Big oil doesn’t speak for small business

By Scott Hauge

California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, A.B. 32, is a critical piece of legislation that positions our state as an international leader in addressing global warming. But recent news reports leave theaverage reader with the impression that a war is brewing between business and environmentalists over this measure. Nothing could be further from the truth. Big oil companies may not like having to monitor, report and curtail their emissions, but they do not speak for everyone — especially not small businesses in California.

A.B. 32, the nation’s first ever economy-wide emissions cap, is the market signal we need to unleash our world-famous entrepreneurs and enable California to lead the clean energy technology revolution. And small businesses, the engine of our economy, stand to gain.

Today small firms in California, supplying two-thirds of innovation, are producing “clean-tech” breakthroughs in photovoltaics, distributed energy, fiber-optic sensors and other processes that reduce energy consumption, pollution and waste.

But entrepreneurs devising new high-tech innovations aren’t the only small businesses that will benefit. Thousands of California small businesses are engaged in the multimillion-dollar industry that makes, sells, installs and services existing energy-efficient, renewable energy and recycling technologies.

These businesses are growing twice as fast as the rest of our economy; they’re creating new markets and new jobs.

And it is not just green business that will profit. Every single business in the state can profit by making its own workplace more energy efficient, especially as we see the price of gasoline and electricity continue to rise. According to EPA’s Energy Star Small Business program, small businesses can save between 20 percent and 30 percent on their energy bills through upgrades.

And they can do it quickly. The technology exists today. All they need to do is install a few simple devices: programmable thermostats, for example. And by lowering demand and creating more diverse choices of energy, we will actually drive the price of energy down.

So when oil companies complain about the cost of curbing their emissions, small business owners like us are a little skeptical. International scientific consensus, including our own government’s most highly respected scientific body, agree that global warming is happening and that it is primarily caused by humans. The impacts and costs will be severe. Isn’t it obvious that the most expensive thing we can do is nothing?

Indeed, small businesses have a lot to lose if California does not pass A.B. 32. Small firms, which typically operate on slim profit margins, are especially vulnerable to the adversities of global warming. Recent history in the Gulf Coast is telling. Thousands of small businesses ravaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita are still struggling to re-establish, leaving the region without its economic backbone.

In California, rising temperatures pose a serious risk to our multi-billion dollar wine industry, and all the small businesses that service it. Recent findings published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences conclude that the increased frequency of hot days could destroy up to 80 percent of our wine-making capacity and with it thousands of businesses and jobs.

The most successful forward-looking companies are waking up to the consequences of global warming. Business leaders across California, from Venture Capitalist Ray Lane to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, support AB 32 because they recognize the risks of inaction and the opportunities this legislation creates.

To those who think California can’t make a dent in global warming worldwide, consider the way our clean air standards have been followed by other states across the country, forcing the automobile industry to clean up its fleets. As the sixth largest economy in the world and twelfth largest emitter of global warming emissions, California has a responsibility to take the lead again.

Gov. Schwarzenegger’s climate change initiative sets the most ambitious global warming emission reduction goals in the nation. Speaker Fabian Nunez and Assemblywoman Fran Pavley’s bill, A.B. 32, will help ensure California reaches those goals.

In doing so, we will seize an historic opportunity to lead the way to a healthy environment and a healthy economy at the same time.

Scott Hauge is founder of Small Business California.businessOpinionScience & TechnologyScience and Technology

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