When AB 32, California’s landmark global warming law, was being debated in the legislature, a coalition of polluters and their misguided allies opposed the bill. This week these same opponents, who have also fought against clean air and water quality laws, are unveiling an initiative to suspend AB 32, predicting the sky will fall if the law is implemented. They predict that thousands of Californians would lose their jobs, and it will crush small businesses. There are even blaming the current loss of jobs on AB 32, but new emission reductions don’t even begin until 2012, and then are gradually phased in by 2020.
But just as these Chicken Little arguments didn’t fly back in 2006, they aren’t holding up now.
In fact, just the opposite is happening. By adopting policies that will cap dangerous global warming pollution, we have sent a signal to the market that California wants to become the home of these new jobs and businesses and a leader of the 21st century economy. Simply put, AB 32 has already stimulated innovation, efficiency and economic benefits.
• 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.
Notice that this isn’t just about the future. It’s happening now.
Here in California, as the economy slowed between 2007 and 2008, total employment fell one percent. Green jobs continued to grow five percent. (according to the latest data, green jobs are growing 2.5 times faster than the overall economy). Stephen Levy, Director of Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, recently concluded in a study that “it is likely that the first beneficiaries of green job growth will be workers who are currently unemployed.”
President Barack Obama, who has made clean tech a cornerstone of his economic recovery plan, made reference to our state’s efforts in his State of the Union speech last week when he said “You can see the results of last year’s investments in clean energy … in the California business that will put a thousand people to work making solar panels.”
That’s why we can’t afford to suspend AB 32. Killing AB 32 will chill billions of dollars in investments in our economy. It would risk the loss of more than $80 billion in Gross State Product and more than half a million jobs by 2020. We know that delay will allow China and our other global competitors, to steal our opportunity to create jobs and businesses right here in California.
That’s why the tired “jobs vs. environment” ploy that polluters have tried in the past will fail, even during these difficult economic times.
Of course, proponents of the initiative say they don’t want to kill AB 32, they just want to “suspend it.” Suspending is code for destroying the law since the provisions in the initiative will send us in the wrong direction. Everyone knows that investors and businessman need economic certainty and favorable market signals.
Besides, thousands of California employers are playing by the current rules by investing in clean technology, setting up training programs, retooling equipment and taking other actions to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and stimulate the economy. It makes no sense for a business to invest if AB 32 is implemented one quarter and suspended the next. Suspending AB 32 – or even the threat that the law could be halted – would dry up much of this investment.
That’s one of the many reasons why many leaders in California’s business community are supportive of AB 32. 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.
It makes no sense to introduce an initiative that would halt economic development and the energy we need to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of fuel and energy. In California, we have an unparalleled record of generating economic profit while controlling pollution. We have been doing both for the past 35 years!