Russell's Blog

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Bill Clinton at UCLA

Posted by Russell on October 13, 2006 at 8:07 p.m.
I went to see Bill Clinton speak at the sculpture garden at UCLA today. The rally was for California Proposition 87. The speech was not one of Clinton's best, not was it really appropriate for the venue. I'm sure everyone cares that exposure to air pollution increases the risks of developing asthma, and the parents should be very worried about their children. However, the audience consisted almost completely of undergraduate college students. "Think about your children!" isn't the most appropriate way to frame the argument.

Despite miscalculating a bit on the appropriate tone given the audience, did make some very good points. First of all, and perhaps most importantly, the proposal isn't any kind of innovation. It is simply an implementation of an extraction tax, which is a revenue vehicle used in many US states -- Arkansas is one of them. Texas also collects drilling fees. The impact of the extraction tax on gasoline prices in Arkansas and Texas is non-existent, since the price for crude is set by the market, and is not dependent on local variations in the cost of extraction. So, the tax might raise oil prices in general, but only to the extent that the price of California oil figures into the global market for oil (which is to say, not very much).

Unlike extraction taxes in most other places, Prop 87 would set aside the money specifically for funding research in alternative energy. The research would be conducted here in California. In that respect, it has a bit in common with the stem cell research fund created by California voters when they approved Proposition 71 in 2004.

Clinton concluded by pointing out that the gasoline-powered internal combustion engine has remained pretty much the same for the last hundred years, despite the existence of less problematic technologies. He wrapped up the speech by saying that in the 20th century, California has usually lead the nation (and the world) in the generation of new technologies, and that this proposal would continue that tradition.

Sounds good to me.

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