California climate change law, job loss, and disruptive technology

The independent and nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) in Sacramento says there will be some economic disruption and higher energy costs if the 2006 climate change law is implemented.

Why? There are multiple reasons. Among them, energy prices will rise, and that will impact all businesses. Increased vehicle fuel standards means higher prices for vehicles as well as less maintenance (and thus fewer repair jobs), and increased use of renewable energy inevitably leads to job loss in non-renewable energy sectors.

A consistent theme in the LAO report is that reducing GHG basically means new industries will emerge which will be disruptive technology. They will supplant and replace existing industries. Job loss in the old industries is an inherent part of this process. A glib solution would be to say, those that those who lose jobs need to be re-trained in the new technologies. Well, that’s not always possible. Can a middle-aged coal plant worker get training that enables him to be employed manufacturing solar panels? Maybe, but this will probably only happen if money is allocated for training, and the new industries are located where he is.

On the other hand, do we want to continue such insanities as the City of Los Angeles getting 40% of its energy from coal plants in Utah and Nevada that often use coal sent by rail from Appalachia? That sure doesn’t seem long-term sustainable to me.

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