Mind the (Climate) Gap

Proposition 23 attacks California's clean-energy law, threatens green economy


The California economy is benefiting from AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, legislation that is moving us away from oil dependence and toward the emerging green alternatives. Thanks to AB 32, about half a million clean-energy jobs have come to the state, boosting North Bay employment, especially in communities hardest hit by pollution and economic malaise.

In Marin City, for example, low-wealth residents have jobs in energy conservation, learning skills to provide weatherization for homes. Through the job-training programs resulting from AB 32, the Marin City Development Corporation, Marin Youth at Work and the Summer Youth Employment Program Weatherization / “Greenovation” are preparing young people for the emerging green marketplace. It’s cause to celebrate that California’s maverick climate-protection legislation is supported by Democrats and Republicans alike. And the rest of the country is, as usual, watching the Golden State while they consider similar legislation.

But not all watchers are pleased. The oil billionaires do not like AB 32. So they’ve cooked up Proposition 23 for the Nov. 2 ballot and given it the usual Orwellian description (to which I refuse to give column space). But don’t be fooled by any promise of jobs. In fact, according to Carolyn Placente of the Grassroots Leadership Network of Marin, which uses policy to empower underrepresented groups, green jobs that exist now will be stolen if this proposition passes. The green-energy jobs employing low-income residents of Marin City, Novato, San Rafael and West Marin will, Placente claims, “all go away.”

“Prop. 23 is an egregious attempt by big business to hijack our democracy through deceptive language and political trickery,” Placente says. “If we don’t defeat it, Prop. 23 will kill hundreds of thousands of jobs and cripple California’s economic recovery.”

Who would want to do that? The Toxic Twins from Texas—Valero and Tesoro oil corporations—have put up most of the $8.2 million for Prop. 23, according to a Sept. 21 New York Times editorial; another $1 million or so was kicked in by the Koch brothers, oil billionaires from Kansas who are key funders of the Tea Party movement.

Opposing the oil interests are the Grassroots Leadership Network of Marin and other nonprofits that have united to rally those most likely to be harmed by a return to an oil-dependent economy. The Grassroots Leadership Network is part of Communities United, presently educating voters of color and low-income voters in conjunction with the “No on 23” campaign.

“Oil companies are out to trick working-class and low-income Californians,” Placente asserts. “Prop. 23 will roll back California’s clean air laws, leading to more asthma and more lung cancer, especially in those neighborhoods already burdened by air pollution. This will hurt, first and worst, low-income communities and communities of color. They already suffer the highest rates of asthma, lung diseases and cancer from pollution.”

Placente is referring to the so-called climate gap, a phenomenon reported on in a recent UC Berkeley study of the same name that concludes that the physical and financial impacts of climate change fall hardest upon the poorest communities. Most of these communities are located in the largest urban areas, where there are the greatest concentrations of and exposure to heat and air pollution. The study recommends that policy be employed to increase social sustainability and gradually close the climate gap.

Placente urges everyone to get involved in this November vote. “Voters who want to help the poor, strengthen the economy and protect the climate should vote no on Prop. 23,” she says. “Remember, we know that Texas oil doesn’t care about our families. They care about their profits, which is why they’re spending millions to undo California’s clear air laws.”

The deadline for voter registration is Oct. 18 in order to participate in the election. To learn about the fight against Prop. 23, visit www.communitiesagainstprop23.com. To learn more about the fight against Prop. 23 from a mainstream, green-business perspective, see www.stopdirtyenergyprop.com. Don’t forget to vote!

Sonoma County Library