Proposition 23 Opponents: Climate Change Impacts National Security

Flickr photo: Thomas Hawk

Flickr photo: Thomas Hawk

Climate change is a national security risk that will be exacerbated if Californians pass Proposition 23, the voter initiative on the ballot this November that would suspend California’s AB 32 climate change law, say opponents of the measure, such as former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz.

Shultz and financier Thomas Steyer, co-chairs of the No on Propostion 23 campaign, held a media briefing today on what they described as the threats to America’s energy security and economy if California’s landmark 2006 climate change law was suspended.

“The issue of climate, the issue of economics, the issue of national security all point us in the same direction. We need to get control of our use of energy and the way we produce it, the way we use it,” said Shultz, a former marine who fought in World War II and later served as Secretary of State for President Ronald Reagan.

Steyer said Prop 23 would continue to mire America in an unstable energy policy. “Our energy use, our approach to climate, the health of our economy, our ability to develop new technologies and build new businesses, all of these factor into our national security,” he said, adding that “dismantling rules that foster innovation and that make us more energy secure doesn’t make sense.”

Shultz tied American energy policy to the threat of terrorism and rogue states just days before the anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks.

“The security implications of our energy situation are compounded greatly by the fact that the revenues that are generated by our use of oil and that of others go, in part, to countries that don’t wish us well,” said Shultz. “Undoubtedly some of this money is slopping over into the hands of terrorists, the 9/11 people. I think the security side of this is very important to recognize.”

Shultz said AB 32 has resulted in “a virtual explosion” of venture capital and research and development in clean energy and “it has convinced a lot of people that sooner or later there is going to be a price on carbon.”

Several military analysts joined Steyer and Shultz on the briefing to emphasize the military’s growing focus on climate change and national security concerns.

“America’s energy posture constitutes a serious and urgent threat to our national security, militarily, economically and diplomatically,” said retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, a private security and energy consultant volunteering his time with No on Prop 23.

McGinn said every president since Richard Nixon has stated America should reduce its dependence on foreign energy and “it’s more true now than it has been in the past.” Despite being in one of the “deepest recessions of our lifetime,” he added, America still sends “a billion dollars out of our economy every day simply to pay for our oil addiction.”

Referring to a report released last year by the Center for Naval Analysis, a non-profit institution, McGinn said the oil price shocks from a number of geopolitical scenarios or further natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina would far exceed any increased costs associated with implementing AB 32 and reducing our dependence on petroleum for energy.

In response to the media event, Anita Mangels, a spokesperson for the Yes on 23 campaign, released a scathing broadsheet impugning Steyer and questioning Shultz’s support for increasing the cost of fossil fuels, though not his patriotism, which she wrote was “beyond reproach.”

Mangels told Streetsblog today’s discussion of AB 32 and national security was a “cynical, distracting tactic to divert voters attention from the fact that Yes on 23 will save California families billions of dollars in higher energy costs and prevent the loss of a million jobs.”

“I would submit to you under the current plan we will probably wind up being more reliant on foreign oil because [the California Air Resources Board] is making it impossible to use conventional fuels.” said Mangels. “If they insist on reducing the production of conventional fuels in California, we’ll have to import more.”

Mangels characterized Steyer as a hypocrite and said he had made some of his fortune with Farallon Capital Management by investing in oil, including Valero and Tesoro, the two oil companies that have largely bankrolled the Yes on 23 campaign to date.

“The fact remains that if you are going to hold yourself up as a crusader against oil, you should look at your own house, at how many shares you have in oil and gas that is making you quite rich,” she said. “You can’t have it both ways.”

A spokesperson for No on 23, Steve Maviglio, defended Steyer, saying, “He doesn’t object to private enterprise or oil and gas, he just wants them to be fairly and properly regulated.”

Maviglio and the No on 23 campaign have recently escalated their calls for a public debate of the issue between Steyer and Valero’s CEO Bill Kleese, who declined the challenge. Steyer also assailed Assemblymember Dan Logue, sponsor of Prop 23, for pulling out of a debate scheduled next Tuesday at the Sacramento Press Club.

Reached this evening, Logue told Streetsblog he was indeed debating Steyer at the Press Club event, that news to the contrary was a misunderstanding. Logue also argued the biggest threat to America’s national security was California’s unemployment and economic woes, which he argued were only compounded by AB 32.

“It’s a scare tactic and that’s what the Left and the anti-23 people are using,” he said. “The greatest threat to our national security is our collapsed economy.”