AB32 helps California move forward on curbing emissions

By CONRAD ANKER | August 29, 2014

When climbers team up to scale a big peak, they share the goal of making it to the summit. Success rests on training, detailed planning, clear communication, using the best available technologies and a bit of luck with the weather. If all line up, one might make the summit.

These values are at the core of The North Face, the company I have worked with for the past 31 years.

The challenges California faces with climate are our metaphorical summit. We have the foundation of planning and communication to achieve cleaner air without compromising economic growth. What we are lacking is a tool that will help us. One set of tools is AB 32, California’s pioneering clean-energy and climate law.

The North Face is among the many California companies representing various sectors of the economy that have sent representatives to Sacramento to voice support for AB 32. Our message to legislators: AB 32 is working. Let’s keep pushing forward, and stay on schedule.

That means no delay in bringing transportation fuels under the statewide emissions cap – an idea now being considered. Exempting the oil industry from taking responsibility for its emissions risks the economic and environmental progress our state has been enjoying.

AB 32 is delivering cleaner energy, healthier air and less pollution – all while our economy continues to grow. It’s helping California maintain leadership in the fast-growing clean-energy sector: A conservative accounting of our state’s clean economy found that jobs in this sector grew 20 percent from 2002 to 2012.

California policies, including the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, are driving more alternative fuels into the marketplace, boosting efficiency, spurring innovation and investment, diversifying our energy portfolio and building our resilience to gas price spikes. It’s no accident California retailers sold 523 million fewer gallons of gasoline in 2012 than they did in 2009, even as the economy grew. Those hundreds of millions of gallons of gasoline represent millions of dollars Californians have been able to spend at places other than the gas pump.

The transportation sector is California’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Any legislative effort that suggests the oil industry can delay curbing its carbon pollution, while the state’s other industries work to cut emissions, doesn’t make sense. Doing so would shift the oil industry’s share of responsibility for cleaning up its product to other sectors of the economy and to consumers.

Air pollution and climate change are serious problems, and voters support action, including cleaner fuels. In fact, 81 percent of Californians – including 69 percent of California conservatives – support requiring oil companies to produce transportation fuels with lower emissions.

We know that when it comes to protecting the community you serve, it is your duty to comply. That’s true even if there’s a cost. Profitable, well-run companies from the building sector to apparel to health care have to follow the rules and produce a safe product or service.

We’re doing our part, and our business is seeing economic benefits. The North Face headquarters building is LEED Platinum certified and produces 116 percent of its electricity needs through solar panels and wind turbines. Rather than paying an electric bill, we get money back from our utility for the extra renewable energy we generate. The facility also includes eight electric vehicle charging stations, and employees who drive electric vehicles to work are saving money on gas and saving time in the HOV lanes. California’s incentives for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and clean transportation were important factors as we considered these steps. These projects would not have happened without California renewable energy policies like AB 32 in place.

Companies have a choice about how to address the cost of doing business safely and whether or not to pass all that cost on to customers. The top five oil producers earned $93 billion in profits last year. This is not an industry without options.

Our company is proud to be part of the economic powerhouse that is California – the eighth largest economy in the world. We appreciate the opportunities AB 32 has created, and the clear market signal it sends. It is putting California businesses on a level playing field.

Making the summit is going to require astute leadership and the right set of tools. AB 32 is good for business and good for our health. Let’s keep it up.

Anker is a fifth generation Californian from Tuolumne County. He has summited Mt. Everest three times and is the Athlete Team Captain for The North Face, a member of Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP).