David R. Baker | SF Chronical
A new report shows that, since the 1970s when the state government first started requiring more energy-efficient buildings and appliances, California has grown more prosperous and added jobs even as its citizens cut the amount of energy they use and the greenhouse gases they produce. Despite the current economic crisis, which finds the state in a budget and job quandary, the findings should provide ammunition to those who want Obama to launch a green revolution, encouraging renewable power and energy efficiency as a way of generating jobs during the recession.
The 2009 California Green Innovation Index conducted by the public policy group Next 10 tracks how the state’s economy has grown over the past three decades. Cutting energy bills let California consumers and companies spend their cash on other things, and helped create 1.5 million jobs, according to the report.
“If California had not moved as forcefully to decrease energy consumption over the last three decades, we would be in a much more precarious economic position right now,” said F. Noel Perry, venture capitalist and founder of Next 10. “Imagine where the country could be if it were as efficient as California.”
Assessing green economy
The index also examines the current state of California’s green economy, adding up the amount of venture capital flowing into clean-tech companies and the number of patents they have received. The researchers, from the Collaborative Economics consulting firm, also counted jobs at green companies throughout California and found that they employ about 105,000 people.
The index, the second in what Next 10 plans to be an annual series, has its limitations. For example, to get a thorough count of green jobs, researchers had to use data from January 2007. Their total doesn’t include the rapid growth of green-tech companies for most of the last two years, nor does it reflect the layoffs of recent months.
In addition, the index illustrates just how difficult the fight against global warming will be.
California now produces 10 percent less greenhouse gas emissions per person than in 1990, according to the report. But the state’s overall emissions continue to rise along with the size of the population. Total emissions rose 4 percent between 2003 and 2006.
“The fact that per capita emissions have gone down by 10 percent in California is a pretty remarkable achievement,” said Cliff Chen, senior energy analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The flipside is that California has also been one of the fastest growing states since 1990, so it’s not surprising that total emissions increased.”