THE BLOG
10/08/2010 12:18 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

An Unacceptable Proposition

Solar energy to the rescue! The Pentagon reports that attacks by Afghan insurgents on fuel convoys have become a dangerous threat for the U.S. Armed Forces in that country. Top commanders in the field are acknowledging that their over-dependence on fossil fuels constitutes a "big liability" for our troops.

So recently, in a remote Afghan province, a Marine unit started distributing portable solar panels, solar shields that provide both shade and energy, and solar chargers for computers and communications equipment. And commanders are planning to rapidly expand the use of renewable energy.

In the U.S., however, where mortar fire is heard only on TV news, we never seem to learn the lesson. In California, powerful oil corporations have set their sights on a model program whose objective is to progressively abandon fossil fuels and adopt clean, renewable sources of energy.

The oil companies' weapon of choice is Proposition 23, which will be on the Nov. 2 ballot. If it passes, we the Latino community will suffer the most because of the increase of pollution and the decrease of jobs it will trigger. Remember to vote no on Proposition 23.

With the generous support both financial and logistical from two of the dirtiest Texas oil corporations, Valero and Tesoro, Proposition 23 aims to eliminate clean air law AB 32, which California voters approved four years ago.

AB 32 demands that polluters -- Valero and Tesoro are among the top 10 most toxic companies in California -- reduce their emissions, which punish our neighborhoods with particular intensity. Also, the law promotes technological innovation in the clean energy field and is creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in the midst of the Great Recession. In short, AB 32 is one of the world's best recipes to end our oil and coal addictions, create jobs and fight global warming.

Even so, the polls tell us the race is a dead heat and that defeating this absurd proposition will greatly depend on the participation of Latino voters.

The reason is because Valero, Tesoro and the rest of Proposition 23 backers are wearing sheep's clothing to mislead our community and the rest of the voters in California. They tell us AB 32 would be suspended only "until the economy improves." But they won't tell you that the levels of employment they seek to revoke that suspension have rarely been achieved. Make no mistake, if passed, Proposition 23 will effectively kill AB 32 and the jobs AB 32 would create.

Remember, 80 percent of Latinos live in the counties with the worst air quality, not only in California, but throughout the country. Among us, asthma and other respiratory diseases triggered by air pollution have become an epidemic, especially among our children. Each year in California, thousands of people die prematurely and thousands more are hospitalized because of air pollution. But Valero and Tesoro also keep quiet about the fact that if their proposition prevails, pollution levels will increase exponentially.

It's no wonder, therefore, that the state's Latino organizations have opposed Proposition 23 en masse, including LULAC California, Instituto Laboral De La Raza, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, Latino Voter's League, The Mexican American Political Association and William C. Velasquez Institute.

But this is not only about our health. What is also at stake is the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs, especially in the sectors that employ the most Latinos, such as construction and manufacturing.

Thanks in large part to AB 32, in California about 500,000 people work in the clean technology sector and in green jobs. This includes manufacturing and installation of solar panels, installation of wind turbines, energy upgrades for thousands of buildings, the construction of housing and office buildings much more efficiently and so on.

In fact, green jobs have grown 10 times faster than the statewide average. The more than 12,000 clean technology companies in the state attract $9 billion in cumulative venture capital, more than five times the investment in the nearest competitor, Massachusetts.

Don't let Big Oil kill the Golden Goose. Turn yourself into the hero of this real life drama. Those who are fighting to protect your health and prosperity need reinforcements.

On November 2, take your family and friends to the polls and vote no on 23, an unacceptable proposition.

Javier Sierra is a Sierra Club columnist. Follow him on Twitter @javier_sc.