Local governments across California are facing an assault on their efforts to create green jobs and foster vital business development through clean technology industries, and it will be up to voters on November 2nd to decide their fate. Passage of Proposition 23 (the Dirty Energy Proposition) would hamper progress on energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in hundreds of communities across California, while threatening new opportunities for job creation and economic growth.
It’s no secret that out-of-state oil companies are footing the bill for Prop. 23, and they have a lot to gain if it passes. Prop. 23 would effectively repeal California’s groundbreaking clean energy and clean air law, AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. This landmark legislation made California a model for clean energy innovation and was largely responsible for the dramatic growth of the state’s innovative green energy industry. During a time of deep economic despair, AB 32 has been instrumental in generating new businesses, which have led to hundreds of thousands of new jobs in an industry that was largely overlooked for many years. AB 32 has proven to be one of the few bright economic lights in a grim era marked by declining revenue, steep budget cuts, and a stubborn statewide unemployment rate of 12.6%. Other than serving the interests of big oil and feeding our chronic dependency on fossil fuels, there is no legitimate reason for Californians to repeal AB 32.
The facts overwhelmingly support AB 32. Clean and renewable energy businesses are locating and expanding in California at a strong pace because of the positive impacts of AB 32. Clean technology jobs are growing 10 times faster than any other labor market in the state. The Golden State is now home to more than 12,000 clean technology companies and these numbers continue to climb. Additionally, more than 500,000 people already work in the clean/green technology sector -- an impressive number by any measure. Over 90,000 of these jobs are in the manufacturing sector, and 65,000 jobs are in construction, both industries that were hard-hit by the recession and are critical to the state’s economic future.
Recently, dozens of manufacturing companies announced that they would be locating plants in California and with them, bringing new jobs to the region, specifically because of the state’s forward-thinking clean energy laws like AB 32. The clean and renewable energy sector is essential to the future of many local economies, and this is especially true for California as an important center for technology and innovation. In fact, local governments throughout the state have been working aggressively to attract and grow these industries to ensure long-term economic viability and generate more jobs for the people of California. That progress is now being threatened.
Prop. 23 would put critical jobs and business creation at a virtual standstill. Local efforts to create jobs and generate revenue through renewable and efficient energy projects would be largely stalled. The negative financial impacts on cities, towns and local economies would simply be devastating and threaten any prospects of an economic recovery.
Californians have experienced the benefits of AB 32 over the last four years through an impressive growth of clean energy industries and job creation. With this mind, voters should say no to the misguided notions laid out by proponents of Prop. 23 -- and say yes to a clean energy future.
Martin Chávez is a former three-term mayor of Albuquerque, New Mexico and executive director of ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability USA, the leading local-government association addressing climate and sustainability in the nation. ICLEI USA represents more than 150 local government members in the state of California.