Barbara Boxer Backs Green Jobs at Solazyme

With her U.S. Senate race stuck in a dead heat, Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer tried to appeal to swing voters Tuesday by asserting that she will be a better protector of the environment - and green jobs - than her GOP opponent Carly Fiorina.

Boxer appeared briefly in South San Francisco Tuesday at Solazyme, a 100-employee company that is pioneering a technology that extracts oil from algae. There she stressed her opposition to Proposition 23, a measure on the November ballot that would badly damage AB32, the state's landmark climate-change law.

AB32 requires that carbon emissions be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020. Prop. 23 would suspend the law until unemployment drops to 5.5 percent or lower for four consecutive quarters. The unemployment rate has achieved that mark only three times in the past 34 years.

"There's no debate as to who wants to overturn this law," Boxer said, referring to the primary bankrollers of Prop. 23 and Fiorina. "It's big Texas oil. It's big coal." Two Texas oil companies - Valero Energy Corp. (more than $4 million) and Tesoro Corp. ($1.5 million) - have provided much of the funding for the initiative.

Fiorina describes AB32 as "a job killer" and supports Prop. 23, even though she calls it "a Band-Aid fix and an imperfect solution to addressing our nation's climate and energy challenges." The long-term solution, she said, "lies not with a single state taking action on its own but rather with global action."

But Solazyme's president said Tuesday that AB32 hasn't cost any jobs yet, noting that green energy jobs are a rare sector of California's economy that is growing.

"It's important to recognize that the real legal requirements of AB32 haven't actually kicked in yet," said Solazyme President and Chief Technology Officer Harrison Dillon. "So to say that it has already cost jobs is just false. It hasn't kicked in yet."

The company is manufacturing relatively small amounts of fuel - just over 50,000 gallons of crude oil in 2010 - with much of that going to the U.S. military. While it is significantly cleaner to produce fuel using this method, it is still more expensive - for now, Dillon said.

"We will be below $80-a-barrel crude oil production within 18 months," Dillon said, making it more competitive in the marketplace.

Also on Tuesday, Boxer said she opposes Proposition 20 and supports Proposition 27, two measures on the November ballot concerning redistricting.

Prop. 20 is an extension of sorts of Proposition 11, the 2008 measure that created a citizens redistricting commission to draw new district boundaries for Legislature and State Board of Equalization districts. Prop. 20 would allow the commission to also redraw boundaries for congressional districts.

Prop. 27 would essentially repeal Prop 11.

"The way that these commissions would have to draw the lines for these districts," Boxer said, "the unifying factor would be income level. And I just think that's not the way to go. That's not the way Americans are - that we divide each other from one another by income level."

Fiorina supports Prop. 20 and opposes Prop. 27.

"After more than three decades as a politician, it comes as no surprise that Barbara Boxer would side with her buddies in Washington who are fighting tooth and nail to have the power to pick their own voters and ensure their re-election year after year, even when they have failed to produce results for the people they are supposed to represent," Fiorina spokeswoman Andrea Saul said Tuesday.

"Boxer isn't interested in a government that is more transparent and accountable but rather in perpetuating the status quo where decisions are made through back-room deals with one goal in mind: job protection for the incumbents at the expense of the people," Saul said.

See the original post on San Francisco Chronicle. By Joe Garofoli, Chronicle Staff Writer. September 8, 2010.