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Opinion: California could lose clean-tech jobs if Prop. 23 is approved

Four years ago, California led the nation with a landmark law aimed at reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions. By doing so, the state sparked innovation and gave a jumpstart to a thriving clean energy and technology industry, which has created several hundred thousand green jobs for Californians.

Those clean, green jobs are one of the few growth areas in the state’s economy.

The number of jobs relating to renewable energy and sustainable business practices has grown 10 times faster than the statewide average since 2005, according to the California Green Energy Index.  The number of California green businesses has increased 45 percent. Green jobs expanded by 36 percent from 1995 to 2008 while total jobs in California expanded only 13 percent.  From 2007 to 2008, when state employment fell 1 percent, green jobs continued to grow 5 percent, according to www.cleaneconomynetwork.org.

More than any other state, California is uniquely positioned to corner the clean tech market.  California’s clean technology sector received $9 billion in venture capital investment from 2005 to 2009, including $2.1 billion in investment capital in 2009, reports http://cleantech.com. That’s five times the investment of the Golden State’s closest competitor

Massachusetts, and it represents 60 percent the total green investment in North America.  Having spent nearly three decades in the renewable industry in California, this surge in the State’s green technology base has been exciting to watch.

However, just as this innovative approach is starting to pay off and help put Californians back to work, AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, is being threatened by a handful of heavy-polluting Texas oil companies. These out-of-state polluters have spent more than $6 million to push Proposition 23, a deceptive ballot proposition that would kill the very clean technology jobs, innovation and billions in green investment that are helping California climb out of recession.

The check-writers for Proposition 23 don’t care about jobs for Californians. They want voters to believe the initiative is a “temporary” suspension of the state’s mandate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It isn’t. Proposition 23 would halt implementation of California’s clean and green agenda until the state’s unemployment rate reaches 5.5 percent for a full year. That has happened just three times since 1976.

While economists are unclear when, if ever, California’s unemployment rate would reach these levels again, the number of jobless Californians is not going to fall without continued encouragement – and investment – in the green, sustainable future. California’s greenhouse gas reduction law helps promote.

If our clean energy and clean air law is repealed, it would send a chilling message to investors. According to the non-partisan Legislative Analyst, the suspension of AB 32 could, “dampen additional investments in clean energy technologies or in so-called ‘green jobs’ by private firms, thereby resulting in less economic activity than would otherwise be the case.”

And make no mistake – California is in serious, active competition with many other states for these desirable clean tech jobs. Importantly, not only are these jobs high-value, they are also highly mobile. Suspending California’s climate change legislation will substantially increase the risk of clean tech “job flight” to other, more welcoming states. This sends precisely the wrong message at the wrong time and will likely cause unemployment in this state to grow higher.

A vote for Proposition 23 is a vote in favor of chaos in the marketplace, stripping businesses of the ability to plan strategically and ending billions of dollars in venture capital spending on clean technology.

That’s not a smart investment.


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