Republicans shouldn’t become the Dirty Energy Party

With huge amounts of oil continuing to pollute the waters off Louisiana, the Gulf oil spill is yet another reminder that it is important for our economy, our environment, and our national security to wean our nation off dirty fossil fuels.

Yet most Republicans in California don’t seem to get it. Instead of embracing the job-creating clean energy economy, Sacramento’s Republican leadership is actively attacking it, ridiculing the more than 500,000 clean tech jobs already in the state and solar technologies that are putting thousands back to work in the Inland Empire. They think they can gain a political edge by ignoring the environmental effects of fossil fuels because the consequences are gradual (though the oil spill shows that sometimes they aren’t). But if the California Republican Party becomes the “Oil Industry Party” and the “Anti-Science Party,” it will be doomed.

 In Washington, D.C., conservative South Carolina U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham is taking the exact opposite posture of California’s Republican leadership. He’s making headlines because of his continuing push to pass a clean energy/climate bill (along with Democratic Senators John Kerry and Independent Joe Lieberman). The reason he embraces clean energy is in part political. The Republican Party’s future, he says, is at stake: Younger voters that the GOP needs to capture are overwhelmingly supportive of renewable energy and clean technology that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

 Instead of dismissing the hundreds of thousands of jobs being created because of California’s forward-thinking clean energy policies, California’s GOP leadership should support the effective and reasonable implementation of AB 32 that is serving to accelerate record investment in clean tech ventures in our state, such as the Southern California Edison/ProLogis 250 megawatt solar plant near the Ontario Airport and in Redlands that will create 1,200 jobs. Unfortunately, however, they’re siding with Texas oil companies that want to kill these clean energy policies that are lifting us out of the recession.

 Their stated reason for opposition: it could cost money. But lots of essential programs cost money (such as clean drinking water and sewers). Should Republicans abolish essential programs like these to somehow inspire job growth? I would hope not. Especially when studies repeatedly show that AB 32 is creating jobs, saves families and businesses money from the efficiencies it will create, and will help clean up our air.

 California has always been the technological leader of our nation. It was here that the motion picture, aerospace, computer and biotech industries grew, each employing hundreds of thousands. It is also becoming the center of growth of clean tech jobs.

 While we dither, the Chinese are growing their renewable energy industries rapidly. If we shut ours down, we will continue our dependence on petroleum products from countries that hate us, and we will find ourselves buying Chinese manufactured products paid for with dollars borrowed from Asia.

 I have been a Republican all my life. As a boy, I distributed “Dewey for President” literature. I strongly supported Governor Ronald Reagan, who pushed through automotive pollution controls, protected wild rivers, and brokered the establishment of Redwood National Park. As president, he won approval of a strong treaty protecting our atmosphere from ozone-depleting chemicals, and a treaty that made effective use of a cap-and-trade system for controls.

Ronald Reagan was a leader who worked with lawmakers in both parties to win support for his pragmatic conservative agenda. Republicans in Sacramento should understand this as well instead of doing the legislative dirty work of the state’s largest polluters, Valero and Tesoro, who are bankrolling the campaign to kill our state’s clean energy and air standards.

 Our nation’s great industrial base was built on inexpensive energy, but the environmental costs were ignored. It is time to focus on the future rather than the past. Republicans should recognize that it is good business – and good politics – to support AB 32, California’s road map to a clean energy future.

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