California Dream 2.0

Transportation Diversification is Key to Fixing California’s Gas Price and Pollution Woes

This summer I had the unique opportunity to drive with members of the California state legislature through their districts in Los Angeles and the Central Valley. In addition to brown lawns, hazy air, and intense heat, we were reminded of California’s persistently high gas prices on filling station signs at nearly every major intersection.

Fuel hoses from a gas station. Source: Flickr/Boegh

Fuel hoses from a gas station. Source: Flickr/Boegh

As we drove through many neighborhoods struggling to pull themselves up economically, the need for solutions was clear. Since lower-income households pay the same amount per gallon as people in more affluent neighborhoods, low-income households tend to devote a greater percentage of their monthly income toward fuel purchases. Furthermore, since new and more efficient cars are usually more expensive, low-income households tend to drive older, less efficient vehicles that use more gas and release more pollution. So, while families across California are cutting back on things like watering their lawns, they are forced to spend a lot of these savings filling up their cars, while also breathing some of the most polluted air in the nation.

Fortunately, there is a solution at California’s fingertips that will tackle the issues of gas prices and pollution at the same time: transportation diversification. This simply means providing all Californians with choices on how to get where they need to go. These choices can take the form of alternatives to gas and diesel, alternatives to inefficient vehicles, and alternatives to cars all together. By providing these choices, consumers can pick what works for them – allowing the entire transportation system to better meet people’s unique needs and budgets.

The status quo is unsustainable and will yield even higher prices and greater harm to consumers in the long term

California cannot afford to maintain the status quo – a system where practically everyone drives either a car or truck powered by gas or diesel. In this scenario, Californians continue to buy 15 to 17 billion gallons of fuel a year, over half of which comes from imported oil.

Since the largest impact on the price at the pump is the international price of oil, keeping the status quo means California consumers will continue to be affected by decisions and unrest occurring in places like the Middle East, South America, and Canada. What’s more, due to increasing international demand for gasoline and diesel, and a shift toward dirtier crude oil to produce fuel, all signs point to higher long-term prices and more pollution. Put simply: according to almost every expert analysis from state, federal, and international agencies, the trend on gas prices is upwards – meaning more pain at the pump for California residents if steps aren’t taken to build in needed solutions.

Transportation diversification will yield lower prices and improve the health of California communities

As described in a July 2014 letter signed by 74 economic and energy economists, transportation diversification will likely cause fuel prices – including prices for gasoline and diesel – to decrease in the long term helping Californians break out of the status quo spiral that is both expensive and unhealthy. More transportation options mean consumers will be less affected if the price of any one type of fuel unexpectedly goes up, protecting the larger economy from price spikes that can undermine economic growth and devastate poor communities. As more fuel efficient vehicles, lower carbon fuels, and better transit options are deployed in communities across the state, all Californians, and in particular low-income communities, will gain more control over their finances and mobility.

Diversifying transportation will also lead to decreased toxins in the air, a subject Californians know all too much about and which severely harms the health of our children and elderly. Through the introduction of clean alternatives, such as vehicles that don’t require combustion, California can get relief from the status quo where nearly every vehicle has a tailpipe responsible for thousands of pounds of pollution every year.

California’s roadmap to transportation diversification has been written, and the wheels are starting to turn

Thanks to the efforts of leaders in California government, the state has already taken the first steps toward transportation diversification though the passage and implementation of clean cars standards, the AB 32 Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), and a comprehensive cap-and-trade regulation.

These programs deliver on transportation diversification by creating incentives to bring new choices to consumers. For example, clean cars standards require auto-makers to provide more efficient and alternative fuel vehicles to the market. The LCFS, on the other hand, brings alternative fuels to consumers through a flexible regulatory mechanism that rewards clean fuel providers based on how much they sell. Cap and trade, by placing a price on carbon pollution across the entire economy, creates an incentive for both fuel providers and fuel users to find the cheapest and most effective ways to cut carbon pollution. This includes options that diversify the fuel mix with biogas, electricity, hydrogen, or renewable diesel. Cap and trade also provides investment money to develop alternatives like mass transit and reduce the cost of higher efficiency vehicles.

California is making real progress towards transportation diversification every day. Over the last five years, California’s policies have helped move the state from three percent diversification to eight percent (as measured by the share of alternative fuels in the overall market). By 2020, projections are for this number to double.

In my time driving around with some of the state’s most influential officials, it was clear that their top priority is delivering real benefits to their constituents. By supporting policies that are building a diversified transportation system, all Californians will have more choices – saving both money and lives. This is a framework that any public official should be able to support.

Posted in Cap and trade, Clean Energy, Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Low Carbon Fuel Standard, Transportation| Leave a comment

EDF is Calling for More Demand Response in California and Why You Should Too

Source: North America Power Partners

Source: North America Power Partners

This week the California State Assembly will consider Senate Bill 1414 (Wolk). What’s so exciting about SB 1414? This bill will accelerate the use of demand response (DR), a voluntary and cost-friendly program that relies on people and technology, not power plants, to meet California’s rising electricity needs.

