Why Green Business is Good Business: The Case Against Prop 23

By Andy Mannle, Education Director, West Coast Green

As we prepare for West Coast Green 2010, which kicks off Thursday September 30th in San Francisco, we are in constant contact with speakers from across the business spectrum, and they’re increasingly talking about Prop 23.  We deal with everyone from small design firms to global technology leaders; from home performance contractors to electric vehicle makers; from entrepreneurs just getting started to established businesses with decades of experience.

The one thing all these businesses share is that their success is driven by the green economy. Prop 23, on the other hand, is backed by two of the state’s biggest polluters, and is threatening job growth and business success across the state. Even Meg Whitman has come out against Prop 23 because it is such a threat to the economy. Major businesses including Google, PG&E, Levi’s, Warner Bros, Patagonia and Virgin have joined Californians for Clean Energy & Jobs, because the green economy is built on sound business principles.

Every business needs clear cost-benefit analysis to operate effectively. When it comes to the green economy, the benefits are clear: clean, local, secure sources of energy; healthier, more efficient buildings and businesses; 21st century infrastructure for water, energy, and transportation that is safer, smarter, and less wasteful. All of these translate to savings worth hundreds of billions of dollars, according to the global consulting firm McKinsey. The costs of inaction are ever increasing, and even without the rising price tag of climate-related droughts, floods, and fires, the BP oil spill is a sure sign that our reliance on dirty, dangerous, dwindling resources is hurting our economic security and prosperity.

Every business also needs to take advantage of opportunity, and keep up with the competition to survive. When it comes to clean energy, the benefits are also clear: it’s the largest economic development opportunity ever quantified, according to HSBC bank. Clean energy is a $500 billion market, soon to grow to a $2 trillion market. And the competition is taking advantage of it in no uncertain terms. China and Europe are well ahead of the US on investments in renewable energy, as well as climate policies that incentivize that investment.

Here in California, we have always been a leader in taking advantage of these opportunities – we invented and improved solar panels and wind turbines as far back as the 1970s. And we have always been a leader in policies to promote cleaner air, more efficient homes and cars, and energy efficiency. Per capita emissions in California have actually dropped since the 1970s because of our progressive policies – and that has saved residents and businesses billions of dollars.

But now our landmark climate change legislation AB32 is under attack by oil companies Valero and Tesoro whose refineries are among California’s top polluters. A recent report “Toxic Twins” by the Ella Baker Center uses public records from both companies to demonstrate that they’ve repeatedly violated pollution laws, dumping tons of toxic chemicals into the air and groundwater, poisoning the low-income minority communities forced to live nearby.

So let’s be clear. On one side you have a race for biggest economic opportunity in history – a race our competitors are currently winning. And on the other you have two companies fighting to keep polluting our poorest people, and driving up health care costs across the state. Voting no on Prop 23 should be an easy business decision.

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Andy Mannle was born and raised in the Valley of the Moon. As a Bay Area native, he’s happy to be back home helping West Coast Green inspire innovation and accelerate positive change. As a writer, speaker, and strategic communications consultant, Andy has spent the last five years helping people understand the changing landscape of sustainable business, green design, clean energy, and environmental policy. He is a regular columnist for Environmental Leader.com, and his essays have appeared on SolveClimate.com, Sustainable Life Media, Current Green, the NRDC blog and other sites dedicated to sustainability. In 2009, he led the team at Sherwood Design Engineers in writing Sustainable Infrastructure: The Guide to Green Engineering & Design, a manual on sustainable design to be published by John Wiley & Sons in 2010.

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Our Propostion 23 series is made possible by EOS Climate – a producer of high-quality, verified emission reductions (VERs) generated from the destruction of ozone depleting substances (ODS). Please thank them for their support!

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