Verde Laguna: Vote 'no' on Prop. 23 to promote clean energy

The most important thing to keep in mind when casting your vote on Nov. 2, should you care about the environment, is that there is an initiative, Prop. 23, that seeks to suspend the state law requiring reducing greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

The state's landmark Climate Change law AB-32, was signed into law in 2006 by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said, "I wanted to make California No. 1 in the fight against global warming. This is something we owe our children and grandchildren."

Just last week Schwarzenegger, talking on Prop. 23, said that, "Texas oil companies have descended upon California to overturn a California law," and accused the companies of "self-greed" for supporting the initiative. "Does anyone really believe that these companies out of the goodness of their black oil hearts are spending millions of dollars to protect our jobs?" he asked, according to the Associated Press.

I am asking, do you?

Valero Energy and Tesoro Corp. are two oil companies based in San Antonio with refineries in California that are spending millions of dollars to push their dirty Prop. 23. The argument to support the initiative is that the implementation of AB-32 is going to have a negative impact on the economy, and cost jobs. They are proposing to put the law on hold until Californian's unemployment rate drops to 5.5% for four consecutive quarters. This is a misleading argument that lacks the facts to connect unemployment to environmental standards, and plays to the fears of those who lost their jobs or are afraid to be next in the unemployment line, in this recession that has skyrocketed unemployment in the state to more than 12%.

To support this argument, they are using a report about AB-32 from the non-partisan Legislative Analyst's Office. Its principal findings when talking about unemployment were that they are "difficult to accurately predict but would be mixed, with gains in some occupations and industries (including so-called "green jobs") and losses in others (primarily involving fossil fuel related production). On balance however, they believe the aggregate net jobs impact in the near term is likely to be negative."

On the other side, the California Resources Board concluded that AB-32 would actually create jobs. The board also responded to the argument said that AB-32 is making California less competitive and driving business out of state. In the document called "setting the record straight" available on their website, the Board concluded that "entrepreneurs opened more green businesses (10,209) and created more new jobs (125,390) in California than in any other state." (Source: The Clean Energy Economy, Pew Charitable Trusts)

The same document quotes NEXT 10, an independent, non-partisan organization, saying that "while the rest of the economy struggles with job losses, the clean tech sector surged ahead in 2007-2008 with a growth of 5 %." This organization, using the Berkeley Energy Resources Model, found that if "California improves energy efficiency by just 1% per year, the proposed state climate policies will increase the gross state product by approximately $76 billion. Additionally, it will increase real house incomes by up to $48 million and create as many as 403,000 new jobs." (Source: "Climate Risk & Response" by UC Berkeley professors David Holst and Frederick Kahrl.) In fact, after the implementation of energy efficiency policies in the 1970s, California saved $56 billion, and another $23 billion is expected in savings over the next five years.

A rollback in climate change laws in California is going to increase dependency on oil-based fuels, a finite resource that is not going to last. The availability is already a topic of debate, but there is no doubt among experts that peak oil production may indeed be upon us. From a different perspective, George Shultz, former secretary of state for the Reagan administration and co-chairman of the campaign against the initiative, warned about the danger of oil imports and national security.

Unlike fossil fuels, renewable energy sources are inexhaustible, which is why we need a clean energy economy that can move our economy forward. That is our only real option. The challenge of global warming presents us with the opportunity of creating clean technology as well as the economy of the future.

An open letter on "Clean Energy & Global Warming" published in Julys by a group of Ph. D economists with expertise in energy issues said that "being an early mover to reduce emissions could yield economic (as well as climate) benefits to California." They argued that well designed strategies can stimulate innovation and efficiency which could help the state become a technological leader in the market place and concluded that delaying action now and waiting for the future will be more costly.

The cost of doing nothing means more smoggy days by contributing to ozone formation, more and larger fires, losing 90% of the snowpack late this century and sea levels rising by more than 20 inches.

We should recognize the good things that exist specifically in AB-32, in which implementation will reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020, and after that the goal is a reduction of 80% from the 1990 level by the year 2050 and then to build on top of that. The next chapter on this journey is the implementation of the scoping plan that goes into effect in 2011.

In making a choice you may take into account that this is not just about California, but for the state to lead the country to a cleaner future.

GUSTAVO GRAD is a Laguna Beach resident and certified sustainable building advisor. He can be reached at ggrad@cox.net.

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