California’s Climate Law Is Good For Business

It may be hard for many Californians — hell, it’s hard for many in my office — to follow the ins and outs of AB32, the state’s landmark Global Warming Solutions act, which requires a reduction of our carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. But here’s one thing we all do know: gas prices in California went up this week. Gas stations near my house in the East Bay are posting prices around $5 per gallon, and it’s a price spike found throughout the state, as this L.A. Times editorial makes clear.

I found this comment in the L.A. Times story particularly illuminating: “The recent pain at the pump can be explained away as the result of an August fire that closed a big Chevron refinery in Richmond, a pipeline disruption and a power outage that temporarily shut down an Exxon Mobil refinery in Torrance.”

This is what we’ve come to expect: total reliance on a fossil fuel that’s inherently volatile and risky to extract, move, and combust; one that has a price constantly going up or down based on man-made or natural disasters, not to mention global political threats.

You’d think California businesses would be chomping at the bit for a way to move toward a more diversified, less volatile energy path, like the one envisioned by the three key pieces of AB32: cap and trade, a far-reaching Renewable Portfolio Standard, and a Low Carbon Fuel Standard. But in fact, as we inch closer to the inaugural AB32 cap and trade auction in November, some businesses have continued attempts to block this key part of California’s climate change legislation.


Thankfully, many other business groups throughout the state are outspoken AB32 enthusiasts. This week, Ruben Guerra of the Latin Business Association and Susan Frank of the California Business Alliance for a Green Economy proclaimed their support for the state’s pioneering climate and clean energy law. These key business leaders remind us that AB32 will provide immense economic benefits for our economy — not just because it will diversify the energy sources on which California businesses depend, but also because it will create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the state.

Just last year, California’s climate change legislation attracted $3.5 billion in private investment and created thousands of jobs. In a report released Tuesday, “Counting up to Green,” the Economic Policy Institute reports that green industries create jobs faster than the overall economy. Furthermore, the report indicates that green jobs offer significant opportunities for workers without a four-year college degree. That’s over 60 percent of our workforce, and it’s a set of workers particularly hard hit by the current recession.

Research we’ve done at the Center for the Next Generation breaks this down for California, showing just how strong the green economy has grown in our state and how much potential there is in every county for still more jobs. By itself the wind sector now employs close to 5,000 workers across California.

AB32 should be a no-brainer for California businesses, so long as it’s done right. Implementing the law is a challenge we all face moving forward, but it’s one that smart state businesses should be engaged in, not fighting against.

Kate Gordon is Director of Advanced Energy and Sustainability at the Center for the Next Generation.