Quotes McCain: “We stand warned by serious and credible scientists across the world that time is short and the dangers are great.”
California’s vision of a cleaner environment and reduced dependence on foreign oil and dirty fuels is now under attack. Make no mistake: Proposition 23 seeks to derail our future through a process of indefinite postponement of our state’s clean energy and clean air standards. A future for California based on clean-power technologies is both an economic and environmental necessity.
It’s about preserving clean air for our kids and fostering good jobs for our workers. It’s about a California that leads the world in the next great global industry and in facing the next great global challenge. The effort to derail it would be a tragic mistake.
Don’t let it happen.
It is pretty hard to find a conservative Republican willing to speak out bluntly on the urgent need for action on climate change and clean energy. It is doubly hard to find one with the credentials of George P. Shultz who was President Reagan’s secretary of state from 1982 to 1989 — and President Nixon’s first budget director.
Shultz deserves a great deal of credit for signing on as cochair of the effort to kill Prop 23 and making clear that failing to do so “would be a catastrophe.” Now he has an op-ed, “Clean air law is key to our future,” which deserves to be widely read. It continues:
In the United States, we face three major energy issues. Our economy is disrupted by periodically spiking oil prices. Our national security is threatened by dependence on uncertain sources of oil and by the flow of funds to oil-providing countries that do not wish us well. Indirectly, potential terrorist groups are also funded and strengthened. Our climate is threatened by the destructive impact of global warming caused by the accumulation of CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels. These ongoing problems are real, important and potentially severe. Yes, severe. As Sen. John McCain put it in a May 2008 speech in Portland, Oregon:
“We have many advantages in the fight against global warming, but time is not one of them. Instead of idly debating the precise extent of global warming, or the precise timeline of global warming, we need to deal with the central facts of rising temperatures, rising waters and all the endless trouble that global warming will bring. We stand warned by serious and credible scientists across the world that time is short and the dangers are great.”
As Sen. Richard Lugar wrote in the Washington Post in February last year: “In March 2006, I characterized America’s excessive reliance on oil as the albatross of national security.”
When oil prices soared to a peak of nearly $150 a barrel last summer, oil riches emboldened authoritarian rulers from Venezuela to Iran to the genocidal regime in Sudan. Poor countries struggling to grow were crushed by the weight of oil import expenses. Allies in Europe have gone cold this winter as Russia wielded its near monopoly on gas supplies as a political weapon. And our own economic woes were exacerbated as we shipped billions of dollars overseas to pay our oil bills.
But these are national and international issues, the naysayers argue, so why should California worry about them? We are one state in 50, and we can’t solve these problems by ourselves. But we are not powerless. Our system of federal government is built, in part, on the idea and the experiences of creativity from the bottom up – from innovative individuals, companies and states. We can lead the way in using creative ideas to tackle these problems without harm to our economy. In fact, we have been leading the way.
At first, California’s establishment of carbon emissions standards for cars and trucks, which far exceeded the federal requirement, drew a hostile response from the federal government. But early this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the EPA followed California’s lead and announced national emissions standards that will bring us a cleaner fleet of automobiles. So California’s example has had a positive and constructive impact.
There is a long history here of the pessimists underestimating what American ingenuity can do. In the congressional debate over the 1990 Clean Air Act, auto industry executives claimed that reducing auto emissions would have a devastating impact. Congress passed laws that called for a 39 percent reduction in hydrocarbons and a 60 percent reduction in nitrogen oxides in auto emissions. The auto industry met its emissions reductions targets and enjoyed record profits for the next decade. The lesson of history is very clear: Every time we challenge American industries with higher standards, they meet them earlier, for less money and invent new products for export along the way.
California’s clean energy and clean air standards will start being phased in next year. The system will have the effect of gradually putting a higher and higher price on the emission of carbon. It can be designed so as to operate on a revenue-neutral basis, that is, so as not to take private money out of the economy. Many other ways of phasing in requirements have been identified so as to minimize short-term drag on the economy and to soften the impact of adjustment to new requirements.
In the meantime, the inevitability that rigorous requirements will soon be put in place here and elsewhere in the world has already led to an outburst of creative activity that itself both stimulates investment and jobs with a future and lowers the cost of reducing our carbon footprint. Businesses are looking for leadership and a clear road map such as that provided by our state’s policy so that they can be positioned to prosper in the clean energy economy.
Energetic implementation of new technology is needed. New ways of producing electricity and using it far more efficiently are clearly in prospect, not just on the horizon. New methods are being developed for using genomic tools to produce liquid fuel from biomass and even from algae. New business models are being created to take advantage of technological changes, including cars that rely wholly or in part on electric generation.
In the four years since California’s clean air standards were passed, clean energy investment has tripled. About three of every five venture capital dollars nationwide has been invested in California companies, with about $2.1 billion worth of clean energy investments in 2009 alone. Our state’s policies are helping draw this activity to California. The United States and, I say proudly, California have always been world leaders in creativity and dynamism, reveling in finding new ways to accomplish important objectives. Now another important effort needs our support.
I remember from my time as secretary of state our success, led by President Ronald Reagan, in dealing with the potential adverse effects of depletion of stratospheric ozone. Yes, as now, there were arguments among scientists about the imminence of the threat. Those who were deeply worried turned out to be right. The necessary agreement, called the Montreal Protocol, came into effect in the nick of time. President Reagan supported our effort from the start to finish and acclaimed the result to be “a monumental achievement.”
We have plenty of problems in California, not least the huge unfunded liabilities confronting the taxpayer. But we will only compound our problems if we abandon our aspirations for the quality of our environment. Our future is with a knowledge economy, and there is one thing we know for sure: Knowledge workers have lots of choices where to live, and they like to live in environments with clean air and green spaces. “Silicon Valley” did not sprout in Silicon Valley by accident.
Those who wish to repeal our state’s clean energy laws through postponement to some fictitious future are running up the white flag of surrender to a polluted environment. We do not need this defeatist initiative with its sense of pessimism and its can’t-do attitude. We need Ronald Reagan’s spirit of determination laced with optimism. As he used to say, “America’s best days are ahead.” And so are California’s.
Read previous posts on Prop 23’s economic impact, national repercussions, and funding from Texas oil companies. See also”No on California Prop 23: When it comes to climate policy, reversing course is the real job killer” and “The dirty oil coalition behind the Proposition 23 effort to stop clean energy just got a lot dirtier.”
Here are five things you can do to win this fight:
- Visit the “No on 23″³ website, learn the facts & sign up: www.StopDirtyEnergyProp.com.
- Educate yourself on how California’s climate & energy laws have created companies & jobs: www.CABrightSpot.com.
- Tell your friends by email, on Facebook, at work, & everywhere else.
- Participate in the debate. Write letters to the editor and post comments on blogs & websites.
- Contribute (click here). The other side’s leader, right-wing California Assemblyman Dan Logue, has publicly said he expects the oil companies to spend $50 million.