Like echoes from a debate lost long ago, opponents of my legislation to combat climate change are raising the specter of economic ruin. The Los Angeles Business Journal recently provided a forum for their disproven theories in the article headlined “Petroleum Plan Fuels Pushback” in the July 20 issue.

It was 2006 when opponents to AB 32, landmark legislation to cut California’s carbon dioxide pollution by 25 percent to 1990 levels, made arguments such as this, “The economic graveyards of California are littered with the jobs that are the unintended consequences of good intentions by legislators and governors,” in the Sept. 1 Washington Post.

AB 32 is now law and California’s economy is anything but a graveyard. It’s the seventh largest on Earth as measured by gross domestic product, which has grown by 30 percent since 2006 to $2.2 trillion. Meanwhile, carbon emissions have fallen by 28 percent since 1990 and California leads the nation in renewable-energy jobs.

This year, the Legislature is considering SB 350, my measure to step up the fight against global warming by requiring 50 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources, doubling energy efficiency in buildings as well as reducing petroleum use in cars and trucks 50 percent, all by 2030.

Debate continues

The Bible says, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again, there is nothing new under the sun.” And so it goes with the debate over SB 350. Led by the oil industry, opponents are again forecasting significant job losses and economic catastrophe. Ironically, the oil companies claim they are looking out for consumers, while ringing up record profits with repeated gasoline price spikes.

Californians aren’t fooled. A recent PPIC poll shows at least seven out of 10 support the goals of SB 350. Furthermore, 69 percent of Californians remain supportive of AB 32. In addition, pluralities of respondents say state action to reduce global warming will lead to more – not fewer – jobs.

The poll shows that Californians understand what the oil companies won’t, for profit’s sake, admit: Climate change is forcing us to find new sources of energy to power our homes, cars, and economy.

Corporate America is catching on, too. On July 27, the White House hosted 13 of the largest companies spanning the nation’s economy – including General Motors, UPS, Wal-Mart and Coca-Cola – to launch the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, a vow to cut emissions by 50 percent and purchase 100 percent renewable energy, among other environmental goals.

We are not going to shake our dependence on petroleum overnight. The corner gas station isn’t going to disappear anytime soon. But an economy built on fossil fuel can’t last forever. The time to prepare for the future is now.

Kevin de León is state Senate president pro tempore and represents Los Angeles.

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