Big oil and clean energy

Ballot measure would pull the rug out from under the fast-growing clean-tech industry

Mr. Keller is president of ChicoBag Co., a Chico-based manufacturer of reusable shopping bags and totes.

It is no secret that the recession is posing challenges for Northern California businesses. Yet our business is growing. Why? Largely because we manufacture products that cater to Americans who believe in a clean-energy future, and because we have become energy efficient ourselves.

Our commitment to the environment is what motivates us to come to work every day. It drives us to provide a trusted brand and a portfolio of quality products aimed at helping humanity solve the environmental challenges ahead.

Our business is not alone in embracing this philosophy. Between 1995 and 2008, California’s “clean-tech” businesses increased 45 percent in number and 36 percent in employment, according to NextTen, a nonpartisan think tank. The Silicon Valley-based Collaborative Economics group says California now has more than 3,000 clean-tech businesses that account for 44,000 jobs.

California’s emerging clean-energy economy has attracted nearly $6.5 billion in capital investment in the last three years, says the National Venture Capital Association. In 2008 alone, California-based companies received almost 60 percent of all clean-tech investments in the United States, with a record $3.3 billion in 111 separate ventures. Five of the nation’s top 10 cities for clean-tech investment are in the Golden State, according to a recent New York Times article.

This is just the beginning. AB 32, the state’s pioneering road map to a clean-energy economy, will generate another 112,000 jobs by 2020, according to a UC Berkeley study. The California Air Resources Board foresees increased economic production of $33 billion as a result of the law, as well as increased overall gross state product of $7 billion and increased personal income of $16 billion.

Unfortunately, Assemblyman Dan Logue (R-Linda) wants to put these jobs and economic investments at risk. He has submitted a measure for the November ballot funded by Texas oil companies that would pull the rug out from under the fastest-growing segment of California’s economy. They have poured more than $2.5 million into a campaign to buy their way onto our state’s ballot.

The debate over the dirty-energy proposition could well determine our state’s economic future: Will the next steps toward California’s new clean-energy economy be reversed mid-course, jeopardizing tens of thousands of jobs and billions in investment? Or will our state continue to lead the world in the transition to a clean-energy economy?