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Panelists disagree over how to effect climate change in California

Environment and Resources - Land
BY Emily Holding   
Monday, 03 May 2010 08:01

USD's Scott Anders and Supervisor Ron Roberts look on as Michael Murray of Sempra Energy addresses the crowd. The forum tackled the implementation of AB 32 and its impact on the economy.
The consensus at Friday morning’s forum on AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act, was that California cannot effect climate change on its own.

The panelists agreed on little else, however.

“If the rest of the world does not follow us, it will not make a difference,” emphasized County Supervisor Ron Roberts, a member of the California Air Resources Board.

Michael Murray, Regional Vice President of State Government Affairs for Sempra Energy, said that AB 32 was intended to be a model of what a national program would look like since what happens in California typically “flows east and ends up in Washington several years later.”

But Scott Anders, director of the University of San Diego School of Law’s Energy Policy Initiatives Center, does not see a chance of comprehensive climate legislation happening anytime soon.

The event was hosted by the San Diego Taxpayers Association and sponsored by Sempra Energy.

Moderator Lewis Michaelson pointed out that AB 32 is ‘the law of the land,” and asked the panelists to therefore focus on deepening the audience’s understanding of the bill and the impact it will have.

Dorothy Rothrock and Bryan Bloom talked about the bill from a business point of view. Rothrock is the co-chair of the AB 32 Implementation Group, but said her main job is to represent manufactures in California as the Vice President of Government Relations for the California Manufacturers and Technology Association (CMTA). Since energy costs are already significantly higher in California, Rothrock said CMTA is very concerned about AB 32 and how it is implemented and that they are working to minimize its impact on the economy.

Bryan Bloom, president of Priority Moving, Inc., agreed that businesses are clearly impacted by the bill.

“We’re the only place in the United States that is going to have these rules, so right away we are at a competitive disadvantage,” Bloom said. “Anyone who’s ever run a business knows that when you have to pay to play when other people don’t, that puts you at a competitive disadvantage.”

Even within the state, Bloom said that larger companies like Sempra will have the money to “play,” while companies like his will not.

Anders, from USD’s Energy Policy Initiatives Center, pointed out that many of the measures have a negative cost and called the fact that they have not been immediately implemented a market failure. Anders also insisted that the notion that the bill will affect every small business in California is just not true.

Rothrock decided to poll the audience on this.

“How many folks here believe that if large companies, large employers in California are competitively disadvantaged that that will impact small business?” she asked. Nearly everyone in the 120-member crowd raised their hand. “Yeah…these costs are going to flow through the economy,” Rothrock said.

Bloom took her point a step further, saying the impact will trickle down to every single Californian through things like higher fuel prices and higher costs of building a home.

Speaking as a businessman, Bloom said you couldn’t pay him to run a manufacturing business in California. The first thing he would do is go to another state, which he said is exactly what’s happening.

“The states surrounding us love AB 32 because it’s their chance to come in and put billboards up and pick off companies and take them away,” he said.

Anders addressed the concern of outsourcing and the effect on small businesses by pointing out that there will be opportunities through green jobs for more small businesses in areas like installing solar panels and insulation.

“Somebody in India can’t change your windows,” he pointed out.

Bloom acknowledged that there will be great opportunities with AB 32, but insisted “it’s kind of like saying if you go kill everybody in the street, there’s going to be great opportunities for morticians.”

Bloom challenged the audience to go call manufactures after the meeting and ask them what they are thinking.

“I guarantee you [the manufacturer] at the top of that list is leaving California,” he said.

Though there was little, if any, agreement on how to best affect climate change, Murray summed up the spirit of the debate.

“There are many, many stakeholders…and every one of us wants to do it right,” said Murray. “We understand that if we do it wrong there are opportunities for serious unintended consequences, and I really believe that whether you talk to [California Air Resource Board] or any of the other stakeholders, we all want to get it right and do what’s best for California.”

All the stakeholders seem to be waiting for Washington to follow California’s lead in combating global warming, which moderator Lewis Michaelson said could be like waiting for Godot.