Bureaucrats don't mind jobs 'leakage'

As California’s unemployment rate hovers above 12 percent, even the state’s Democratic leaders — notorious for regulating, taxing and complaining about California’s business community — are talking about jobs.

Meanwhile, the state has embarked on a massive utopian experiment that will soon push thousands more California jobs to neighboring states and other countries. On Thursday, the California Air Resources Board voted on final rules to implement the state’s cap on greenhouse gas emissions and the so-called cap-and-trade emission system that will force California businesses that can’t reduce their emissions to 1990 levels to buy credits in a government-created emissions “market.” The net result: Most manufacturers will either face a large new tax or they will be forced to cut back on the production of their products.

On Tuesday, I attended a meeting of food processors in Fresno sponsored by the Assembly’s rural caucus.

Valley food producers talked about the new regulations, which are scheduled to go into effect in 2012 with enforcement beginning in 2013. A CARB board member, Dorene D’Adamo, was there to address concerns. This was as close to a town hall meeting one will find in California.

Let’s first dispense with any thoughts that cap-and-trade will not reduce jobs in California. The state’s regulators and think-tank apologists for the status quo dismiss the business community’s job-loss fears as the equivalent of the boy who cried wolf. But the point of this meeting was to lobby CARB to place California’s food processing plants, which rely heavily on natural gas to dehydrate and can fruits and vegetables, into the “high leakage” category rather than the “medium leakage” emissions category.

Assembly members Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, Linda Halderman, R-Fresno, and David Valadao, R-Hanford, all took issue with the term “leakage.” What it means, of course, is job leakage. The food processors were deemed by the bureaucrats to have a medium risk of such job losses, whereas they claim that they are at a high risk and therefore deserve exemptions from these onerous new rules.

“Bureaucrats believe that leakage is a proper term for people’s jobs,” said Assemblywoman Grove.

In its letter to the state’s air resources czar, Mary Nichols, the rural caucus made the obvious point: “California’s food processors are valuable employers, providing thousands of jobs, and have been world leaders in the past. However, import pressures are mounting with foreign processors having entered our domestic market, and they want a bigger share. With unemployment at record highs in the Central Valley, our state needs to keep all the jobs possible.”

Greenhouse gas reductions have nothing to do with pollution. The cap-and-trade law, AB32, was signed into law in 2006 to address warming of the planet. Meanwhile, real businesses will be shedding jobs and losing them to Mexico and China, where the air-quality standards are far less stringent.

Some in the agriculture industry were mainly concerned with passing the new costs of the regulation on to consumers, so we all will pay more for this law. Assembly member Halderman, a physician, focused on real-world public-health issues of unemployment and poverty.

Two lobbyists publicly praised CARB officials for their helpfulness. I understand that these folks are in the business of gaining access to government. But it was nauseating.

The only good news I glean from attending the meeting is that the state GOP seems to have a pretty good farm team.

Steven Greenhut is editor of www.calwatchdog.com; write to him at sgreenhut@calwatchdog.com.

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