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IBEW, New Study Say NO! to Green Energy Outsourcing


July 28, 2011

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A plan by Sempra Energy, the corporate parent of San Diego Gas and Electric, to outsource green energy production to Mexico is facing sharp resistance from San Diego Local 569, supported by a recently-released study  showing the damage that would be done if the U.S. Department of Energy approves Sempra’s application later this year.

Last week, Local 569 Business Manager Johnny Simpson and Peter Philips, the University of Utah economics professor who conducted the study, “Should Green Jobs Be Outsourced?” were in Washington, D.C. They visited congressional offices and Department of Energy representatives to oppose Sempra’s plan to construct a cross-border transmission line between northern Baja Mexico and San Diego County to transport wind power from facilities to be built in Mexico. Says Simpson:

Sempra’s proposal is a job killer, plain and simple. Imperial County has the highest unemployment rate of any county in the country. With construction unemployment at its highest in a generation, and IBEW members struggling to hang on to our homes and put food on the table, we can’t afford to outsource even one construction job, especially when we can build thousands of megawatts of solar, wind and geothermal projects proposed right here in Southern California.

According to Philips, the 1250 megawatt line connecting the California grid to future wind farms in Mexico would result in: five years of lost construction work and 9,800 lost job-years to Californians.  One third of those jobs lost would be in Imperial County where the jobless rate stands at nearly 28 percent.

Answering those who say that importing wind energy, produced more cheaply in Mexico, would lower San Diego residents’ gas and electric bills, Philips says:

Mexico needs its own green-energy generation capacity, including wind and solar.  Mexico disproportionately relies upon high-sulfur-content oil for much of its electrical generation. ..By building a captive wind-farm in Mexico tied to the California grid, Mexico is deprived of this wind-resource.  So another hidden cost of the proposed “cheaper” wind farm is more pollution and more health hazards in Mexico.

Simpson and Philips presented legislators with a fact sheet and a letter which International President Edwin D. Hill sent to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu last year opposing Sempra’s application. The letter said:

If we are to reclaim America’s middle class our nation must eliminate opportunities for corporations to export our jobs, exploit workers, or raid natural resources.

The IBEW Issue Fact Sheet stated:

San Diego Gas and Electric employs IBEW members. The union enjoys good relations with SDG&E and wants [our employer and Sempra] to be successful; it is in the best interests of IBEW members. However, Sempra’s plan undermines President Obama’s stated policy goals and will deny many Americans opportunity for gainful employment.

Philips says that the loss of jobs that would accompany Sempra’s proposed project would amount to a $300 million loss of tax revenues.  Expressing hope in domestic green energy, he says:

The good news is, decision makers have the authority and ability to keep these jobs, skilled apprenticeship training opportunities and tax benefits in Imperial County, in California and within the United States. During this prolonged aftermath of the Great Recession, when jobs are needed most, and nowhere more than in Imperial County, will state and federal leaders act to steer the economic benefits of building and operating renewable energy generation to California; or will they allow these jobs to slip away, leaving residents in Imperial County with merely the unfulfilled hope of a greener, more economically prosperous future?

Says Simpson:

Most of the people we spoke with seemed to understand our message that President Obama’s goal of enhancing our nation’s energy independence would be undermined by trading Middle Eastern oil for Mexican wind power.

Photo used under a Creative Commons License by Flickr user Steven Jackson Photography