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A common global warming conversation leading up to California's November election

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on July 14, 2010

I received the following e-mail from a cousin and one of my closest friends last night regarding AB 32 as he ponders his position on November's Proposition 23 to suspend California's global warming law.  He was kind enough to let me use our communication as a potential window into a few of the living room "carbon" discussions that will occur in our state in the coming months.

For demographic purposes, he is a 33 year old married business owner living in Long Beach. Socially he is a smart, influential, politically independent, community-focused individual.  Overall a well-rounded person who is a good snapshot of a percentage of our voting public for whom the Proposition 23 campaign needs to make a solid case.

Here are his questions (in quotes and non-bold) and my overall responses (in bold):

"If possible, I’d like a quick take from you on this bill, AB32. I see similarities between this bill and what happened back in the early 80’s with the auto industry when we didn’t demand improved MPG. I think we would be in a far better position today had we pushed for better MPG over the years.  I would guess there would be less demand for oil, less pollution, not having to bailout car companies, etc."

Remember, California has 1.2% of the world's GHG emissions according to the World Resources Institute ... and more importantly, of the world's GHG emissions, only 5.53% are man-made according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. This means California can't affect meaningful global reductions on its own.

So your MPG analogy illustrates the problem with AB 32. Like GHG reductions, improved MPG can only come from two mediums: market demand or national policies -- not California-only mandates. This is precisely why AB 32 will get the country and the world nowhere in terms of global GHG reductions.

"Restricting emissions will require us to become more innovative with clean energy and a world leader for clean energy corporations. And as someone who lives and breathes next to two of the largest ports in the world, I am very interested in seeing that take place."

California already has the strictest environmental laws in the country and the state is one of the most efficient GHG emission states per capita (we were that way far before AB 32 passed), and Co2 is not something harmful to breath, but necessary. There are laws for pollution. AB 32 is not one of them.

'Restricting emissions' in only California will not make the state more innovative but drive out of state the most important contribution California can make to addressing climate change -- the people, suppliers and companies that will produce the green and other products to serve the market. Think of the state's past innovations, too.  Was the state's information technology boom mandated and created by regulation?  Was the state's manufacturing leadership created by regulation? Was the massive entertainment industry hub created because of regulation? No, they were all a result of innovation and a friendly business climate for growth in California.

"I completely understand the argument regarding how unfriendly our state is towards business (there are so many taxes that are so lame it’s hard to believe). However, I want to know if you would support this bill in a vacuum. Or better yet, would you support it if you were in the friendliest state to do business (Delaware)?"

It's a bad idea for any single state to adopt a firm AB 32-like target even if the business climate is otherwise friendly -- it adds to costs of doing business and pushes economic activity to other states (this is leakage -- bad for the environment, bad for jobs). It must be done nationally for any of this to work. California shouldn’t sacrifice entire industries and its economy only to see GHG emissions go to other states. It is a global problem.

One more note. California passed this bill on the premise that we would lead others to follow our example and that it would not burden our economy. So far the leadership is in doubt due to failed global warming legislation at the federal level. And no one can guarantee that California consumers and employers will not pay more than the rest of the country, both in costs and jobs.





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