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Another View: Proposition 23 is a job killer

Another View
By: Steve Frisch President and CEO, Sierra Business Council
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The Golden State is the runaway leader in the transition to the new clean tech economy. When we passed a law four years ago — AB 32 — with bi-partisan support from business, labor, industry, environmental and health care leaders, we made California a leader in the emerging clean tech economy. Seven of the top 10 clean tech businesses in America are headquartered in California. Three of the top five cities for clean tech business also are in the state. According to the California Economic Development Department, there are more than 500,000 workers already in clean tech jobs, a number that is expected to more than double to 1.2 million by 2020, according to a University of California study. The charge to repeal AB 32, through a Texas oil company funded ballot measure know as Proposition 23, is a serious mistake, which threatens California’s lead in emerging industries, potentially destroying our economy for a generation to come. Since the enactment of AB 32 private investors have poured more than $9 billion into the development of California clean tech businesses. California commands a 60 percent share of the clean tech venture capital invested in the U.S. annually — some $3 billion. That’s five times more than our nearest competitor, Massachusetts. This, in turn, is fueling clean tech job growth that is far outstripping other sectors, boosting economic fortunes in areas of the state hard hit by the recession. Everywhere we look in Northern California new economies are emerging; from low impact development and environmental redevelopment in the Tahoe region, to new employment and savings being realized through energy efficiency and building retrofits in the foothills, to new investments in renewable energy, including biomass utilization in hard hit timber communities promising to reduce the risk of wildfire and generate clean power while putting locals back to work. This is the new economy that can help the Sierra Nevada build long lasting prosperity for residents and the next generation. Yet there is a move afoot to stop California’s progress. Instead of putting their profits into helping clean up the Gulf Oil spill, or reducing the price of gasoline for consumers at the pump, two Texas-based oil companies, Valero and Tesoro, will spend up to $150 million on the November proposition to derail the state’s roadmap to a prosperous and clean energy future. (To date, some 80 percent of the contributions to support Proposition 23 have come from out-of-state; 78 percent from oil companies). Texas oil interests are trying to buy an election to keep consumers and residents of the Sierra dependent on a 19th century technology that will continue to rise in price, pollute our water, land and air, and strangle our economy. Passage of Prop. 23 will lead to California energy dollars going to Texas and more California jobs moving overseas. Fortunately, some of the state’s largest employers (among them Google, eBay, Waste Management), as well as hundreds of small businesses, and many Sierra Nevada businesses including the California Ski Industry Association, have joined the effort to beat back the Texas oil companies draconian measure. Prop. 23 is designed to kill competition and jobs from the emerging clean energy and technology industries in order to keep California addicted to Texas controlled oil. If Prop. 23 passes, it would kill hundreds of thousands of manufacturing, construction, energy efficiency and renewable energy jobs across the state. Hopefully, Californians won’t be lulled into thinking that they have to make a choice between having a strong economy or clean air and clean energy. We can have both. We already do. Over the past 35 years California’s model energy efficiency policies have saved consumers over $56 billion, creating 1.5 million full-time jobs and $45 billion in payroll. The stakes in the fight over this November’s Prop. 23 could not be clearer. Prop. 23 would mean a wrench thrown in the growing economic engine coming from clean tech investments, collapse for California’s one economic bright spot in the last few years, a threat to nearly a half-million jobs and 12,000 clean tech companies, and damage to our ability to compete with emerging clean tech economies overseas. Let’s help move California forward and reclaim its title as the Golden State by rejecting the job killer — Prop. 23. Steven Frisch is the president and CEO of Sierra Business Council, which is a member-based organization with more than 700 individuals and businesses in the Sierra Nevada. See sbcouncil.org.