It’s been a tough year for national climate and energy policy in the U.S. and unfortunately progress is practically at a standstill. However, not so for states – states have been leading the way on addressing climate change, reducing carbon emissions and accelerating the development of a clean energy economy. But now, Prop. 23 threatens to undo that progress, and move our country backward.
California has a long, proud history of leading the country in passing policies to reduce pollution to protect our air, water, wildlife and open spaces. And because of the state’s economic clout, that leadership often drives the nation towards more sustainable policies and business practices. Prop. 23 in California threatens to undermine one of the most important energy, economic and environmental laws passed in the last decade – AB 32, which sets up a system to drive down emissions and accelerate the demand and development of clean energy technologies.
At some point, we will have to come to terms with the fact that our current energy portfolio cannot sustain us. America’s continued dependence on fossil fuels is simply too dangerous – for the workers sent into coal mines or living on offshore drilling rigs; for the energy security of the country; for our air, water and wildlife; and for the very climate that sustains us. We can’t afford to rely on fossil fuels any longer.
Over the past month, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has approved five of the first six “fast-track” solar power plants ever permitted on public lands in California. His most recent announcement was of a 1,000 megawatt solar farm that has the potential to generate enough clean electricity to power more than 300,000 homes. In addition, the project will create more than 1,000 jobs during construction and some 221 permanent jobs when it becomes fully operational. And while not all of these projects are good for wildlife, their climate benefits are undeniable.
It’s clear that California is at the center of the beginning of a clean energy revolution, and its economy has much to gain from renewable energy development. But Prop. 23 could put the brakes on demand for clean energy at a time when our country needs to accelerate its transition to a clean energy economy. We need more renewable energy development that’s smart from the start, where projects are located in the right places and done in the right ways to protect wildlife, wildlands, water and other important natural resources. Abandoned mines, brownfields and other industrial sites are a few of the places that provide good options for solar development.
The climate and energy debate is not just about California. The battle that is being played out in the Golden State reflects the gridlock paralyzing the whole country. The passage of Prop. 23 would fuel the resistance of big corporate polluters across the country to take responsibility for cleaning up their dirty operations. (Exactly the reason why they are pouring so much money into the state to promote Prop. 23.) Passage of Prop. 23 would make it even more difficult to gain momentum for climate and energy legislation on a national scale. Conversely, should Californians stand strong on the issue of battling climate change, defeat Prop. 23 and uphold AB 32, it will send a clear message to the rest of the country: the dirty, dangerous energy sources of the past will no longer drive our energy agenda and corporate polluters cannot hold us back from a clean, smart energy future.
California – this Election Day, the country looks to you. In which direction will you lead us?