Warning to voters: Not all that's painted green is good

Voters beware: Devils sometimes come in green clothing.

Proposition 7 sounds good in 30-second ads. It would require all utilities to generate 20 percent of their power from renewable energy by 2010. By 2020, the requirement would be 40 percent from renewable sources, and by 2025, utilities must get half of their power that way.

So what's wrong with that?

Plenty. Proposition 7 is overloaded with good intentions, poor wording and loopholes. It would drive up utility bills while actually disrupting the development of renewable energy sources. The biggest problem is that Proposition 7 puts the state at risk of another energy crisis, something California, already reeling from a slumping economy and a soaring budget deficit, can ill-afford.

That's why Proposition 7 has attracted opponents from all political corners -- from the Natural Resources Defense Council and the League of Conservation Voters to the California Taxpayers' Association and both major political parties.

Here are more of those details. Proposition 7 would transfer some jurisdiction of regulatory matters from the Public Utilities Commission to the Energy Commission. But it doesn't clarify exactly what powers the PUC will be losing, setting up the two agencies to waste time and taxpayer resources battling over jurisdiction.

In addition, Proposition 7 is worded in such a way that renewable power from plants generating less than 30 megawatts would not count toward meeting the law's thresholds. Unfortunately, that would leave out many small renewable energy companies that now do business in California. It also would rule out power generated by thousands of homeowners and businesses that have been installing solar panels on roofs and over parking lots and selling excess power back to utilities.

It's true that three of the state's largest utilities -- Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric -- are major contributors to defeating Proposition 7. But it's also being opposed by groups such as the California Solar Energy Industries Association and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

And there's big money on both sides. Proposition 7 was written and paid for by Arizona billionaires John and Peter Sperling, who didn't consult with energy producers before coming up with this plan. They are just the latest deep pockets pushing their will on the public through the ballot -- which is further evidence of what's wrong with California's initiative process.

California already is a leader among states in terms of clean-energy standards. The governor and legislators already are working on a plan to require a 33 percent clean-energy minimum by 2020. The state doesn't need to shackle its economy and put successful renewable energy programs at risk by approving this poorly crafted ballot measure. The Press Democrat encourages voters to say no to Proposition 7.

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