Campaign for Oil and Gas Extraction Tax Begins Signature Gathering in California

A proposed ballot initiative that would enact a tax on oil and gas extracted from California will be granted summary and title by the Office of the Attorney General today.

Californians for Responsible Economic Development, the group behind the measure, now has 150 days to collect 505,000 signatures if they wish to qualify it for the 2014 ballot.

In order to collect the signatures the campaign is taking a two-pronged approach, using both grassroots organizing and meeting with donors to raise money for paid signature gathering.

In the three months leading up to official summary and title, 109 volunteers from across California have signed up to help gather signatures in addition to the organizations supporting the bill. “As people learn about the benefits of CMED – decreased tuition, renewed cities and parks and job creation fueled by green energy – they are eager to sign on and help,” explains Jack Tibbetts, author and lead-proponent of the campaign.

The California Modernization and Economic Development Act (CMED) places a 9.5% tax on the oil and gas that’s extracted from California, and would bring in over $2 billion of new revenue to the state.

$1.2 billion would be allocated in four equal parts towards K-12, California Community Colleges, California State University and the University of California.

Another $400 million would be used to provide businesses with subsidies for switching to cleaner, cheaper forms of energy. The remaining $300 million will be allocated to county governments for infrastructure repair, public works projects, and funding public services.

The bill has already attracted the attention and support from a wide variety of interest groups and individuals, and touts a growing list of endorsements on their website (www.cmedact.org/endorsements). In February, former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich endorsed CMED stating. Using a tax on oil extracted from under California to help finance the education of Californians should be a no-brainer. It will only improve our schools. The real question is why California hasn’t done this long before now.”

Dr. Daniel Kammen, Nobel Prize recipient and co-author of Prop 87 (a similar measure on the 2006 ballot), wholeheartedly endorsed the proposal: “Placing a small surcharge on petroleum and gas that is extracted from California can only benefit our state. It would spur innovation on the producer side to reduce costs and bring in funds that are critically needed to green the economy, re-invest in education, and renew cities and parks. The California Modernization and Economic Development Act is the best way moving forward to ensure that all of these priorities are met.”

Last week, the California Modernization and Economic Act gained the support of State Senator Noreen Evans, who is currently sponsoring her own version of an extraction tax in the Senate, SB 241, to fund education and parks in California. She had this to say about the proposed ballot initiative: “The California Modernization and Economic Development Act closes a glaring corporate tax loophole in California that has benefited big oil for far too long. I absolutely support efforts that will allow California to collect on these vast and irreplaceable natural resource revenues that should fund one of the most important core services of government-education. It’s past time California ends the oil industry’s free ride and finally sets a solid revenue stream towards funding government’s education obligations.”

“Going forward, the CMED campaign will be working closely with the Senator’s office to ensure that an oil severance tax is enacted” said Tibbetts. “The campaign to qualify the California Modernization and Economic Development Act wholeheartedly supports Senate Bill 241 and we are encouraged by the efforts being made by Senator Evans. California is in critical need of netting additional revenue for education and other important services that will promote job growth and advance our people and our economy. However, just as oil companies have the right to extract and profit from our resources, California has the right to some compensation for the mineral wealth removed. Should the Senate fail to vote and pass SB 241, our campaign will work with public officials, donors, interest groups and students to produce an extraction tax for the 2014 ballot.”

Let’s switch from gasoline to natural gas

The Second Coming | Foreign Policy:

Compressed-natural-gas vehicles and electric vehicles — one-third of U.S. electricity is currently generated from natural gas — are slowly making their way into the marketplace. But battery-powered cars remain prohibitively expensive for most car buyers. A natural gas-derived liquid fuel called methanol (wood alcohol), however, is both substantially less expensive than gasoline on a per-mile basis and very cheap to enable on the vehicle side — roughly $100 extra per new car.

Essentially, all that is needed for a regular car to be a flexible-fuel car are a fuel sensor and a corrosion-resistant fuel line. In some provinces of China, where methanol is made primarily from coal, this alcohol is sold at numerous fuel stations. This logic is one thing even Iran and Israel can agree on: Both natural gas-rich countries have plans to begin selling methanol-based fuel at gas stations.

I believe that the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy is going to be a very incremental process. The infrastructure just isn’t there to switch from coal and natural gas to solar and wind and the myriad other renewable options in even a few years. Washington isn’t willing to spend the money to make it happen faster. If we can switch from gasoline to natural gas-based methanol in a few years and save drivers money at the pump and not have to subsidize anything, I’m willing to accept not reducing carbon as quickly as we’d like.