Prop 23: Green Jobs vs. Dirty Energy
by Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO of Green For All
In our moments of hope, we look to and count on our elected officials to make the right decision. In our moments of cynicism, we fear that they will instead make wrong decisions in order to make nebulously defined "special interests" happy. So when our elected officials take bold action on critical issues, it's important to stand behind them. And when that bold leadership comes under threat from actual, powerful, wealthy interests, it is imperative that we come to our representatives' defense.
On November 2, Californians will have a chance to do just that. Proposition 23 is a ballot measure designed to kill green jobs and bolster oil and dirty energy by effectively repealing AB32, the Global Warming Solutions Act. It's an important statewide and national issue.
Every year, air pollution in California contributes to 19,000 deaths and skyrocketing rates of asthma, cancer, and other diseases — problems most pronounced in low-income communities and communities of color. But California has taken strong steps recently to try to change that. Prop 23 wants to undo that progress and subject the next generation to even more of this pollution.
It would be one thing if Prop 23 backers were asking us to sacrifice health and air quality for economic growth and prosperity. That would still be a bad trade, but at least I could see the merits of a debate. Instead, Prop 23 would cost California jobs and growth, too.
Prop 23 is an attempt to kill California's landmark Global Warming Solutions Act. Also known as AB32, this law holds polluters accountable and requires them to reduce air pollution that threatens human health and contributes to climate change. This not only cleans up California's air, but also bolsters California's economy. By mandating lower levels of pollution, AB32 spurs investment and growth in clean technology sectors. Right now, 500,000 Californians hold clean-tech or green jobs. That number is growing; since 2005 statewide green jobs have grown ten times faster than total job growth. But all that will stop if California passes the Dirty Energy Proposition, which would turn back this growth and cost California thousands of jobs.
Why would anyone want to sacrifice both the environment and the economy? Because one group would profit from killing the Global Warming Solutions Act: dirty energy companies who want to keep polluting. That's why Prop 23's biggest backers are Texas oil giants Tesoro and Valero.
Texas oil may like Prop 23, but it is bad for California. More than that, it is bad for the country. This election will be the first exchange in the national debate about clean air and green jobs that promises to unfold in 2011.
Right now, the federal Environmental Protection Agency is deciding how to exercise its authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, the pollution that causes climate change. This is part of the EPA's job under the Clean Air Act. But before it can even start this crucial work, some members of Congress are doing everything they can to rob the EPA of its authority. Much like Proposition 23, they want to stop the EPA from cleaning up the air and spurring growth in clean energy and technology.
Doing the right thing is already hard enough. Prop 23 would make it even harder for elected officials to take the right action for our environment. Voting no on Prop 23 will protect statewide priorities like cleaning up the air, building green industry that provides jobs to thousands of Californians, and protecting our planet. But perhaps more importantly, voting no on Prop 23 will tell our representatives to keep doing the right thing, to keep fighting the good fight.