There’s a famous optical illusion where one person sees a vase while another sees two faces in profile. That’s what it felt like for me, as a small business owner on the board of Small Business California, to read High Costs of Climate Change Policies Don’t Help California Manufacturing (Sept. 14) by Dorothy Rothrock at the California Manufacturers & Technology Association (CMTA). When I look at California’s pioneering policies on climate change, efficiency, and clean energy, I see competitive advantage and economic opportunity—and so do the 3,000 other employers, representing 3.2 million small businesses, who are part of the Small Business California network.
Our ranks might not include global giants like ExxonMobil and BP America, who belong to CMTA. But Small Business California’s members make up a good representative group of the 3.2 million small enterprises across the state. And we place a premium on growing our businesses in a responsible way. California’s small businesses are often the first to demonstrate better ways of producing and delivering goods and services. When it comes to making money in a more energy-efficient way that is healthier for our employees, families, and communities, we are all in favor—and we are not alone.
Of course, I don’t know any business leader who thinks wasting resources is a good thing. And all Californians can take pride in the fact that our state’s manufacturers generate $59 in state GDP for every dollar spent on electricity, compared to $38 for the rest of the nation.
But we cannot rest on our laurels. More California businesses—especially manufacturers and other energy-intensive firms, large and small—can invest in energy efficiency and increase growth and profits by doing so. Barriers do exist, and they must be addressed. Businesses should work together on solutions that further California’s leadership economically and environmentally.
As the world turns toward the clean-energy economy of the future, California’s leading role will help ensure our state earns a slice of the fast-growing clean energy sector. It’s not an accident that California has more electric cars than any entire country outside the United States, or that we are the world’s leader in clean technology investment. State policies—backed by voter support at the polls—are attracting investment, fostering innovation, and helping Californians build a stronger, cleaner, more sustainable economy that benefits us all.
The days when people could attack sensible environmental policies as bad for the economy are long past. Take California. From 1990 through 2012, our greenhouse gas emissions shrank by 25 percent per capita as our state became more energy efficient. Over that same time period, per-capita gross domestic product rose by 37 percent.
The fact is this: a clean economy is a strong economy. And California businesspeople know it.
Hank Ryan has founded several successful small businesses, including Efficiency Data & Development, an energy-efficiency consulting firm. He is on the board of directors of Small Business California, a nonpartisan advocacy group and network of 3,000 employers that are working for the wellbeing of small businesses in California.