As pollsters train their attention on the results of today's presidential election, environmentalists across the country will also be eyeing the outcome of several key state ballot initiatives.
With the economy in rough shape and the threat of a nationwide recession around the corner, environmentalists are looking to a number of states to help gauge the public's mood on energy conservation and natural-resource management.
The fate of these measures could help congressional representatives and the new administration determine how much public support to expect on future policy proposals.
At least 13 initiatives in nine states ask voters to weigh in on energy or environment-related issues, according to data collected by the Initiative & Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California Law School.
But five measures, in California, Missouri, Colorado and Minnesota, are attracting the most interest.
The Missouri Clean Energy Initiative would require the state's investor-owned electric utilities to generate or purchase 2 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, such as wind, solar, biomass (including ethanol) and hydropower, by 2011. The standard incrementally increases to 15 percent by 2021. The state now has a voluntary goal for adopting renewable energy.
Although Missouri would be far from the first state to do this -- about half of the states have already accepted a similar standard -- environmentalists say this measure is unique because it is supported by a wide and diverse coalition.
"The federal government has not moved as quickly as it should have in moving renewable energy sources into the market," said Jim DiPeso, policy director for the nonprofit Republicans for Environmental Protection. "The states are taking it into their hands."
This renewable energy proposal has broad bipartisan support, he said.
Indeed, his colleagues at the Sierra Club, which has endorsed Barack Obama for president, also support this measure.
"It is the first time the environmental community, the public utilities and the business community and labor have all come together around a renewable portfolio standard," said Kathy Duvall, political director for the environmental nonprofit organization the Sierra Club.
It's expected to pass with a solid margin, she said, and will likely set the tone for future states.
One of 14 measures Coloradoans will vote on today, this initiative eliminates a tax credit for oil and gas producers and, instead, allocates the revenues for a handful of social and environmental purposes.
College scholarships receive the lion's share (60 percent) of the funds, but other issues, such as the acquisition and stewardship of natural habitats, a clean energy fund, transportation improvements and water quality control also benefit.
Proponents of the measure say it's an overdue effort to end the subsidies enjoyed by oil companies.
But opponents of the initiative, including the National Taxpayer's Union, say it will raise consumer prices for gasoline and natural gas.