California's Commitment to Clean Energy - Both Parties Agree

09/28/2010 10:48 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

By Kristin Eberhard

Originally posted on The MarkUp.

Now that Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman has announced her opposition on Proposition 23, this dirty energy proposition stands as the main issue that she and the Democratic candidate Jerry Brown agree on. While Whitman's stance against Proposition 23 is good news for California, jobs and our strong clean air and health standards, it is troubling that she coupled her technical opposition while simultaneously announcing her intent to suspend AB 32 for at least a year if elected Governor. Her position sounds like she wants it both ways. Delaying AB 32 would throw a monkey wrench into the implementation of our clean energy polices, and significantly hamper the transition of the state - indeed, the nation - to a clean energy economy.

Sponsored by out-of-state oil interests, Proposition 23 would wreak havoc with implementation of AB 32, our country's only economy-wide clean energy law, an initiative that is creating thousands of cleantech sector jobs, stimulating research in clean energy and alternative fuels, and cutting the state's emissions of greenhouse gases. Proposition 23 would keep us addicted to dirty fuels, kill jobs and derail California's efforts to lead the global push to a high tech, clean energy economy.

While California's Democrats and Republicans may disagree on many points, they have come together over the years to support state leadership on one issue: clean energy. Support for strong environmental regulation and an economy founded on clean technologies and sustainable energy sources is broad-based.

The bipartisan opposition to Proposition 23 is not an anomaly. Clean energy in particular has long been a priority for the state's electorate and lawmakers. In 1974, the California Energy Commission was established by the state legislature and then-Governor Ronald Reagan. Among the Commission's early accomplishments were setting energy efficiency benchmarks for new buildings and appliances, standards which have kept California's per capita electricity consumption flat for 30 years, saving residents billions of dollars on their energy bills.

In subsequent decades, California built on this foundation, establishing Renewable Portfolio Standards that have minimized electricity generation from fossil fuels. Bipartisan efforts also passed bills such as SB 375 in 2008, which sets regional targets to reduce global warming pollution from cars and light trucks and make community resources and energy use more sustainable. Just this year there was strong bipartisan agreement on SB 77, a bill that funds voluntary energy retrofits to residential and commercial property, providing for a projected 10,500 jobs.

And we shouldn't forget that bipartisan support for clean energy and environmental protection is part of our national tradition. The Clean Air Act of 1970 and the Clean Water Act of 1972, two of the seminal legislative efforts on any subject in the past 30 years, could not have passed without the support of lawmakers from both parties.

AB 32 creates a stable policy environment that attracts billions of dollars in venture capital and cutting-edge businesses to the state and we need a reliable policy roadmap. We need a commitment to a clean environment and sustainable energy that transcends party lines. This is an issue that speaks to the American ethos - to the American Dream. It is about security, innovation, entrepreneurship, and leaving our children a world that is better than the one we inhabit.