High Stakes for Climate and Clean Energy in California

As the full scope of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico continues to unfold, there's another energy-related drama in California. This one threatens the Golden State's landmark law (AB 32)  to limit the greenhouse gas pollution that is already harming California and to promote a host of related clean energy policies that would benefit the state. A proposition that is now certified for the November ballot, Proposition 23 —  known as the “Dirty Energy Proposition” — would kill investments and job creation in the new energy economy already spurred by AB 32 since it was enacted in 2006. This is one of the most important environmental campaigns of 2010, with implications far beyond California.

Two of the worst polluters in California, Texas-based oil companies Valero and Tesoro, are also funding this backwards ballot measure (Proposition 23) that would effectively repeal AB 32 and the clean energy policies such as clean fuel standards, pollution controls, and energy efficiency associated with the law's implementation.

The Texas-based oil companies supporting this ballot measure also have an insidious national strategy. They hope that by rolling back climate and energy policies in California, they can block progress in other states and derail federal climate legislation in Congress. Windfall oil profits allow these oil companies to pour millions of dollars into their campaign of disinformation, distraction, and deception.  It is also worth noting that Valero and Tesoro were recently named the #12 and #32 polluters in the nation in the “Toxic 100 Air Polluters” report issued by the University of Massachusetts Amherst Political Economy Research Institute (PERI).

The bottom line is that we must stop Prop 23, which threatens to stunt and obliterate job growth in California's emerging clean energy sector (e.g., energy efficiency, solar, advanced building materials, and others).  In contrast, California's economy would benefit greatly from a properly implemented AB 32. As the Stop Dirty Energy Proposition website reports:

  • “According to a new report by California's Employment Development Department, more than 500,000 employees already work part or full-time in so-called 'green' jobs.”
  • “In recent months, dozens of companies have announced they would be locating manufacturing plants in California, specifically because of [the] state's progressive clean energy laws.” These companies include Tesla, Solyndra, Nanosolar, and Kyocera.
  • “There are 10,000 megawatts of renewable power in California currently competing for federal stimulus dollars – directly because of AB 32. The total public and private investment from these projects is $30 billion and 15,000 new jobs.”
  • “Creating energy efficient commercial and residential properties and retrofitting existing buildings will create tens of thousands of jobs in California and billions upon billions of economic activity directly for building trades workers and product manufacturers.”

There's strong agreement among scientists that California's on the right track and that turning back state law is a very bad idea.  Earlier this week, 118 economists wrote a letter which explained that “[d]elaying action…before initiating accelerated action to reduce global warming gases will be more costly than initiating action now.” The economists added that policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and encouraging the development of clean energy will “improve our energy security, create new business opportunities and more jobs, and provide incentives for innovation.”

Why would anyone want to stop this progress?  For an answer to that question, you need to ask the Texas oil companies, although it's easy to figure out what their motivation might be. Hint: it's a word beginning with the letter “m” and rhyming with “funny.”

Fortunately, there's a large and (rapidly) growing coalition fighting against Prop 23.  A few highlights include: the League of Women Voters of California, Google, Levi Strauss, AARP, Pacific Gas & Electric, Consumers Union, the California Teachers Association, California Interfaith Power and Light, Governor Schwarzenegger, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and the California Federation of Labor. This past Sunday, the California Democratic Party unanimously voted to oppose Prop 23, declaring:

The California Democratic Party opposes Prop 23 because it will kill jobs, increase air pollution, and undermine our transition to a clean energy economy,” said Tim Allison, chairman of the CDP's Environmental Caucus. “The Texas oil companies' dirty energy proposition is bad for our economy, our air and our energy future.”

Also worth noting is that former Reagan Administration Secretary of State George P. Shultz has signed on as “honorary co-chair of Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs, a coalition opposing a proposed ballot measure to suspend the implementation of AB32.”  Shultz says, “As a former Secretary of State, I see our dependence on foreign oil as one of the greatest threats to national security, and the Dirty Energy Proposition would undermine efforts to break that dependence.”

For all those reasons, and many more, I strongly encourage everyone to fight Proposition 23 and to defend California's landmark clean energy and climate law.  Thank you.

P.S. Also, see this new video by Edward James Olmos.

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