A Proposition Against Clean Energy

The nation's best, and only, global warming law at risk

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A state ballot box is the current battleground in national and international efforts to reduce global warming pollution. Fueled by millions of oil industry dollars, Proposition 23 asks California voters to repeal the historic Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which has helped to lure billions of dollars in clean energy investments and create thousands of jobs.

What makes this fight most critical is that unlike national clean energy legislation or an international agreement to reduce global warming pollution, California has a solution that already exists. And it’s working.

If Californians reject Prop 23, it will send a strong signal to the nation and the world that demand for action on global warming in the U.S.’s most populous state—long a bellwether on environmental issues—is alive and well. A victory over Prop 23 will renew momentum in other states and at the national level for concrete actions to reduce global warming pollution, which can only help in future rounds of international negotiations.

The primary backers of Prop 23 are Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp.—two Texas oil companies whose operations include polluting oil refineries in California—and the Koch brothers, shadowy oil barons who over the years have written checks for many efforts to assail global warming science.

The opponents of Prop 23, however, are a far more diverse bunch. The coalition includes business associations, groups and leaders, labor unions, faith organizations, health professionals and environmental groups, Earthjustice included. George Shultz, who served President Reagan as Secretary of State, is co-chairman of the campaign to defeat Prop 23.

We are united by a vision that clean, renewable energy is the best way to protect our health, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and drive economic growth. And California’s clean energy economy is thriving.

Roughly $9 billion in private investment has poured into the state since Gov. Schwarzenegger signed the Global Warming Solutions Act. While other industries in the state have lost jobs, California’s green economy has been adding them. More than 500,000 Californians are employed in jobs connected to the clean energy sector, including 93,000 in manufacturing and 68,000 in construction.

But those jobs—indeed, California’s entire clean energy economy—are at risk if Prop. 23 passes. California’s Global Warming Solutions Act assures investors of a stable investment climate for clean energy in the state for years to come. Without such assurances, investors will take their money elsewhere, most likely overseas to China, Japan and other nations that are aggressively pursuing clean energy technology.

It is short-sighted and senseless to throttle the one sector of California’s economy that is currently growing by leaps and bounds. Instead, we should be looking for every opportunity to transplant what is happening in California to other states, in order to drive economic growth, fight global warming, and protect our communities. California, after all, doesn’t have to be the only state to reap the benefits that come from a strong law to reduce global warming pollution.

Trip Van Noppen served as Earthjustice’s president from 2008 until he retired in 2018. A North Carolina native, Trip said of his experience: “Serving as the steward of Earthjustice for the last decade has been the greatest honor of my life.”