Saturday, February 6, 2010

Same tired argument against the environment. Opponents of AB 32 launch campaign to have it delayed.

When I first read about the newly launched campaign to delay the implementation of AB 32 I was immediately against it. Then, after some reflection, I decided that before I made up my mind and started writing about this issue I was going to do some reading and investigate the true impact (as best as can be projected) of the Global Warming Act on the California economy and California jobs. Please understand, this is a subject that is near and dear to my heart as I have also been personally impacted by the downturn in our current economy. So I really wanted to understand the truth. What I learned not only affirmed my support of AB 32 but also helped me understand why it is an extremely important law for our economy as well as our planet.

In 2006 California made history; and a significant contribution to our environment; when the state passed AB 32; The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. This important piece of legislations had a handful of predictable opponents who were the same group that have consistently fought against clean air and water quality laws. Highly conservative republican politicians and conservative activists are now launching a ballot campaign to suspend California's landmark global-warming law, in what they hope will serve as a showcase for a national backlash against climate regulations.

AB 32 opponents say they have "solid commitments" of nearly $600,000 to pay signature gatherers for a November initiative aimed at delaying curbs on the greenhouse gas emissions of power plants and factories until the state's unemployment rate drops. They propose suspending the law until California unemployment reached 5.5%. They just want to “delay” it, which is another way of saying “kill” it. This group is even blaming current job losses on AB 32, but new emission reductions don’t even begin until 2012, and then are gradually phased in by 2020.

What opponents to AB 32 have failed to consider (or chose to ignore) is that the law has already begun to have a positive impact on jobs and growth in California. By adopting policies against dangerous global warming pollution, the state has made it clear that they want to become the home of new “green” jobs and “green” businesses and be a leader of the new economy. Simply put, AB 32 has already stimulated investments, innovation, efficiency and economic benefits. Business have begun to invest in clean technology, re-tooling equipment, training, education plus other measure that help reduce greenhouse gases pollutants and which help the economy.

Let’s give this discussion a bit of perspective. In California, as the economy slowed between 2007 and 2008, total employment fell one percent. However, green jobs continued to grow five percent. (according to the latest data, green jobs are growing 2.5 times faster than the overall economy). President Obama has made clean tech a cornerstone of his economic recovery plan, even making a reference to California’s efforts in his State of the Union speech last week.

Another view comes from Dr James Fine, an economist and policy scientist from the Environmental Defense Fund. “....based on projections, the net economic effect is even likely to be positive." Dr. Fine also mentioned health benefits, such as a decrease in premature deaths, a decrease in incidences of asthma, and a decrease in the number of lost workdays. Moreover, Dr. Fine predicts an extra 109,000 jobs in 2020 when implementing the bill compared to “business as usual.”

Let’s consider some other facts:

• A 2009 study by the Pew Charitable Trusts listed California as the nation’s leading state in clean energy businesses (10,209), clean energy jobs (125,390) and clean energy venture capital funding ($6.5 billion for 2006-2008)

• The average Californian today uses 40 percent less electricity per year than the average American. Saving electricity saves money.

• California’s landmark Clean Car Law, part of AB 32’s solutions, is giving consumers cleaner, more fuel efficient cars, reducing dependence on foreign oil and helping drivers save money at the pump. And it will soon become the Federal standard; 

• From GED’s to PHD’s, our community college and university students are demanding courses and degrees to make them competitive for jobs in this new 21st century economy; and
• California boasts five of the nation’s top 10 cities for clean tech investment: San Jose, Berkeley, Pasadena, San Francisco and San Diego.

And we’re not just talking about a bunch of tree hugger here. The state’s largest utility, PG&E, was an early supporter. Apple dropped out of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce when the Chamber opposed climate change legislation. Innovative companies such as Google, one of our fastest growing companies, also support AB 32. Small business also is on board. Small Business California strongly supports the law, as does the Green Chamber of Commerce. So contrary to what some would have you believe; a Green California does not mean job loss. California has the opportunity to revolutionize its economy by becoming the leader and incubator for green technology and innovation.

When will the invalid rhetoric of “Jobs vs. Environment” ever end? Guess what boys and girls; its not one or the other; we can have both. Green = Jobs = Economic Growth in California and around the globe. It also means decreased costs in energy, insurance, medical costs, missed workdays and a whole host of additional, tangible, monetary benefits. But most importantly, staying true to green means taking care of the most precious gift and resource we have; our planet. If you destroy your home and make it barely inhabitable, it’s a little difficult to care about much else.

Sources: California League of Conservation Voters; Fran Pavley at Capital Weekly; Margot Roosevelt at Los Angeles Times; John Seiler at Cal Watchdog; Molly Peterson at Southern California Public Radio; David Crane at Fox & Hounds

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