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As UC Irvine students, I’m sure that many of you reading this saw the tables and volunteers around campus working to fight against the passage of Proposition 23 which, during this election, got a lot of attention despite other heated races, such as the gubernatorial race or Proposition 19. However, Proposition 23 was met with strong opposition and was deftly defeated with a 61 percent to 39 percent vote.

What really struck me is that, just last week, I was approached by an advocate against Proposition 23, was told that it was going to be an extremely tight race and that every vote cast would be paramount to defeating the passage of the proposition through the election. Either the guy was lying to me to get me passionate about voting against 23, or the race was actually supposed to be pretty close and everyone was just as surprised as I was when the results of the election came out.
As far as I know, the latter seems to be the truth.

For those unaware of what Proposition 23 entailed, its passing would have eliminated the law in California that regulates greenhouse gases until the current unemployment rate drops to 5.5 percent or less during the next four quarters. With unemployment rates showing no signs of improving anytime soon, this could mean that the law would have been suspended for quite some time.

What sets this campaign and subsequent denial of the proposition apart from previous conversationalist efforts is the sheer amount of money and effort that went into it. The funds that were poured into this campaign outnumbered the oil company’s funding efforts three to one, according to the Los Angeles Times. The total amount of money ended up being around $31 million for the “no” campaign, which included donors such as Bill Gates and Google’s Sergey Brin.

By shutting down Proposition 23, the people of California and others in support of sustaining our environment have made their message clear: they don’t want oil companies, especially those from other states, meddling in legislature that protects our environment. Instead, their focus is on creating green, sustainable energy as an alternative to drilling for oil.
After the recent British Petroleum oil tragedy, I‘m sure the distrust of oil companies is higher than ever and, without a doubt, this distrust certainly didn’t work for the Valero and Tesoro oil companies.

In fact, one of the main points that the anti-Proposition 23 advocate made to me was that both companies had poured in millions of dollars into pushing 23 through the election. By doing so, it was clear that both had a strong investment in passing this proposition and, by feeding on this building distrust, those against 23 probably found it easy to convince voters to turn it down come Nov. 2.

Regardless of how these volunteers convinced people to vote, it was more than enough to sway their cause. More voters weighed in on the issue than the Senate race, with 4.4 million voters voting no on 23 compared to the 3.8 million voters re-electing Barbara Boxer into the office of California Senator. Another aspect that bolstered the votes against Proposition 23 was that the effort was bipartisan – one of the chairmen of the movement, former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, is a Republican.

However, there are still some cries out against the failure of this proposition. Advocates for Proposition 23 are angry, claiming that the jobs and carbon emissions will simply be relocated to foreign countries and won’t solve the overall problem of greenhouse gas emissions entering our atmosphere.

In the end, Proposition 23 was more about clean energy and the protection of our environment in an ethical sense, rather than a strictly economic one. In a time where money is tight (non-existent, even) for most, I’m impressed that California is passionate enough about the environment to have kept this proposition from passing.

This, to me, shows the world that Americans are embracing the green movement despite the economic woes we’ve been experiencing during the past few years. So congrats to those who succeeded in deterring 23 from passing; you’ve shown that Californians place the environment as a priority. Perhaps this will usher in a new era of legislation focusing more on sustainable and clean energy policies.

Zachary Risinger is a second-year English major. He can be reached at zrisinge@uci.edu.

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