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Bad economy could delay implementation of California's global warming bill

by Alan Markow, published

California’s effort to fight global warming may be caught on the horns of a dilemma.  While the state (and especially Governor Schwarzenegger) wants to lead the nation in all things green, the matter of poor economic conditions and high unemployment has become an unexpected roadblock.

Big Oil is all over the problem, wishing no harm to the environment but seeking only to protect unemployed Californians by canning the entire bill.  Schwarzenegger opened the door to their entreaties recently by announcing a “go slow” approach to implementation of AB 32.  But Calbuzz noted in a recent blog that Big Oil may well be underestimating the disdain of the California electorate for all things crude, and overestimating the value of short memories when it comes to such issues as the Enron debacle.  As Calbuzz states, once Californians understand that oil money is backing the “no on AB32” campaign, they’ll turn “yes” in a droves.

Is there a definitive answer to the question of whether environmental activism is good or bad for California and the nation?

The left-leaning Seminal website reports a resounding vote for “good” based on a March 29 report from the California Air Resources Board (ARB).   This new report was prepared in response to criticism that ARB’s earlier positive report on AB32 was too optimistic.  The just-released report states that AB32 will actually grow California’s economy by nearly one percent annually.

“This analysis confirms what economists have been saying all along: that full implementation of the Scoping Plan is the right choice for California to make an affordable transition to a clean energy economy,” said ARB Chairman Mary D. Nichols in an agency news release. “It supports continued economic growth and sets us on a course for greater energy security and less dependence on petroleum.”

Criticism of the earlier report is summarized here by the right leaning NC (Nevada Citizens) Media Watch.

So what’s a Californian to believe? 

CA State Senator Fran Pavley says that many of the bill’s opponents have a case of "Chicken Littleism", and argues that there’s more at stake if we fail to implement AB32.  “It makes no sense to introduce an initiative that would halt economic development and the energy we need to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of fuel and energy,” she wrote for the California Weekly website.  And she lists a series of statistics that show the thousands of jobs enabled by the state’s green legislation.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposes the legislation, but California Chamber spokeswoman Denise Davis said, “Our position is not the same as the US Chamber” in a November, 2009 Capitol Weekly article.

AB32 is the kind of legislation that deserves plenty of attention from the California electorate, but may not receive it as long as jobs are at the top of people’s minds.  Yet, it’s the connection with future jobs and the development of new green businesses that are at stake.

What’s your opinion?

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