In 2018 California, the fifth largest economy in the world, committed to 100 percent zero-carbon electricity by 2045.
The driving force behind this campaign was Dan Jacobson, a wiry, quirky 50-something advocate with a ready crooked smile.
Thirty years ago, Dan, or “DJ” as most everybody calls him, was a scrappy MASSPIRG organizer at Amherst College by way of New York City. Today, he is the state director of Environment California and regularly wears a suit, but in his heart, he’s still scrappy old Dan.
The story of this campaign started in 2016, when DJ was sitting in his Sacramento office and fielded a phone call from California Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin DeLéon. The senator had caught word that advocates at Environment Massachusetts had drafted a bill to transition the Bay State to 100 percent renewable energy. He had no intention of letting Massachusetts get ahead of California on the issue. DeLéon asked for a copy of the bill.
DJ got Sen. DeLéon the language from our Massachusetts state director, Ben Hellerstein. Soon thereafter, the senator introduced the symbolically named Senate Bill 100: “100” for 100 percent zero-carbon energy.
DJ, to use the old cliché, is more of a people person. In particular, he’s the kind of people person who understands that bending the arc of history requires leverage and pressure — the kind of leverage and pressure that comes from having the right numbers and the right kinds of people on your side. He knew he needed both — numbers and key movers and shakers — so that voting to commit California to the boldest clean energy plan of its kind on the planet would serve the political interest of a strong majority of legislators.
With that vision in his mind, DJ got to work.
First, he built a coalition. DJ and his team enlisted the support of more than 250 organizations, from faith-based groups like the California Catholic Conference to business organizations like the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and he put everyone to work.
He conceived of a campaign to lobby every single legislator in the Capitol. Together with his allies, they held 25 district meetings with lawmakers in their home districts. And they hosted lobby days in Sacramento to give constituents with diverse perspectives the opportunity to tell their representatives and senators directly why 100 percent clean energy was important to them and their district.