The low-carbon economy is California’s future. That much a panel of energy experts convened by Climate One agreed to on Tuesday, October 12. But the panel split on how fast that transition will take, and how it will impact the economy.
Jack Stewart, President, California Manufacturers and Technology Association, and Cathy Reheis-Boyd, President, Western States Petroleum Association, repeatedly stressed that California could be more business friendly, and that new green jobs alone won’t pull the state out of recession. “We all see a clean energy future, a non-carbon future,” Stewart said. “The question is: When do we get there? How fast do we get there? And at what cost?” After lamenting California’s “draconian rules and regulations mandating what we do,” Stewart praised Texas, which is second to California in the number of green jobs, he said, without “the massive amount of rules and regulations and laws that California has, and the fees and taxes that California charges.”
“We cannot lose sight of the fact that we are not in a good state in California,” said Reheis-Boyd. “We need to take care with the jobs that we have. I can tell you my members are making some very difficult choices about where to invest their next dollar. California could be a lot more business friendly.”
Yes, we have to get the rules right, the remaining panel members said, but they saw no trade-off between environmental and economic good. “I think the energy history of California over the last 30 years is how to do both well,” said Ralph Cavanagh, Energy co-director, Natural Resources Defense Council. “Nobody is satisfied with 12.4% unemployment, but I don’t think the answer is doing less of what we already know we do better than anyone else. I think it’s speeding up.”
For Virgil Welch, Special Assistant to the Chairman of the California Air Resources Board, it’s also about maintaining California’s global competitiveness. “The policies that we as a state, my agency and others, are working on for energy and transportation are not just what we need to do for our energy and environmental needs, they’re critical to driving us towards where the global economy is heading, which is clean energy.”
As long as California’s maintains its forward-thinking policy framework, green innovators will call the state home, said Raj Atluru, Managing Director at the venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson. “The key for us is: Where do you find the most innovative scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs, and leaders? California is the innovation economy. California has succeeded over the last century because of its innovation. We’ve innovated in entertainment, flight, defense, communications, PCs, the Internet. Our bet, at our firm, is that the next wave of innovation is going to be the green jobs economy.”
Climate One, Commonwealth Club HQ, San Francisco (October 12, 2010)