Op Ed By Tom Hayden - Los Angeles Times
During the campaign season, it was easy to dismiss the idea of a green energy future for California as mere campaign rhetoric. But with the second coming of Jerry Brown, the reelection of Barbara Boxer and voter endorsement of state policies to curb global warming, California really is poised to lead the country to a greener future.
Why were California voters not carried away by the Republican wave? We have certainly had our conservative hiccups in the past. There was the 1978 election when voters passed Proposition 13, which cut property taxes but also damaged school funding and caused chronic budget crises. And in 1984, California had its Arizona moment when voters passed Proposition 187, which would have terminated many public services, including schooling, for undocumented immigrants had the courts not struck it down.
But through all the political back and forth, alternative energy has been a settled idea in California, and for that we owe a large debt to Brown. He has been ahead of the curve on energy conservation and renewable resources for decades. During Brown's previous tenure as governor from 1975 through 1982, the nuclear industry was projecting the need for one nuclear power plant every five miles along the California coast. One of them was slated for Corral Canyon on Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu. Corporate interests also insisted on the need for a liquefied natural gas terminal at Point Conception in Santa Barbara, saying it was necessary to keep the lights from going out.
Brown turned these powerful interests down, siding instead with the no-nukes movement and the early dreamers of a solar future. Thirty years later, as a direct result of his vision, California is the most energy-efficient state in America, with an estimated 1.5 million clean-energy jobs and accumulated savings of $50 billion to $60 billion to California consumers. Two-thirds of venture-capital investments in American clean energy are in California.
American leadership on global warming has been derailed by a relentless campaign from oil companies and energy interests. "Remember Renewable Energy?" asked a New York Times editorial last week. Here in California we do remember, and the vote Tuesday reaffirmed our commitment to it. The Obama administration still can wield regulatory power for energy conservation, and Boxer will continue to chair the Senate's environmental policy committee. But it is Brown's California that is poised to implement a vision of putting people to work at green jobs that will reduce air pollution and carbon emissions. Brown's promise is to create 500,000 new green jobs in the next eight years, and we voters should hold him to - and help him realize - that pledge.
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