to cleaner, cheaper, domestic sources of energy, one of which is natural gas.

Few would doubt that cars and trucks burning gasoline and diesel fuel are at the top of everyone's list of the worst pollution-generating machines. Proposition 10 is structured such that the applicable state agencies -- the California Air Resources Board and the California Energy Commission -- would have wide latitude in promulgating regulations to ensure that the funds generated by Proposition 10 would be used correctly and that the benchmarks are being attained.

Current regulations basically mandate truck owners to either replace or retrofit older, more polluting trucks. Proposition 10 would match up with those rules by giving truck owners, 60% of which are in business for themselves, the ability to replace their vehicles and stay in business. Over time, newer technologies will indeed come to the market. But what The Times is urging is that we as a state do nothing to bridge the gap between the fuels being burned in California's trucks and cars today and what may be coming 10 to 15 years down the very polluted road.

On the issue of state-issued rebates being a source of income for owners who may buy trucks in California then sell them in Nevada, the initiative states that a person seeking to obtain a vehicle rebate from the state Board of Equalization "shall submit proof of residency, proof of purchase or lease, proof that the vehicle is eligible for the rebate and proof of vehicle registration in California." We would expect that the Air Resources Board, under its mandate to administer this program, might issue additional requirements such as installing a GPS system to track a truck's location, which would be consistent with the letter and spirit of the measure. In addition, outside California, alternative-fuel infrastructure is limited, reducing the possibility that these vehicles would leave the state.

If enough California drivers take advantage of the programs under Proposition 10, I would expect that market forces would come into play with regard to providing fueling facilities for cleaner, alternative-fuel vehicles. There does not appear to be any shortage of competitive gasoline stations; driving in any of our major cities, it is not at all unusual to see gasoline stations on two, three or even all four corners of a major intersection.

Moreover, Proposition 10 is not a boondoggle for billionaire T. Boone Pickens or any one person or company. It is a pathway to the future of cleaner technologies to power trucks, buses and automobiles in California. The Times should be supporting that goal, not engaging in ad hominem attacks against one person.

Fred Keeley is the elected treasurer of Santa Cruz County, a trustee of the California Ocean Science Trust and a former executive director of the Planning and Conservation League. He represented the Monterey Bay area in the state Assembly from 1996-02.

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