On Nov. 2nd, voters in California chose a clear path to clean energy and a growing green economy by defeating Prop 23, one of the most brazen attacks on climate and energy legislation. Californians sent a message that clean energy is not only good for the environment, it’s also vital to the state’s economic future.
Prop 23’s backers – mostly out-of-state oil companies – aimed to suspend AB 32 California’s landmark legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase renewable energy that made the state a model for energy innovation, and which helped spur the remarkable growth of the state’s cleantech industry.
The clean and renewable energy sector has become integral to the future of many local economies across the country, from windmills in West Texas to biomass facilities in the Midwest. This is especially true for California, for the longtime leader in new technology and innovation. The state is now home to more than 12,000 clean technology companies (drawn to California by AB 32) and those companies need employees. Clean technology jobs are growing 10 times faster than any other labor market in the state, according to the California Green Innovation Index, and more than 500,000 people already work in the clean energy sector according to a California Employment Development Department report. Tens of thousands of those jobs are being generated in manufacturing and construction – both industries hard hit by the deep recession and both critically important to the economic recovery of the state.
The promise of a clean energy jobs and a healthier environment didn’t discourage Texas oil companies from dumping millions of dollars into the Prop 23 campaign. Yet despite more than $70 million spent on the campaign, 61 percent of voters overwhelmingly rejected it.
At the moment, the defeat of Prop 23 looks like an outlier in an election that otherwise bode ill for clean energy legislation in the coming years. But, despite a stubborn 12.6 unemployment rate, Californians remain committed to the environment and they voted for clean energy as the path to a strong economic recovery and a healthier future.