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All Politics is Solar: SunRun Takes Action Against Proposition 23

SunRun and other California companies are fighting against Proposition 23

The California based solar power financing company SunRun has leaped front and center into the fight against Proposition 23, the upcoming ballot measure that would effectively dismantle the state’s thriving alternative energy sector. At last week’s Solar Power International conference, SunRun joined with other alternative energy companies to urge voters to take action against Prop 23, with “No on Prop 23” booth signs and voter information, and by organizing phone banks and donating thousands of dollars to the No on Prop 23 Committee.

Out-of-State Money and Proposition 23

Out-of-state oil companies have poured millions of dollars into California in order to promote Proposition 23, and little wonder about that. If California was a country it would have one of the world’s biggest economies, and it recently enacted legislation (Assembly Bill 32) that would help make alternative energy the driving force behind its economy, in direct competition with oil. Quite simply, Proposition 23 protects out-of-state oil companies from competition in this major market.

Chambers of Commerce and Proposition 23

In contrast to Proposition 23, AB32 was designed to promote California businesses and create more jobs in the state, so one would imagine that the California Chamber of Commerce would be among those leading the charge against Proposition 23. However, though some local Chambers have been vociferous in opposition, the California Chamber officially declared itself neutral on Prop 23.  The president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spoke at a recent clean energy summit and seemed to imply that the U.S. Chamber is also neutral, but if you’ve been following the U.S. Chamber’s position on climate change and its partisan political activity attacking candidates who are likely to support alternative energy you’d have to take that with a giant-sized grain of salt. The U.S. Chamber has launched attack ads against the incumbent senator in California, who is opposed to Proposition 23, and endorsed the challenger, who supports Prop 23.

Alternative Energy Companies and Proposition 23

SunRun’s “No on Prop 23” fundraising effort is small potatoes compared to the oil money and U.S. Chamber of Commerce financing behind the ballot measure, but of course they are not alone.  Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, is urging industry members to join the group and contribute to its political action committee. Meanwhile, leading utility companies and other major corporations are quitting the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over its climate change activities, and state chambers are also starting to see their membership bleed over partisan political endorsements. It’s an interesting shift for the environmental movement, which back in the day used to consist of fights between citizen groups and corporate polluters. Now it’s an inter-business battle and Proposition 23 is only the beginning.

Image: California sun by *-Dawn-* on

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Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Spoutible.


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