Conflict of Interest Uncovered in AB32 Study as Climate Law Battle Continues

As the battle over whether to suspend California’s landmark climate law, known as AB32, continues, new accusations of conflict of interest and underhanded financial reporting have emerged.

In the latest turn, the lead economist on a report finding that the bill would do little harm to job creation has been linked to a political campaign trying to keep the bill from being suspended, Climatewire reported Wednesday.

Larry Goulder, a professor at Stanford University, is on the board of directors of the Energy Foundation, a non-profit that is the sole contributor to the Green Tech Action Fund, which has donated $500,000 to help fight the suspension of AB32.

The report was released by the State Air Resources Board last month, and is just one of a plethora of sometimes contradictory reports on the economic effect of AB32.

Meanwhile, Climatewire reported in the same article that oil companies, in their effort to suspend AB32, may be “laundering” money through the Missouri-based Adam Smith Foundation. Despite reporting only $30,000 in income, the Adam Smith Foundation donated $498,000 to the California Jobs Initiative, which is the main force behind a ballot initiative to suspend AB32 until unemployment is at or below 5.5 percent for one year.

So many jobs reports, so little time

The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, known as AB32, requires statewide greenhouse gas emissions be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020, and imposes a cap on emissions that will go into effect in 2012.

The law has been subject to a blizzard of studies on its cost and economic benefit, with some predicting a positive net impact, others a negative one. The conflicting studies have exposed an uncomfortable truth about studies of the impact of legislation on future job creation (or destruction): nobody really knows for sure.

“You have to look at everything, and no one looks at everything,” said Michael Livermore, director of the Institute for Policy Integrity at NYU Law School. Livermore recently co-authored a study on the economic impact of one of the environmental bills pending in the US Senate.

“Some people think it’s going to be terrible, some think it’s going to be really good,” he said. “You look at the different sectors and do as a good a job as you can.”

Of course some might argue that the issue ultimately is not job creation, but saving our civilization from massive environmental turmoil.

BC (Ben) Upham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, and was a writer and editor for News Communications, Inc., a local paper consortium serving Manhattan. When he's not blogging on green issues -- and especially renewable energy -- he's hiking in the Angeles Mountains or hanging out at El Matador.

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