Arnold, Tom Friedman and Green Jobs…

I was down in Los Angeles last week and met with a long-time friend who’s from a strongly Republican family but who is deeply committed to keeping California beautiful and its environment protected.  

He was impressed that Meg Whitman had officially opposed Prop 23 and was convinced that, with that in hand, he could sway other business-oriented environmentalists in Southern California to come out against Prop. 23. Which he did – quite effectively – shortly after our meeting! We are creating great momentum from Meg’s decision to vote no on Prop. 23.

There have been two other big boosts to the No on Prop. 23 campaign – Arnold and Tom.

Last week, the Governor spoke out strongly against Prop 23. My wife and I got a chance to talk with him recently and see him speak at an event. He was strong and quite combative, going after the two Texas oil companies directly and forcefully.  At the start of his political career, it was hard to forget that Arnold is a global movie star. Now it’s hard to remember, until he starts talking. He still commands a crowd and a room.

But most importantly, the Governor nailed the message and spoke the truth. “They (the oils companies) are creating a shell argument that they are doing this to protect jobs,” the governor said. “Does anybody really believe they are doing this out of the goodness of their black oil hearts – spending millions and millions of dollars to save jobs?”

Tom Friedman, the New York Times Columnist, picked up the story this week as well. He put the argument pretty simply, “Just remember: A.B. 32, good; Prop 23, bad.”

He also pointed out another great quote on jobs from the Governor, “Since when has [an] oil company ever been interested in jobs? Let’s be honest. If they really are interested in jobs, they would want to protect A.B. 32, because actually it’s green technology that is creating the most jobs right now in California, 10 times more than any other sector.”

This point can’t be made often enough. In 2009 alone, venture capitalists invested $2.1 billion into California’s “green” businesses. The green technology industry is the future economy of California. They are the jobs for which our children and grandchildren will be competing. In Washington, action on national climate change legislation may be stalled but we can and should still lead the way here in California. It’s good for our environment, good for our economy and good for our future.

As always, it was fun to be in L.A. and great to see the Governor and his wife.  Even with all their success and celebrity, they seemed like a very nice – and amazingly accomplished – couple.  

And it was great to get to talk with the Governor and understand how he came to care so deeply about the environment. He definitely wants to work against Prop 23 until Election Day and then keep going nationally.  I know that the implementation of AB 32 over the next 10 years will be critical, so I don’t want to stop either.  Hopefully then, I’ll be seeing a lot more of the governor!

This is the forth installment of our regular father-daughter, intra-generational effort to share concerns and fears, as well as ideas and hopes about the future of California’s environment. – Tom

Tom Steyer is a successful asset manager, entrepreneur and environmentalist. He founded and is Co-Managing Partner of the San Francisco-based firm, Farallon Capital Management and is a partner at the private equity firm Hellman & Friedman. With his wife Kat Taylor, he created and funded OneCalifornia Bank, which provides loans and banking services to underserved small businesses, communities, and individuals in California. In 2008, Steyer and Taylor made a $40 million gift to Stanford University to create a new research center as part of the Precourt Institute for Energy, the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy.

Steyer is also co-Chair, with former Secretary of State George Shultz, of the campaign to oppose Proposition 23 in California, an initiative that would undercut California’s commitment to clean energy.