DR programs compensate people and businesses who volunteer to use less electricity when supplies on the power grid are tight and/or to shift energy use when cleaner, renewable resources are available. Every time a customer participates in lowering their energy use through demand response, they are rewarded with a credit on their electricity bill.

The implementation of demand response will help catalyze a much needed upgrade to our outdated grid, whose fundamental design hasn’t been updated since Thomas Edison invented it over a century ago. Demand response can empower participants to lower their electricity bills and carbon footprints, improve air quality, allow for more renewable electricity, and enhance electric grid reliability. In a tree of options for modernizing and cleaning up our energy system, demand response is a low-hanging-fruit. Read More »

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Greening the Cleanroom at PerkinElmer

By Nkiruka Avila, EDF Climate Corps fellow

Energy efficiency is an essential part of climate change mitigation, which is my primary motivation for becoming an Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corps fellow. My goal is to find energy and water savings at my host organization PerkinElmer in Santa Clara, California. PerkinElmer designs and manufactures medical imaging technology that tackles the world’s most critical health related challenges.

The facility I am working in this summer has a class 100 clean room (we call it “the Fab”) where 50×50 cm digital flat panel x-ray detectors are fabricated. Any impurity in the Fab could cause defects in the panels. PerkinElmer’s fabrication process is unique because each of the panels produced is kept as a whole unit and is not cut into smaller pieces. This makes it critical to produce flawless panels every time as a defect could ruin the whole panel.

Recently, I took a tour of the Fab with my supervisor, Joe Batdorf, and my EDF Engagement Manager, Serena Mau. The tour of the Fab was fascinating and revealed just how energy intensive the fabrication process is. I was impressed to see that several energy efficiency projects, headed by my supervisor, had already been implemented at the facility. Energy efficiency is not a foreign idea to PerkinElmer, and they have invested in several energy saving measures over the years. For example, PerkinElmer completed a reheat coil optimization project and replaced two inefficient boilers with efficient condensing boilers saving almost 70,000 therms of natural gas annually and eliminating over 300 tons of carbon emissions.

Despite the implementation of several energy efficiency measures, there is still room for more. I am working on proposing further energy efficient lighting, computer power management software and other energy saving measures for the air compressors and fume scrubbers in the facility. Silicon Valley Power offers great resources like lighting audits to help identify potential rebates. I am also investigating water conservation measures for a reverse osmosis system and two fume scrubbers that have the potential to save 3 million gallons of water annually. With California’s drought, these water conservation measures are direly needed.

Being an EDF Climate Corps fellow has given me the opportunity to learn about energy efficiency solutions and their financial and political obstacles. I am learning about the many incentives offered by the state and local governments in California to promote energy sustainability. EDF Climate Corps has also opened up to me a vast network of professionals and students working towards a more sustainable future. The experience is invaluable and substantiates my intuition that my work is headed in the right direction.

This post first appeared on the EDF Climate Corps blog

About EDF Climate Corps
EDF Climate Corps ( taps the talents of tomorrow’s leaders to save energy, money and the environment by placing specially trained EDF fellows in companies, cities and universities as dedicated energy problem solvers. Working with hundreds of leading organizations, EDF Climate Corps has uncovered nearly $1.3 billion in energy savings. For more information visit our website, read our blog, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Energy Efficiency, Jobs| Leave a comment

Practice Makes Perfect for California and Quebec Joint Auctions

KHK pictureOver many decades, the United States and Canada have developed what is now the largest trade relationship in the world. This achievement is measured by the goods and money that cross their shared border, and does not even account for the trade of ideas and exchange of information currently underway between the two countries. The linkage of the California and Quebec carbon markets is yet another demonstration of the mutually beneficial relationship that these neighboring countries have cultivated. The two jurisdictions are taking the final steps in what started off as a virtual marketplace of ideas and best practices and has since grown into a real market for tradable carbon credits.

Last Thursday, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and the Fight against Climate Change (MDDELCC) of Quebec held a practice joint auction for the linked California and Quebec cap-and-trade programs. This trial was run as though it were a real quarterly auction, requiring participants to establish a Compliance Instrument TrackingSystem Service (CITSS) account if they did not already have one, submit an application to participate, and await approval from the auction administrator. CARB and MDDLECC published an auction notice and ran webinars for auction participants in the days leading up to the practice auction. The auction administrator and independent market monitor for both jurisdictions also monitored the auction while the bidding window was open and the appropriate help desks were available to take questions, just as they would have for a real auction. As such, interested parties were able to become familiar with the actual processes and materials required to participate, as well as test out and provide feedback on the updated features of the auction platform, which was refined to support bidding from both jurisdictions. The careful completion of this important exercise demonstrates CARB and MDDELCC’s dedication to thoroughness in their implementation of the cap-and-trade regulation.

