In summary

As the global economy picks up, strategic public investments in clean transportation will create jobs in California.

By Joel Barton

Joel Barton is the secretary-treasurer of the State Association of Electrical Workers for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers,  businessmanager@ibew11.org.

Bernie Kotlier

Bernie Kotlier is executive director on the Labor Management Cooperation Committee for IBEW-NECA California & Nevada, LMCCenergy@gmail.com.

Amisha Rai, Special to CalMatters

Amisha Rai is a managing director at Advanced Energy Economy, arai@aee.net.

With vaccines being rolled out, job creation and economic recovery should now be at the top of the list of our state’s priorities as we consider how to use the budget to address the devastating impact of the pandemic.

A century ago, the explosive growth of the automobile industry sparked an economic revolution in the United States. Seemingly overnight, thousands of Americans were put to work making steel, rubber and constructing roads.

Californians were at the heart of this economic boom. In the 1940s and 1950s, auto plants hummed in the heart of Los Angeles County, and thousands of Angelenos churned out automobiles at a rate reaching a half million or more cars a year.

Today, we’re on the cusp of a similar revolution as electric cars and trucks sweep the globe, and again, California is positioned to reap the enormous economic and quality of life benefits that this transition will deliver – but only if we support present and future workers in this industry with smart consistent policy and funding that will help it thrive. And, in doing so, put people back to work right away.

Now, with President Joe Biden committed to an all-electric federal fleet and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order to achieve 100% zero-emission new vehicle sales by 2035, there are massive, homegrown market signals moving this job-creating industry forward.

That’s why the governor’s budget calling for a $1.5 billion investment in the clean transportation sector is so well-timed – and why those criticizing the move are missing the mark.

As the global economy picks back up, strategic public investments in clean transportation will create jobs and open up career opportunities for decades to come. The improved air quality for California’s communities, which are some of the most polluted in the nation, is an added benefit.

California has always led the way. That’s why more than 500,000 advanced energy and clean transportation workers and 34 different electric vehicle manufacturers call our state home. This investment in good-paying, skilled, clean transportation jobs is a workforce development opportunity for our state.

Public investment in clean transportation will add construction jobs building-out charging station infrastructure, especially in low-income communities, communities of color and rural areas – places they are needed most to make electric transportation universal. The state is expanding access to training programs such as the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program so that new and currently certified electricians are prepared for this significant opportunity.

To achieve the economy-wide benefits that come with switching to electric cars, we must give all Californians the opportunity to go electric. With funding for programs like Clean Cars for All, this budget provides assistance for low-income Californians to purchase electric cars of their own – saving them money every month by reducing fuel and operating costs.

Additional opportunities for California to benefit from electric vehicle investment continue to surface. New research shows that California can anchor a multibillion-dollar domestic electric vehicle battery supply chain by developing lithium from the Salton Sea. This project would inject thousands of jobs and billions of dollars into California’s Imperial Valley, one of the state’s most economically disadvantaged regions.

The economic risks of not investing in clean transportation are real and costly. If we do not act now, we will lose out on these critical economic and job creation opportunities, ceding them to other states and nations that are in the race to be the world center for clean transportation.

The governor’s call for $1.5 billion in smart and strategic transportation electrification investments gives us a chance to corner the world’s largest growth market. Let’s put California in the driver’s seat and put people back to work in this time of unprecedented economic upheaval.

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