NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

California's Destructive Green Jobs Lobby

November 18, 2010

California officials acknowledged last Thursday that the state faces $20 billion deficits every year from now to 2016.  At the same time, California's state Treasurer entered bond markets to sell some $14 billion in "revenue anticipation notes" over the next two weeks.  Worst of all, economic sanity lost out in what may have been the most important election on November 2 -- the California referendum to repeal Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32), says George Gilder, a founding fellow of the Discovery Institute.

AB 32 is the so-called Global Warming Solutions Act, which ratchets the state's economy back to 1990 levels of greenhouse gases by 2020.  

  • That's a 30 percent drop followed by a mandated 80 percent overall drop by 2050.
  • Together with a $500 billion public-pension overhang, the new energy cap dooms the state to bankruptcy.

The irony is that a century-long trend of advance in conventional "nonrenewable" energy -- from wood to oil to natural gas and nuclear -- has already wrought a roughly 60 percent drop in carbon emissions per watt.  Thus the long-term California targets might well be achieved globally in the normal course of technological advance.

What is wrong with AB 32's proponents?  They are simply out of their depth in a field they do not understand.  Solar panels are not digital.  They may be made of silicon but they benefit from no magic of miniaturization like the Moore's Law multiplication of transistors on microchips.  There is no reasonable way to change the wavelengths of sunlight to fit in drastically smaller photo receptors.  Biofuels are even less promising.  Even if all Americans stopped eating (saving about 100 thermal watts per capita on average) and devoted all of our current farmland to biofuels, the output could not fill much more than 2 percent of our energy needs.

The green campaign wastes scarce and precious technological and entrepreneurial resources indispensable to the nation's future, says Gilder.

Source: George Gilder, "California's Destructive Green Jobs Lobby," Wall Street Journal, November 16, 2010.

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