This election season one of the most contentious battles in California is over Proposition 23 which proposes to roll back and delay the implementation of AB32, California’s landmark bill to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Those in favor of Proposition 23 say we can’t afford to implement AB32 and fight climate change now, that it will cost us jobs. The measure would delay AB32 until the state’s unemployment rate falls to 5.5% for a whole year. Others say that Proposition 23 (delaying AB32) will do just the opposite, killing jobs, while AB32 would be the job creator. Their positions appear diametrically opposed, total opposites. Who is right?
AB32 is the California Global Warming Solutions Act, passed in 2006 and passed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger. The law would require that the state’s greenhouse gas emissions are reduced back to 1990 levels by 2020, a 25% reduction compared to scenarios where little or no action is taken. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is tasked with figuring out the details for how this will happen. The solution is likely to include putting a price on carbon emissions from the most intensive greenhouse gas emitters like utilities and heavy industrial sources.
While one report from CARB has found that implementing AB32 would create 10,000 jobs, others have pointed to studies suggesting that the measure would cost the state billions of dollars. Among those supporting Proposition 23 are those you would expect to see there–oil companies such as Valero and Tesoro which have refineries in the state. Oil refineries are significant emitters of greenhouse gas emissions and would probably be significantly impact by actions to fight climate change, so this comes as no surprise. Action on climate change is always sure to have those heavily vested in old, dirty, and inefficient industries like oil and coal as opponents.
Those opposed to Proposition 23 include a diverse collection of students, mayors, nonprofits, environmental activists, and representatives of the cleantech industry. A group of 30 CEOs in San Diego is also stepping up to oppose Proposition 23, as an idea that isn’t just bad for the environment, but bad for business as well. Led by Yeves Perez, CEO of EcoHub in San Diego, and Bob Noble, CEO of Envision Solar, this group of CEOs met on October 18th and issued a joint letter along with the Green Chamber of San Diego saying, “In anticipation of AB32 being implemented, the group has seen a boom of clean energy technology businesses that has created more than 500,000 new jobs and $9.1 billion in private equity investments to our state.”
To me this isn’t really a disagreement about jobs. Nobody is anti-jobs. It’s a difference in the way people see the world. We are faced with a choice between looking backward and moving forward. We can try to hold on to the dirty polluting industries of the past, or move forward to grow the innovative clean and efficient businesses of the future. California has always lead the way forward, and it’s time to stay on this path. People are afraid and angry about the economy, but turning back isn’t an option. Holding on to the past is futile. If we don’t create these cleantech jobs here, they will be created somewhere else. It’s a choice between fear and hope. To me, the choice is clear. I vote for the future.
Glenn Croston is the author of “75 Green Businesses” and “Starting Green”, showing businesses how to start, grow, and succeed with green. He is also the founder of Starting Up Green, and the Home Sustainable Challenge, opening the door to the conserver economy, in which we live well by saving more and consuming less.