California has the most ambitious climate plan in the country, known as AB 32, which aims to cut emissions and increase the use of renewable energy to 30 percent by 2020. The bill's ambition certainly would upset the status quo. Perhaps that's why polluters and some politicians are lining up against the bill's implementation. U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock and state Assemblyman Dan Logue are behind an effort to create a ballot initiative in November that would suspend the bill until unemployment drops to 5.5 percent for a full year. It's now at 12 percent in California.Meg Whitman, Republican candidate for governor, has pledged to roll back the bill if elected. The San Jose Mercury News, whose area covers Silicon Valley, published an editorial today saying that stopping AB32 would be harmful to California's economy.
Forecasting the results of a complex law whose full implementation is years off is nearly impossible. A more useful view of the law's potential upside can be gleaned by looking at who stands behind AB 32, and what it has already done for the economy.
Just about every Silicon Valley heavyweight supports the law: Google, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco, Intel, Applied Materials -- not to mention Whitman's former company, eBay. They all tout its environmental benefits and protections against global warming, but their bottom line is their own profitability.
The law's passage signaled that the clean-energy market will flourish long-term, opening the floodgates for investment in the sector, which nearly tripled, to $3.3 billion, in the two years after the law was signed. In 2009, 40 percent of cleantech venture capital went to California companies. While the overall number of California jobs shrunk 1 percent in 2007-08, the number of green jobs grew 5 percent.
It's of particular concern that Meg Whitman and Senate candidate Carly Fiorina, both of whom come from the tech sector, would ignore science and throw their lot in with the deniers just to get elected. California, as the editorial points out, needs leadership so the state can take advantage of its capacity to innovate on climate solutions. Stopping AB32 would be a giant step backwards.