This is a guest post by Paul Scott, a Santa Monica, Calif. resident and electric car advocate whom you may have seen in the 2006 documentary film, “Who Killed the Electric Car?” Paul blogs at EVs and Energy.
Californians rightly celebrated when Gov. Schwarzenegger signed Sen. Fran Pavley’s AB32 in 2006. As the nation’s most progressive climate change legislation, this landmark law cemented California’s position as clean tech leader. Today, billions of dollars have been invested in renewable energy, fueling the solar, wind, Electric Vehicle (EV) and other industries and resulting in the creation of thousands of jobs.
But now, Prop 23, along with Prop 26 are poised to stop this job growth cold. Prop 23 prevents implementation of AB32 until the state’s unemployment level drops to 5.5% and maintains that level for four consecutive quarters. Prop 26 requires a two-thirds supermajority in the state legislature in order to pass any new fees, levies or charges, all of which will be needed to implement AB32. In essence, this will strangle AB32.
I worked in the film industry for over 20 years. Things started getting tough as I approached 50. Work was going out of California to states and countries willing to provide tax incentives to get the jobs for their citizens, and being of a “certain age” meant that fewer opportunities would be coming my way.
In 2002, after considering my personal situation, and that of our country post-9/11, my wife and I decided to purchase a small solar system to generate electricity from sunlight for our house. We liked the idea of using Southern California’s ample rays to generate electricity instead of relying on dirty sources such as coal. Around the same time, we purchased a new all-electric Toyota RAV4 EV. We were now running our house and car on sunlight, blissfully producing zero pollution in the process.
Experiencing the pairing of an EV powered by photovoltaics—or EV/PV, as we call it—literally changed my life. I wanted to spread the word about the power of EV/PV to all my friends and beyond. Thus began my transition from fading film professional to renewable energy/-clean vehicle evangelist—and decently paid green collar worker.
For the past eight years, I’ve had a front row seat as the burgeoning renewable energy industry exploded, adding thousands of jobs in California even as the world economy began to collapse.
On the EV front, we had to endure shortsighted industry malfeasance as big automakers tried, unsuccessfully, to kill the most efficient vehicles ever made. I helped organize many of the sidewalk protests that attempted to prevent the crushing of these enormously popular cars, eventually helping to form the EV advocacy nonprofit, Plug In America. I watched enterprising California companies like AC Propulsion and Tesla Motors as they added dozens and eventually hundreds of well-paid engineering, design and marketing positions for the sophisticated world-class electric cars they made.
On the solar front, I was recruited to work for SolarCity, a new company formed to address the huge potential of residential solar on millions of California homes with roofs that should be harvesting the photons that constantly rain down every day. The start up quickly became the nation’s fastest growing and largest residential solar installer with over 800 employees. The solar and wind industries have had more active job growth than any other sector over the past five years in California.
As satisfying as selling solar has been, getting electric cars on the road that can run on clean, renewable kilowatt hours of energy, excited me even more. After test-driving the Nissan LEAF, whose week’s-away delivery will mark a revolutionary turning point, I knew I had to help get it into the market to replace gas-burning internal combustion cars. I got hired by a local dealer and am now, to my knowledge, the only person in the world selling both electric vehicles and photovoltaics – EV/PV.
Without AB32, neither of these jobs would have been available to me (and I just celebrated my 58th birthday), nor would thousands of other jobs paying California citizens good salaries and wages. Without AB32, our state will stay dependent on dirty, carbon-based energy that fouls our environment and makes us dependent on out-of-state suppliers and those abroad. We’ll continue sending billions of dollars out of our economy for expensive oil and coal. This is money that could be spent locally on goods and services creating secondary and tertiary jobs for Californians instead of enriching the oil and coal companies.
To understand the profound effect of Props 23 and 26 on AB32, just look 50 years into the future. We’re either going to take the lead in creating an efficient country that thrives on renewable energy generated from freely abundant wind and sunlight that will pay dividends in jobs and a clean environment, or we will continue to ship money into the out-of-state coffers of those who sell us dirty energy that sickens our citizens and kills our economy.