There’s no denying that people want to see Good Things happen in San Francisco, and around the country, when it comes to global warming. People have responded to Vice President Gore’s film, and want to do the right thing. So it’s a bit disturbing when people’s good intentions are manipulated by politicians, as they are with the so-called “Clean Energy Act” (aka Measure H) in San Francisco.
The measure claims simply to be about “clean energy” sources for San Francisco. But once you read the measure, you find out two things. It’s not really about encouraging the use of clean energy sources for San Francisco residents – it’s about a multi-billion dollar take over of a private utility by the City of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors. But more importantly, the measure would actually replace enforceable state regulations with regards to clean energy, and allow a City-run utility to use any power source – clean or not – so long as it’s “non nuclear.”
Yes, you read that right. The so-called “Clean Energy Act” has two loopholes large enough to drive a fleet of panda-burning Hummers through that allow this to happen. First, publicly owned utilities are EXEMPT from the strict regulations that will ensure private power companies will adhere to rules that require clean energy sources. So while PG and E, a company strictly regulated by the Public Utilities Commission, must comply with these rules, a City-run system will not.
Worse, the act defines clean energy as simply any source that is “non-nuclear.” By that definition, coal, natural gas, diesel, and other fossil fuels could be used by a City owned system. While San Franciscans will go to the polls and think they’re voting for clean energy, in fact they could be voting to open the door to more polluting energy sources if a City-run system can’t provide the power we need to turn on the lights every day.
San Francisco has an unfortunate history of packaging bad legislation in good wrappers – in the 1950s citizens voted to “save” the historic Cable Car system – but the measure in fact dismantled the useful and profitable network and turned it into the tourist ride that it is today.
Likewise, the proponents of the Clean Energy Act use the spirit of Al Gore’s call to fight global warming to package an expensive takeover of a private utility by the Board of Supervisors – one that has consistently been rejected by voters in the past. Voters will need to cut through the packaging and see this plan for what it really is.
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