In a bid to reduce American dependence on oil "that feeds Middle east terrorism," prominent Indian-American venture capitalist Vinod Khosla is financing a state-wide ballot initiative to get Californians to tax oil producers and endorse clean energy.
The initiative would bar oil companies from passing the tax on to consumers in the form of higher pump prices. Before a vote on it, the initiative needs to get over 500,000 signatures just to make it to the ballot.
If passed, it could raise as much as $380 million a year to develop alternative fuels and reduce the state dependence on oil by 25 per cent within a decade.
"We've got a climate crisis on our hands," said Khosla, a Republican who is joining Hollywood mogul Stephen Bing, a Democrat, to bankroll the initiative, the San Jose Mercury News reported on Tuesday.
"We have an energy crisis on our hands. We have our oil feeding Middle East terrorism, and we need to do something about it. Besides, consumers are paying too much."
Khosla says the measure, which he's already spent more than $1 million to back, is not about him, but about "doing the right thing."
Khosla, a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, is enthusiastic about alternative fuel technologies and has invested in such technologies including the ethanol technologies -- such as those that produce fuel out of switch-grass, wood chips and other plant byproducts.
But a coalition of oil companies and anti-tax activists is opposing the alternative energy initiative saying it is "nothing more than a hidden tax which could cost consumers and businesses hundreds of millions of dollars every year in higher gasoline, diesel and jet fuel prices."
"This is not about alternative energy development," said John Martini, chief executive of the California Independent Petroleum Association.
"This is about getting the taxpayers to pay a dedicated revenue stream into the preferred projects the proponents have investments in."
Khosla said he believed the California ballot initiative is "the only way" these technologies will emerge in a substantial way.
"Getting Wall Street to invest in this area in a broad way is the only way we can solve our petroleum crisis, our oil addiction," he told the paper.
"I think this is the right thing to do, and I want lots of people investing in lots of things to solve this problem. Just because there's an opportunity for venture capitalists to invest, doesn't make it wrong. In fact, we know it's the only way to solve this problem," he said.
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