Defenders of dirty energy like to pretend that having smarter climate policies (and more support for clean energy) would cost Americans jobs. Not only are they wrong, but - according to prominent business leaders this week [and a new study] - their "deny and delay" tactics are now turning out to be the true job killers.
Business leaders appearing in a town hall style panel this week at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas, Nevada said that they don't fear new rules to better control carbon pollution. What they fear is uncertainty about what those rules will be. President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Tom Donohue, was joined by billionaire investor T. Boone Pickens, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and John Podesta, the President and CEO of the Center for American Progress. One word was repeated the most throughout the entire afternoon session: certainty.
"We've got to get certainty," Donohue said. "People want to invest and make money. Tell us what the deal is, and let's get on with it!" Every panelist agreed that certainty was the name of the game for businesses and business owners who are struggling in a most uncertain time of national recession. Investors want certainty as well, so they know what businesses and industries to pour their private capital into, and what kinds of prices they can expect in the medium and long-term.
Unfortunately, America is getting the opposite of certainty - even in places where issues related to climate and clean energy were thought long-settled.
Take California, for example. Leaders in both major parties joined forces and have already passed smart, bi-partisan rules to better control carbon pollution in the state. California's Global Warming Solutions Act, also known as Assembly Bill 32, or "A.B. 32," catalyzed billions of dollars in private sector investment in clean energy in the state--creating jobs, businesses, and new technologies. AB 32 sent a clear message to investors and businesses that clean energy will be the future economic engine for California.
It's no accident that California leads the nation in solar power, as well as in clean energy venture capital. It is also no accident that California has "the largest clean energy economy of the 50 states" according to a 2009 Pew study. This leadership is a result of state policies providing financial incentives for clean energy development, renewable energy and energy efficiency standards - among others. By implementing far-sighted, predictable rules to support a clean energy transition, the golden state was able to attract clean tech investors and firms.
But Texas oil interests conspired this year to upset the established consensus. They placed on the November ballot a measure to effectively undo the existing climate legislation.
The upcoming vote has introduced wild uncertainty into the state's policy environment, leaving businesses and investors understandably hesitant to invest more in the state. Thus Proposition 23, a dirty oil, dirty air initiative, threatens to annihilate one of the greatest foundations of business progress and job growth that the state has.
If Certainty is the Name of the Game, Then Proposition 23 is Game Over.
Proposition 23 would destroy half a million jobs in California (many in construction and high-tech manufacturing) by 2020 while costing the state $80 billion in gross domestic product. This number does not even include the $20 billion in GDP growth and 100,000 new clean energy jobs California can create in the next 10 years if its environmental and clean energy policies are upheld (and Proposition 23 is voted down).
The panelists in this week's clean energy town hall were absolutely correct - we need a strong signal of certainty for businesses and investors. Only then can we begin to unlock the private capital that has been sitting idle, waiting for us to get our act together.
Of course, California is not alone. The entire country is similarly being held hostage by uncertainty.
New York Times columnist and bestselling author Thomas Friedman wrote the book on scaling up clean energy. He points to Germany for a telling example: "Regulatory, price and connectivity certainty... explains why Germany now generates almost half the solar power in the world today. One thing that has never existed in America -- with our fragmented, stop-start solar subsidies -- is certainty of price, connectivity and regulation on a national basis."
Business leaders are ready to act, but they are waiting on the sidelines for a signal. Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp notes: U.S. utility companies today "are sitting on billions of dollars in job-creating capital -- but they will not invest in new energy projects until they have certainty on what their future carbon obligations will be."
Clean energy is one part of the economy that will continue to experience substantial growth, despite the persistence of a potent national recession. With our planet and pocketbooks in peril, the clean energy economy is helping to create jobs as well as fight pollution and climate change.
It's bad enough for business that China is now the most attractive market for investing in renewable energy; today the U.S. is ranked number 2 on the list, but where will we be in ten years if we repeal the most aggressive clean energy policy we have?
More certainty means more confidence on the part of the investors and businesses. And more confidence means more capital will flow to business investments. More investment means more jobs created for the 2.3 million unemployed California's.
Let's Get Some Certainty, Vote NO on Prop 23!
This article was origionally posted on Climate Progress