I've been wanting to write about this issue for some time now but just haven't had ample time. Anyways, the above article is the Sacramento Bee's official announcement of one of my favorite initiatives' approval for the California November ballot. This initiative proposes suspending AB 32, Arnold Schwarzenegger's landmark global warming project, until the state's unemployment rate falls to a reasonable level. Signed into law by Arnold in 2006, AB 32 stated that California must bring its greenhouse gas emissions down to 1996 levels by 2020. At the time, it seemed like a triumphant leap into the green era, putting California on top in regards to strict environmental policy. However, 4 years later, the tides are turning--the law seems to be doing more harm than good for the state's economy, and with the unemployment rate hanging at 12.4%, a lot of people are wondering whether AB 32 is really worth it right now. The funny part? Most economic research says it isn't.
So far, studies of AB 32's impact on California commerce have concluded that further enforcement of this harsh policy will cause economic "leakage" to other states and countries; in fact, some say it has already begun. Companies who cannot lower their emissions to the specified level (or who don't want to) must pay large fines as a result. This, along with the skyrocketing corporate taxes that recession-era California is infamous for, causes these companies to outsource dirty production to other states, consequently causing layoffs of California workers. We're essentially telling a huge tax bracket that they are not welcome in our state, and they're taking the hint and taking our revenue with them.
Additional studies have shown that the "green" companies encouraged by AB 32 are not capable of creating tangible jobs in California. This is because such businesses are subsidized heavily by the government and otherwise would hardly even be able to support themselves. A study of Spain's similar green industry concluded that every "green job" created actually costs 2.2 normal jobs. The federal subsidies simply create an economic imbalance over time without encouraging normal growth.
People seem to forget that green is also the color of money--environmentally-friendly technologies are often more costly and polluting than their "dirty" counterparts, but manufacturers cover up these facts in order to garner political support (aka more subsidies). One example of this kind of fraud is PhotoVoltaic, or solar, panels. These things have been on the market for awhile now and many say they are the future of cost-effective, non-polluting energy. However, hardly anyone knows that the PV panel production process requires an astounding amount of energy in order to create the high-quality silicone needed to capture the sun's rays--so much energy, in fact, that most PV panels are currently made in China, no doubt in order to avoid economic consequences in California, although if subsidized properly, we could see more PV production in the Golden State, sucking up our energy on the federal dollar. How nice.
By far my favorite example of green-commerce fraud is that of the Prius. Self-righteous owners of this Toyota hybrid vehicle love to brag about their low emissions, carpool lane passes, and 50 miles per sweet gallon of gasoline, but the truth is that there may be several hidden costs (economic and environmental) that Toyota doesn't want drivers to know. A CNW Marketing Research study from 2008 to present exposed the catch--Prius batteries are made of nickel, which must be smelted at a plant. One of these plants, located in Canada (of course not the US!) was found to be causing unbelievable amounts of damage to its surrounding ecosystem; the area was completely devoid of life for miles around. NASA even used the area to test moon rovers. Additional evidence from this study showed that the Prius, on average, has a 50% higher "Dust-to-Dust" (production to scrap) cost than a Hummer H3. This evidence has since been disproved (I think? Hard to tell these days with all the fraudulent environmentalists), but I still find it interesting and very telling that there is so much speculation regarding the actual effects of "green" things.
Environmental policy has always been hard for me to understand, partly because I was never taught about macroeconomics until the past year and partly because I'm a skeptic of all the shameless media hype that comes out of this particular political community. When Al Gore put global warming in the spotlight a few years ago, that really did it for me. I was only in high school but I still wasn't going to let a washed-up politician tell me that world-scale temperature change is caused by human beings and our technology. I did my research and, sure enough, the scientific community was split on the issue. I also checked out studies of historical documents charting climate change over the past few centuries, and sure enough, drastic fluctuations in temperature have been randomly occurring throughout recorded history (ever heard of the Mini Ice Age in Europe?)--all the evidence presents a good case against Gore and the environmentalists. Unfortunately, in cases like this, the mass media always wins, and by mass media I mean liberal agenda, so more conservative environmental views have been hushed. Even now, the initiative to suspend AB 32 has been called out because it receives heavy support from oil companies. While it's true that now is a very bad time to associate with oil, the companies are allowed to give money to whomever they want, and if people simply did their research they would side with "big oil" too. The California Jobs Initiative finally gives the voters the chance to decide for themselves whether or not they want the state to use their tax money on such uncertain "green" policies, rather than take Al Gore's word for it and run our economy into the ground as a result.
The truth of the matter is, nobody really knows the full extent of the damage caused by carbon emissions. Nobody really knows the long-term economic effects of environmental policies. Most of the data is speculation. Environmentalism is now and always has been a trend, made fashionable by liberal media outlets and bolstered by the perpetual flow of people who legitimately care about the environment. I care a lot about the environment too--I'm just not so fast to jump on the bandwagon because I understand that hasty policymaking often leads to unexpected consequences. Whether or not you support AB 32, you have a choice this November...let the treehuggers continue to speculate and make economic choices for you, or stand up for your right as a taxpayer to say "enough is enough"...at least until we recover from the recession.