Going Green. But at What Cost?

Back the Blue Pro-Police Rally
Joseph Kaczmarek

AB 32 vs. Prop 23. The cost of clean, renewable energy is at the center of the debate.  With the passage of AB 32 in 2006, Californians could look forward to the greener pastures of fewer gas emissions and more environmentally friendly sources of energy. But at what cost?

According to its proponents, AB 32 will not only provide a cleaner environment through the reduction of gas greenhouse gas emissions, but will also create a large number of jobs in the state. Now we're starting to get a clearer picture of where those jobs will be. Enter the California Air Resources Board. That's the agency responsible for implementing the law. Since 2007 the board has increased its staff by 12.5%. That's 150 new jobs. State jobs. Do these jobs come with pensions? Never mind. That's another discussion entirely.

Let's be honest, who wouldn't want cleaner air and more efficient renewable energy? But the implementation of AB 32 will cost millions.  And right now the state has no budget, is $19 billion in debt, and has an unemployment rate of roughly 12%. Budgets are being cut across the board and state workers are being furloughed.

This November voters will have the opportunity to put the renewable energy push on hold with the passage of Prop 23. So which way will the voters lean?  

AB 32 promises a slew of new jobs. Remember those 150 jobs provided by the Air Resources Board? Up until now, those jobs as well as everything else AB32 related has been paid for by borrowing money from other state coffers. That's $84 million according to the state Legislative Analyst's Office.  

Should AB 32 stand, Tyson Slocum of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen points out that the agency will have the power to "regulate all sorts of facets that will affect the economy." How much power should the state's air resources board have over the state's economy?  

Those against Prop 23 like Jeff Anderson of the Clean Economy Network aren't buying in to the argument. "Prop 23 should be viewed for what it its: a mechanism for regulatory and investment uncertainty that only benefits its backers -- big out of state oil companies Valero and Tesoro." Makes sense. Who would seem to be most adverse about all the new regulations that come with the renewable energy push? Yep. Oil companies. The last thing they want is more regulations to follow. They're also not too happy about forking over the tens of millions of dollars each year to cover the state's costs.

Any way you cut it up the consumer/taxpayer will end up paying a lot of the bill. Seems "green" is a good theme for this debate. How much is implementation of AB 32 worth the green in your pocket?

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