“The California Jobs Initiative.” Sounds like a good idea. After all, California’s unemployment rate is now over twelve percent.
But there’s something a little funny here. Turns out that the main financial backers of the “California Jobs Initiative” are a bunch of oilmen from Texas. Texas-based Valero Energy Corporation gave a cool half-million, and along with them Texas oil companies with names like Tesoro Oil, Tower Energy Group of Torrance, World Oil Corporation of Houston, Southern Counties Oil, and JACO have contributed 70 percent of the funding for the “California Jobs Initiative.” All told 89 percent comes from oil companies. Valero, Tesoro, and other contributors own refineries in California that would be forced to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the law.
Hmm, what’s that about? The answer begins to come into focus when you look at what the “California Jobs Initiative” initiates. The initiative would suspend the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, known as AB 32, which established a comprehensive program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The law would remain suspended until California’s unemployment drops to 5.5 percent for a full year. (In the last twenty years it has only dropped to 5.5 percent for a year two times, in 2000 and 2006, and it is now over 12 percent.)
This “California Jobs Initiative” is a microcosm of the national campaign being run by the fossil fuel industry and those they fund, notably the Republican Party and the radical right, to exploit Americans’ fear of job loss to put the planet at risk ““ and all for a few million extra bucks. Indeed, Bill Day, a Valero spokesman, states that Valero had set up a website “to educate consumers about federal cap-and-trade legislation.” Valero has been “very outspoken about the dangers of these proposals and the fact that they would badly damage the economy.” From now on, when you see U.S. businesses altruistically trying to save American workers’ jobs from the menace of climate protection, think about Valero Energy Corporation’s attempt to manipulate Californians in their own oily interest. You can trust Valero to protect the interests of California workers just about as much as you can trust BP to protect the Louisiana Gulf.
How will AB 32 actually affect California jobs? There’s been a virtual “war of reports” claiming to answer that question. A 2008 report by University of California economist David Roland-Holst found AB 32 “increasing the Gross State Product by about $76 billion, increasing real household incomes by up to $48 billion and creating as many as 403,000 new efficiency and climate action driven jobs.” A new study commissioned by a coalition of business groups including the California Manufacturers and Technology Association (Valero is a leading member) maintained that AB 32 would cost as many as 485,000 jobs by 2020.
Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, commented that the business group is “dedicated to protecting oil companies and fighting environmental laws that hold them accountable for polluting our environment.” The Board released a report by a team of academic experts March 24 projecting that AB 32 will cause jobs to increase over the next decade by a tenth of a percent more than they would without it.
Often forgotten amid all these numbers is the devastating effect on jobs of failure to halt global warming. The British government’s Stern Review, widely regarded as the most definitive study so far of the economic impact of global warming, warns of economic disruption on the scale of the Great Depression and World Wars I and II. A survey of 144 top climate economists found that 84% agreed that “the environmental effects of greenhouse gas emissions, as described by leading scientific experts, create significant risks to important sectors of the United States and global economies.” By taking the lead on protecting the climate, California is also taking the lead on saving jobs, nationally and at home, from that economic disruption.
Many of California’s largest employers, including Google, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco, Intel, Applied Materials, eBay, Waste Management, and even Chevron, support AB32. The California Labor Federation has worked closely with the agencies implementing AB 32 to ensure that it is worker friendly.
One thing is certain: As the Legislative Analyst Office has said, the long-term impacts of AB 32 are far from certain. It is likely to result in “gains in some occupations and industries (including so-called “˜green’ jobs) and losses in others (primarily involving fossil fuel-related energy production).”
This points to the need for climate protection strategies to also protect any workers they adversely affect. It is a basic principle of fairness that the burden of policies that are necessary for society ““ like protecting the earth’s climate ““ should not be borne by a small minority who happen to be victimized by their side effects. The way to protect them, however, is not letting the likes of Valero pour destruction into the environment without impediment, but to craft and implement programs that actually protect workers. These will range from GI-bill style benefits that allow displaced individuals to establish new careers, to long-term community revitalization trust funds that provide economic development grants to create jobs and business opportunities for hard-hit communities, to “Green TVAs” that rebuild regional economies based on transitioning from fossil to green energy. That would be a real “jobs initiative.”
By the way, California’s Attorney General, who gets the final say on ballot initiative naming, doesn’t think much of calling it the “California Jobs Initiative.” He prefers, “Suspends air pollution control laws requiring major polluters to report and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.” Maybe with that name it would be easier to understand why the jobs it is most likely to save are those of some Texas oilmen.
[For more on the good jobs being created by AB32, click here.]