The Rest of The Story

While challenges to AB32 gain steam, AB 32 supporters are ironically blowing smoke. Rejecting the typical jobs vs. environment paradigm, they are continuing to assert that –even with trillion dollar costs– the implementation of a centrally planned economy will reap untold riches.

For example, Maviglio cites the Environmental Defense Fund claims that California already boasts five of the nation’s top 10 cities for clean tech investment (San Jose, Berkeley, Pasadena, San Francisco and San Diego) and the Natural Resources Defense Council report that California-based companies are receiving approximately 40 percent of total U.S. clean tech venture investments. Those cities and areas shouldn’t brag too much, as their unemployment mirrors the statewide dismal 12+ percent of people out of work, some a little higher and some a little lower, but still higher than the national level. Of interest is the near doubling of those figures when the disillusioned, and stopped looking, are included. In one of those areas, San Diego, fully 1/3 of the jobs created from October to November were government jobs. Don’t get me wrong, clean tech investments are great, when they chase new technologies and markets. Not so much when they chase government subsidies and mandates.

Maviglio claims that Republicans and other business interests say that the sour economic climate provides a ripe political opportunity to kill the law. He doesn’t mention that the movement is to only suspend the law until we can afford it, nor that the current recession has reduced emissions more than the projections used in developing regulations that affect the production and transport of every thing from cement to sour dough bread. Yet 61 percent of the respondents in the latest PPIC poll said the economy was the most important issue. Yes, jobs matter to people as do the costs of everything they buy.

AB32 implementation now also ignores tremendous progress already made under a more free market approach. The United States and California continue a two-decades-long trend of improving the efficiency in the use of carbon based fuels and resources, as measured by carbon intensity. Carbon intensity is the ratio of greenhouse gas emissions per dollar of gross domestic product, and is a measure of the efficient use of capital, labor, materials and labor. This is the result of entrepreneurial activities and innovative approaches implemented over time, and illustrates that the United States is actually emitting less than our share.

Nationally, between 1990 and 2008, energy related CO2 per unit of GDP declined by 29.3 percent (1.9 percent per year.) Most of this decline was from a 28.4-percent decrease in energy intensity, with the remainder from a 1.2-percent decrease in the carbon intensity of the energy supply. Between 1990 and 2007, energy CO2 per unit of GDP improved by 26.4 percent (1.8 percent per year). Between 1990 and 2007, total greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP declined 28.0 percent (1.9 percent per year.) Richer countries are actually cleaner and healthier countries. It is the affluent society that does not want to be the effluent society, as various environmental analysts have noted. Driving California‘s economy downward will have negative environmental impacts.

Maviglio says there’s not much historical success for anti-environmental initiatives; the only major environmental law to get hammered at the polls was 1990’s “Big Green” initiative, a sweeping proposal that proposed to regulate everything from forestry to toxics. AB 32 regulates everything from forestry to toxics. Of course the later Proposition 87 also went down in flames once the voters took the time to educate themselves about what it would really do. They’ll likely support the effort to suspend AB32, if they have a chance to hear the “rest of the story.”

This piece was originally published January 15, 2010 in Capital Morning Report, a subscription based news service. Mr. Maviglio’s piece ran there on January 11. Steve Maviglio is the principal of Forza Communications, a Sacramento-based public affairs/campaign firm. He was formerly Deputy Chief of Staff for two history-making California Assembly Speakers, Karen Bass and Fabian Nunez, where he provided strategic communication and political advice to the Speaker and the Assembly Democratic Caucus.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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