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California's new goal: 20,000 MW of Renewable Energy

Gov. Jerry Brown

This is a special moment as executive power passes from one governor to another, determined solely by majority vote. It is a sacred and special ritual that affirms that the people are in charge, and that elected officials are given only a limited time in which to perform their appointed tasks.

For me, this day is also special because I get to follow in my father’s footsteps once again—and 36 years after my first inauguration as governor, even follow in my own.

Then—1975—it was the end of the Vietnam War and a recession caused by the Middle East oil embargo. Now, as we gather in this restored Memorial Auditorium, dedicated to those who died in World War I, it is our soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and our economy caught in the undertow of a deep and prolonged recession.
With so many people out of work and so many families losing their homes in foreclosure, it is not surprising that voters tell us they are worried and believe that California is on the wrong track.

Yet, in the face of huge budget deficits year after year and the worst credit rating among the 50 states, our two political parties can’t come close to agreeing on the right path forward. They remain in their respective comfort zones, rehearsing and rehashing old political positions.

Perhaps this is the reason why the public holds the state government in such low esteem. And that’s a profound problem, not just for those of us who are elected, but for our whole system of self-government. Without the trust of the people, politics degenerates into mere spectacle; and democracy declines, leaving demagoguery and cynicism to fill the void.

The year ahead will demand courage and sacrifice. The budget I propose will assume that each of us who are elected to do the people’s business will rise above ideology and partisan interest and find what is required for the good of California.

When dealing with a budget gap in the tens of billions, I must point out that it is far more than waste and inefficiency that we have to take out. Yes, government wastes money—and I will be doing a lot about that—but government also pays for things that most people want and that are approved only after elected representatives debate their merits and finally vote them into law. They cover the spectrum from universities, parks, health care, prisons, income assistance, tax incentives, environmental protection, firefighting, and much else.
Choices have to be made and difficult decisions made.

In reflecting on our difficulties, my thoughts turned to those who preceded me and what they faced and what they were able to accomplish.

It is not just my family, but every Californian is heir to some form of powerful tradition, some history of overcoming challenges much more daunting than those we face today. From the native peoples who survived the total transformation of their way of life, to the most recent arrival, stories of courage abound. And it is not over.
The people of California have not lost their pioneering spirit or their capacity to meet life’s challenges.

Even in the midst of this recession, Californians this year will produce almost two trillion dollars of new wealth as measured by our state’s domestic product. The innovations of Silicon Valley, the original thinking coming out of our colleges and universities, the skill of our farmers, the creative imagination of Hollywood, the Internet, and the grit and determination of small businesses everywhere—all give hope for an even more abundant future.

As Californians, we can be proud that our state leads the rest of the country in our commitment to new forms of energy and energy efficiency.

I have set a goal of 20,000 megawatts of renewable energy by 2020, and I intend to meet it by the appointments I make and the actions they take. There are hundreds of thousands of new jobs to be created if California regulatory authorities make sensible and bold decisions. It will also be necessary to make sure that our laws and rules focus on our most important objectives, minimizing delays and unnecessary costs.

I will meet not only with the leaders of energy companies but with executives from a broad range of California business and industry to work on common problems and break down barriers that hold us back. We live, after all, in the eighth largest economy in the world. Over the last decade, California has outpaced the nation in the growth of our gross domestic product and in our productivity per capita.

It strikes me that what we face together as Californians are not so much problems but rather conditions, life’s inherent difficulties. A problem can be solved or forgotten, but a condition always remains. It remains to elicit the best from each of us and show us how we depend on one another and how we have to work together.  


Jerry Brown was sworn in as Governor of California, succeeding Arnold Schwarzenegger on January 3, 2011. For the Record is an edited excerpt of his Inaugural Address.

March/April 2011