California faces an identity crisis.  The financial mismanagement is so well known that late-night talk show hosts make jokes about getting loans...from Greece.  Three years ago, third world countries like Romania were safer bonds than California but now Greece is better too?  That's kind of sad. The tired old 'we will cut important services for show until you vote for tax increases' strategy seems to have petered out. But California wants to continue to buy friendship from the 'green' contingent even as the money runs out.

California used to remark that businesses and people would endure unlimited restrictions and taxes because the state could 'pay with sunshine' but that isn't true any more - even for solar power companies, who love sunshine.

California taxpayers pay a lot so rich people can assuage their liberal guilt and put up solar panels.  National taxpayers have added even more in rebates and subsidies.   Journalism, which shows no signs of recovering from its death throes (by actually reporting truth instead of wishful thinking) makes claims like 'California leads the nation in encouraging renewable energy' which is codespeak for 'we spend your money on rebates and subsidies for solar power companies instead of police officers'. Republicans are only 31% of the electorate and recent redistricting has knocked their Congressional districts down to 21%, meaning California is a one-party government so there isn't even a pretense of an alternative to more spending and higher taxes.

The result has been the death of business in the state. Solar power manufacturers are happy to do business with California but what they won't do is put anything but sales offices here.  Colorado is not exactly a right-wing haven but, as Sacramento Bee writer Anne Gonzales notes, it is much better for business than California, which is why a solar technology company put their new manufacturing facility there rather than in the state responsible for 40% of America's domestic solar power installations.  "Denver offered a good mix of affordable buildings, access to skilled labor, a convenient distribution infrastructure and an overall attractive and supportive business climate," SMA president Jurgen Krehnke told her.  Well, which of those does California not have?  Oh right, an attractive and supportive business climate.

Patents, sure, California companies have those, but IP by itself doesn't make a company profitable.  If the jobs all have to be union (and environmental impact lawsuits magically disappear when the jobs become union ones) and the restrictions on industry are onerous, why build here?  It isn't cheap Chinese labor hurting the state - though that accounts for why Apple makes billions in profits each quarter and pays little in taxes - it is goofy policy. California gave $208 million to a California solar cell company which promptly built a new factory in Delaware.  Still "Made in the USA" - but with California taxpayer money in another state.

I am not a betting man so it's hard for me to guess which will cause California to lose more manufacturing jobs this decade, the archaic California Environmental Quality Act, which requires state impact analyses and paperwork for things that have nothing to do with the environment, or the upcoming state Cap-and-Trade law, which was passed due to the Air Resources Board inflating pollution estimates by 340%. Your guess is welcome.

We can be proud of continuing to 'encourage' green energy - the 1% in Malibu love that they get rebates on their six-figure solar power installations paid for by those 99 percenters in Oakland - but it might be better overall if California started encouraging actual green jobs, namely by getting out of the way.  

Edit: 5/24/2012, SMA notified me I had stated their headquarters was in Colorado rather than their new manufacturing facility so that was changed in the text above.