The Dirty Energy Proposition (Part I)

In 2006, Governor Schwarzenegger signed AB32 into law. The bill was a line in sand on climate change, and with a few exceptions, California lawmakers recognized that making the state a leader in clean tech was a win-win-win for the people, the economy, and the planet. AB32 would ratchet California's Green House Gas emissions back down to 1990 levels, by 2020. This effort would create millions of jobs and attract huge investments establishing California as a clean tech leader for the nation and the world.

Now, Dan Logue (R-CA-3) and few others are trying to drag CA back across the line. I have been writing on AB32 for a while, and I couldn't understand why Mr. Logue would do this. I took some time look up a few of his interviews and I gained some perspective.

Mr. Logue does not base his argument on climate change denialism. In fact he argues that AB32 will actually increase carbon emissions by pushing industry to less-regulated China, where manufacturers can pollute as much as they like, resulting in a net increase in emissions (Mr. Logue also advocates for the repeal of what current regulations, which – it seems to me – would be a move toward re-creating the Chinese system here).

That's like arguing 30 years ago that requiring seat belts would lead to less seat belt use because American companies could no longer compete with their foreign counterparts and foreign, seat belt-less cars would flood the American market. That is not what happened.

Mr. Logue is also fond of reminding emissions reduction advocates that they are forgetting that emissions observe no political borders. Greenhouse gasses will waft in from neighboring states (like Nevada) and even from countries on the other side of the planet like China.

It strikes me that perhaps Mr. Logue is missing the point. AB32 is not intended to halt climate change for, as Mr. Logue correctly observes, it will not. It is intended to have California do its part and lead by example.

In fact – Action on climate change worldwide has stalled because no one will lead. Congress wants China and the EU to act first and each of them want the Americans to lead. It is like the global community is aboard a sinking pirate ship, and rather than acting together to plug the holes, they are working to ensure their share of the treasure. In this scenario, it won't be long before all of the treasure is at the bottom of the ocean, and formerly great powers are simply trying to stay afloat.

With the signing of AB32, CA is providing the leadership we lack, and the rest of the nation is soon to follow. The Senate is expected to take up a clean energy bill in the coming weeks, and though it may not be as visionary as AB32, it will be better than the status-quo. When it passes, businesses nationwide will be looking for clean technologies. If AB32 remains in effect, huge numbers of them will find what they need in California.

As Mr. Logue and friends focus on the individual trees of short term transition, they fail to see the forest of long-term prosperity, for California and the nation.