Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is seizing on the defeat of an oil-industry attempt to derail California's landmark global warming law, saying Wednesday it provides proponents of clean energy and climate control the perfect opportunity to put those issues back on the national agenda.
Schwarzenegger attributed the resounding failure of Proposition 23 to a wide breadth of opposition that brought together groups that traditionally are at loggerheads, including Democrats and Republicans and environmentalists and business leaders.
He said the measure's lopsided defeat -- 61 percent of voters rejected it -- gives supporters of global warming regulation the momentum to push a similar law through Congress.
"This was such an extraordinary coalition. We're going back to Washington to get this jump-started again," the governor told reporters on a conference call. "The Democrats can't do it without the Republicans. We've got to get together to find the sweet spot."
The 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act, which made California the first state in the nation to enact greenhouse gas regulations, is a signature of Schwarzenegger's administration. It orders industrial emission limits starting in 2012 and fossil fuel energy reductions commencing in 2020.
An effort to adopt similar legislation in Congress has stalled.
Proposition 23, which was backed largely by out-of-state oil companies and refiners, sought to delay implementation of the restrictions until the state unemployment rate, which now stands at 12.6 percent, drops to 5.5 percent and holds steady there for a year. That has occurred just three times in three decades.
Former Secretary of State George Shultz, who co-chaired the No. on 23 campaign, said its defeat shows climate change is no longer a partisan issue.
"Somehow it's gotten out that Republicans don't cotton to this issue. We got to be sure to wake up our fellow Republicans," said Shultz. "This worked because it was broad-based. We have to proceed on a nonpartisan basis."
That will be an uphill battle despite the clear message California voters sent, said Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch in Washington D.C.
Even before Tuesday's election, which put the House of Representatives in Republican hands, Congress showed little inclination toward climate-control legislation, O'Donnell said.
"The likelihood of a big, national economy-wide program is very slim for the near future," he said. "It's going to be a very tough climb."
Proposition 23 was funded by $9 million in contributions largely from oil-industry companies. Opponents raised more than $32 million from a diverse source of contributors, including the Sierra Club, the Teamsters union, venture capital firms and alternative energy businesses.
The National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, which contributed $100,000 to the yes vote, called the measure's defeat "tragic." The association blamed it partly on the voter wave that elected Jerry Brown governor, re-elected Barbara Boxer to the U.S. Senate and sent their fellow Democrats to several other statewide offices.
The association's president, Charles Drevna, also accused the measure's opponents of leading a "sophisticated multimillion-dollar misinformation campaign" that he said would ultimately drive companies out of the state.
"The defeat of Proposition 23 will hurt families across California by destroying jobs and raising costs of gasoline, diesel fuel, electricity and more," Drevna said in a statement Wednesday. "It is the wrong medicine at the wrong time for California's ailing economy."
Schwarzenegger dismissed such arguments as "trick" language that failed to fool voters. He said the law created jobs by fomenting a clean energy industry.
"It was a victory over greedy oil companies," Schwarzenegger said of the measure's defeat.
It was also a victory the governor took personally.
"I hate being beaten in anything. For my ego, it was also very important," Schwarzenegger said. "This protects one of my legacies I'm very proud of."