By: Marsha Ramos
Despite what you may be hearing from well-intentioned business groups, (“Cap-and-Trade Proposal Becomes New Tax on Businesses,” Stuart Waldman, VICA, Business Life 2012.) there is nothing “radical” about protecting people from air pollution that makes people sick and shortens lives.
The state’s landmark clean energy law, AB 32, is all about reducing air pollution, and setting reasonable standards for cars, trucks, oil refineries, power plants, and large factories. These standards will reduce pollution that can trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks, and other deadly health conditions. It is important to remember that 90 percent of Californians still live in areas with unhealthy air.
The cap and trade program should not be characterized as being a “large part” of achieving the goals under AB 32. In fact, cap and trade will contribute to only 16 percent of the emissions reductions, with the rest coming from the state’s Advanced Clean Cars Standards (27 percent), Renewable Energy Standard (19 percent), Energy Efficiency (12 percent), Low Carbon Fuel Standard (13 percent), SB 375/Smart Growth (3 percent), Forestry (4 percent) and High GWP Measures (7 percent)
It is important to keep in mind that just 360 businesses (600 facilities by 2015) will be covered statewide by the cap and trade program. As the oil industry and their friends complain about the costs of AB 32, the price tag of dirty air adds up to $28 billion in health and medical costs and other economic impacts each year for Los Angeles and the San Joaquin Valley alone.
California is a pioneer in terms of adopting clean air laws, and those laws are spurring innovation and investments. California attracted more clean energy venture capital dollars in 2011 than all the other 49 states combined. We can reduce greenhouse gas pollution while growing the economy; we have been doing it for the last 35 years. Innovative energy policies over the past three decades have allowed Californians to reduce expenditures on imported fossil fuels and redirect spending to create 1.5 million full-time jobs.
In terms of the impact on small businesses, an analysis by The Brattle Group, an international economic consulting firm, found that AB 32 will have a barely noticeable impact on small businesses – less than a tenth of one percent in 2020. Moreover, by investing in energy efficiency, taking advantage of rebates, incentives, and other programs small businesses can lower their energy costs significantly and achieve cost savings.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is more than “admirable” – it is critical to protecting the lives of all Californians. Rather than repeating the exaggerated claims of polluters about AB 32 costing us too much, we need to remember that we are all paying a high price to breathe dirty air.
Marsha Ramos was elected to serve as a member of the Burbank City Council in 2001 and served for two years as Mayor. After retiring from the elected office in 2009, she continues community service as the Chair of the Board of Directors for the American Lung Association in California. She is a second generation business owner in Glendale.