California's Green Election

One of the better kept secrets of this election season can be found here in California, where voters will decide whether or not America throws in the towel on global warming and energy independence. And no, I'm not referring to the unprecedented amounts of hot air being pumped into the atmosphere by the most expensive yet least informative gubernatorial campaign in history (though you can read my profile of Jerry Brown for a little background.)

It's California's Proposition 23 that's the sleeper star of these elections. The goal of this oil industry-backed ballot measure is to kill Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's signature achievement, the 4-year-old Global Warming Solutions Act and its mandate to reduce the state's carbon emissions by 2020 by 33%.

The tragedy is that the law has in the past four years created, not killed, green tech jobs (which have increased 5.5% during the recession while overall employment fell), and attracted billions in new investments in renewable energy, mostly in the form of big solar projects in the sun-drenched Mojave Desert. Since 2005, California has attracted more renewable energy investments than all other states combined, which are expected to result in a $20 billion, 112,000-job boost to the state economy by 2020, according to a University of California study. Conversely, the study finds that passage of Prop 23 will cost the state up to $80 billion and a half million jobs from rising fossil-fuel energy prices over the next ten years.

So the future of green energy and carbon reduction in America is, for the most part, in California voters' hands. Stay tuned.

POST-ELECTION UPDATE - The voters rejected Proposition 23 handily, 61% to 39%, a clear mandate for California to continue ramping up renewable energy and reining in carbon emissions. Now the next looming question is whether Congress will renew critical investment and tax incentives that have encouraged California's solar boom.