"Clean power battles dirty energy on Prop 23"
Job creation vs. confused causation
For the Yes on 23 side, Assemblyman Dan Logue from Linda, California took the stage, alternating between arguing that ending AB 32′s environmental protections would improve California’s air and would create jobs for the state. Tom Steyer, who runs a $20-billion hedge fund out of San Francisco, argued against the Assemblyman, asserting that the AB 32 has created thousands of jobs in the state, as well as improved our air quality.
The Assemblyman’s arguments were flawed from the outset, based entirely on a disproven claim that spurring renewable energy in the state causes businesses to relocate elsewhere. If you like numbers, take a look at this recent study that found that simply conserving power (not taking into account new energy sources and their infrastructure) creates jobs. But even on a conceptual level, it is easy to understand that building solar cells in the desert, wind farms in our valleys and inventing all the new technology that has to come with a new energy economy is going to create jobs. The question is just whether they will be here, or in China.
But moving on from that part of the Assemblyman’s argument, he also alleged that AB 32′s protections and regulations burden air quality by putting more trucks on the road to bring in goods from out of state, that would be made in-state but for our regulations. This argument is hard to follow, but even harder to defend – Rep. Logue wants us to believe that limiting carbon emissions in-state would do the opposite because trucks then have to bring goods back in. I guess he also thinks that banning smoking indoors leads to more second-hand smoke and that keeping oil rigs off California’s coast somehow leads to more oil spills.
The worst argument the Assemblyman made was that rolling back air pollution protection would lead to better health because citizens could afford health care with the jobs that somehow came from allowing unchecked carbon emissions. This jobs argument is bunk, as we said above. But more importantly, I would ask the Assemblyman to consult any mother of a child with asthma, or a teacher who can’t send her students out at lunch because of poor air quality, whether they would accept soot and smog-filled air, just so long as they had health insurance.
Tom Steyer, co-chair of the No on 23 campaign pointed out again and again that preparing for a new energy economy was just plain smart, and that undoing the work that the state did would set us back. He pointed to previous industries where California has led the way, and argued that California should lead the way, not just for pride, but also for the jobs and investment a leadership position provides. And this guy knows about investing – he runs the 10th largest investment fund in the world.
Prop 23′s oil refining supporters recognize the import in the example California will set, and that’s why they have given nearly $8 million to Prop 23. But it is also what makes the Koch brothers, Tesoro and Valero’s contributions to the Yes on Prop 23 campaign so galling: other companies, even those in the same oil-refining and coal-burning industry, have joined in opposition to the proposition. Shell Oil makes the argument that AB 32 provides stability and security for companies trying to make the shift to the new energy economy. Sempra Energy, out of San Diego, is supports AB 32′s goals of reducing carbon emissions and promoting the new energy economy.
The Assemblyman didn’t make those connections, and was left defending an unpopular and fundamentally incorrect argument. Californians just do not buy the environment vs. jobs argument anymore, not when the state is building a renewable energy infrastructure and creating the capacity to get off oil. And not even $8 million from some of America’s biggest polluters can change that.
Araceli Ruano is Senior Vice President and Director of CAP’s California Office. Andrew Fitzgerald Adams also contributed to this post.
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.