When I first began speaking publicly ten years ago, I eschewed anything to do with politics. The sustainability movement should be nonpartisan, nonpolitical in order to appeal to everyone, I thought. My talks and articles were designed to appeal to everyone, but in developing solutions for helping municipalities develop green buildings, I kept confronting the limitations of government and the game of politics that acts as a block to real progress.
This frustrated me to no end, and I found political opinion creeping back into my slides and writings. Some in the audience felt alienated, some even walked out, but most thoughtfully listened…and I got through.
This November, California voters will vote on a measure called Proposition 23. Prop 23 officially calls for a “suspension” of California’s landmark global warming law (called AB32) “until unemployment drops to 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters.” The proposal positions itself as a “jobs initiative” and tries to pass itself off as merely a temporary measure until the economy gets back on track.
Passed in 2006, Assembly Bill 32 (AB32) is referred to as the California Global Warming Solutions Act. It was the first legislation in the world to comprehensively regulate and reduce greenhouse gases. Under AB32, emissions from vehicles (oil) and energy generation (coal) are required to be cut about 15 percent by 2020 and an additional 20 percent by 2050. AB32 would push California to the forefront of the clean energy revolution, produce green jobs and stave off the threat of global warming.
Although this would only immediately affect California, it would, in reality, have an impact on the entire country. The eyes of the nation are watching California and our wonderfully progressive policies. When they succeed, other states will follow suit.
But here is why Prop 23’s call to suspend AB32 is so particularly sinister: It was placed on the ballot by Assembly Member Dan Logue, who calls it a “jobs initiative” to hide the real backers behind the bill. The bill is supported by two Texas oil companies, Valero and Tesoro and a coal company, Koch Industries. Valero alone has pumped over $4 million and counting into Prop 23. Valero and Tesoro are among the nation’s biggest polluters, and their California refineries are among the top 10 polluters in the state.
The proposed suspension may take a while. The state’s current unemployment is around 12.3 percent and hasn’t dropped to 5.5 percent for an entire year since 1976 (34 years ago). The cleverly crafted language was designed to ensure AB32 never sees the light of day.
You may be asking, “If AB32 was passed back in 2006, why the rush to stop it now?” Simple: The requirements set forth in AB32 are set to take effect this January. The November election gives the polluters just enough time to try and stop it.
This battle will play out as you’d expect: Conservatives will claim this will destroy jobs, raise taxes and increase your energy costs (using fear); while environmentalists will unsuccessfully provide the facts, only to be ignored by the middle class voters susceptible to the fear play.
Some in California worry that by regulating carbon emissions we’ll be putting our economy on the back burner. But nothing in our recent history has indicated that California must choose between economic stability and environmental responsibility.
Innovative energy policies established in the 1970s have saved California consumers $56 billion and created 1.5 million full-time jobs with a payroll of $45 billion. From 1995 to 2008, clean, safe energy-generation jobs grew by 85 percent with the highest concentration in solar and wind. In 2008, energy efficiency jobs grew by 91 percent, according to Next 10, a nonpartisan think tank.
If new, better-paying jobs, healthier air, driving money into the local economy and saving money are attractive, then AB32 is a breath of fresh clean air and worth keeping.
Stopping Prop 23:
Campaign to stop Proposition 23:
California Bright Spot:
California Air Resources Board AB 32 Information:
My editorial in Desert Sun:
—Eric Corey Freed is Principal of organicARCHITECT and author of four books, including “Green$ense for the Home: Rating the Real Payoff from 50 Green Home Projects.”