Will the Real Business Community Please Stand Up?.

by Susan Frank, Director, California Business Alliance for a Green Economy

Last week, I attended the Capitol Weekly and UC Center conference on the AB 32 cap and trade program, held in Sacramento. I had high hopes for an event format that would shine a spotlight on the economic bounty the state is realizing from clean energy policies like AB 32, the Low Carbon Fuel Standard and other similar programs. I came away frustrated by the oh-so familiar and disingenuous ring of the opposition’s dominant message as they worked to frame their views – of opposition to these policies – as representative of the entire business community. In reality oil companies and old manufacturing represent only a narrow set of interests dedicated to protecting their monopoly on dirty fuels and maintaining the status quo.

Cathy Reheis-Boyd with Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) – a financial sponsor of the Capitol Weekly event – spoke at several points during the conference, making claims to representing the entire business community when she talked of widespread opposition to clean fuels policies. When I challenged her to clarify who WSPA represented (oil companies) as opposed to the entire business community, she publically apologized in front of the 200 people gathered saying “you are right, we don’t represent all businesses.”

green business imageUnfortunately, the impression likely remained that there is unanimity among the business community when it comes to AB 32 and the LCFS. The truth is that there is clear, widespread support among businesses – small, mainstream, traditional, clean tech, and large manufacturing – for these policies, not to mention continuing and unflagging voter support for AB 32.

WSPA, the California Manufacturing & Technology Association (CMTA), the California Chamber of Commerce and their high-priced lobbyists continue to attempt to derail the cap and trade auction through lawsuits and the lobbying of the Legislature, Governor and agencies. Despite their efforts, the carbon market is strong in California.

We hear weekly of the good news from around the state – whether its Orange County growing green jobs, to energy storage jobs being created in Silicon Valley, to clean tech investments and jobs in San Diego. All of these jobs are helping to be propelled by smart energy policies.

WSPA is not alone in misrepresenting the views of the business community when it comes to clean energy and climate policies, and the resulting job creation and investments that have been born from these landmark standards. WSPA’s lead partner in opposition to AB 32 is CMTA, which seems to have never met a negative story it didn’t want to shout from the rooftops. At the conference, we heard CMTA’s Dorothy Rothrock utter her familiar refrain about the death of manufacturing due to policies like AB 32.

Yet California continues to be among the states leading the nation in new manufacturing jobs. Here are some facts that CMTA won’t tell you… Manufacturers in California account for over 11 percent of the total output in the state, employing almost 9 percent of the workforce. Total output from manufacturing has been rising for the past several years and it was $206.2 billion in 2009. Check out this map that illustrates manufacturing jobs in California.

It makes me wonder – why is CMTA not telling the good news stories? And why is WSPA repeatedly caught speaking as if it represents the business community when its membership is predominantly oil companies?

My guess is that these organizations, who have a history of working to kill clean energy policies, really just want to see AB 32 and the LCFS fail instead of actually doing what is best for Californians. Anyone in business knows that regulatory certainty is critical to keeping new jobs and investments in the state secure and growing. Maybe that is why WSPA, CMTA and their friends want to inject uncertainty – they don’t want the clean energy competition to strengthen its foothold.

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