Practice auction deemed a success

The two regulatory bodies released an auction summary report today that provides information on how the trial run went, as well as a summary of the responses CARB and MDDELCC received through a post-auction survey they administered to the 28 participants of the auction. Three quarters of the survey respondents rated both their experience with the auction platform and the training materials provided prior to the auction as excellent or very good. CARB and MDDELCC report that all procedures were run correctly on their end, indicating the practice auction went smoothly and that both participants and auction administrators were able to successfully prepare for the first real joint auction, scheduled for November.

This marks a huge step forward on the road to full program linkage and underscores the commitment on both sides to join in the effort to curb greenhouse gas pollution. Linkage is extremely important as it creates a larger overall market, which means more trade activity and a greater array of options for greenhouse gas pollution reductions. More options means greater compliance flexibility, which reduces the costs for companies to meet the reduction target and makes the overall program cheaper for businesses and consumers alike.

Small, yet critical changes made to support bidding from both jurisdictions

The most significant difference that participants presumably saw in this practice auction was added capabilities to handle the two different currencies used in these jurisdictions, US dollars (USD) and Canadian dollars (CAD). This included updates to how the reserve price (the minimum bid price allowable in the auction) is displayed and calculated. While California entities are only able to apply and submit bids in US dollars, Quebec entities can participate using either currency. No mention of problems regarding the added dual currency capability of the auction platform was included in the post-auction report.

auction platform

For this practice auction and future joint auctions, the reserve price will be determined and displayed in both USD and CAD based on the conversion rate on the day before the auction begins (shown in green).

While this may seem like a small change, it is critical to ensuring the successful linkage of the two programs. This partnership is setting an example that other jurisdictions can follow in expanding the scope and influence of what is already the most ambitious cap-and-trade program in the world. This is especially important as we approach the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, where leaders from all over the world will meet and attempt to create a legally binding agreement to address climate change.

Before real joint auctions begin, there will be one more California-only auction and one more Quebec-only auction. California’s will take place next Monday, August 19th and the results of this auction will be posted the following Thursday. Look back here on our blog for our coverage of that auction.

Posted in Cap and trade, General, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Litigation| Leave a comment

EPA Refinery Standards and California Carbon Limits Can Solve the Puzzle of Refinery Pollution

By Tim O’Connor with Larissa Koehler and Jorge Madrid

EPA recently proposed a final pollution reduction rule for refineries that will help cut toxic air emissions and improve monitoring at the nation’s largest industrial facilities. This new rule is an important complement to the state level carbon and air pollution limits we have in California, and together will make our state cleaner, healthier, and more prosperous.

Source: flickr/Jason Holmberg, Richmond, CA

Any doctor will tell you that to fight the toughest diseases you often need a combination of treatment options. The clean air laws we have in California are an indispensable part of the cure for our air pollution problems. But to be fully effective, they need complementary policies from Washington.

Central to the challenge is the fact that large refineries are all too often found in disadvantaged communities – and release greenhouse gases, carcinogens, neurotoxins, and hazardous metals. Even though our state has been regulating refineries for decades, millions of Californians are still exposed to dirty, dangerous air. The puzzle of how to protect our communities is still missing pieces.

What is needed is direct federal attention to oil refineries. With an EPA standard that is based on the most up-to-date pollution control technology and a new health impact analysis, we can cut pollution and ensure the communities living next to refineries have healthier air and more information about what they're breathing. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate| 1 Response, comments now closed

The Chance for Demand Response to Thrive in California All Hinges on One Vote

By: Michael Panfil, attorney for EDF’s US Climate and Energy Program, and Jamie Fine, senior economist for EDF’s Clean Energy Program

Vote CheckDemand response encourages customers to shift their energy use to times of day when there is less demand on the power grid or when more renewable energy is abundant.  It is an invaluable component of the smart grid that improves air quality, enhances electric grid reliability, and helps utilities, homes, and businesses financially benefit from conserving electricity.

Yesterday, a diverse group of organizations submitted an important and far-reaching settlement agreement on the future of demand response in California to the California Public Utilities Commission (Commission) for its approval. The settling parties – including EDF, California investor-owned utilities, California Independent System Operator (CAISO), consumer groups, and others – recommend, for the first time, a path to properly value, realize, and account for demand response. If approved, these changes have the potential to increase the role of demand response in meeting California’s energy demands, reducing hazardous air pollution, and more efficiently operating the state’s electrical grid. Read More »

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New Report Doesn’t CARE about Getting the Facts Right

With billions of dollars in profits, oil companies can pay a lot of consultants to write a lot of really impressive-looking reports.  But look past the fancy cover page and you will often find these documents are nothing more than spin. Case in point: the recent report from Californians for Affordable and Reliable Energy (CARE) and the Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA).

For those looking for the real facts about California’s world-leading climate change law, let us correct the record:

1.       Californians spend LESS on energy than people in 45 states.

 The CARE report uses the usual scare tactics about the price of energy. But the truth is that on average, Californians spend less on their energy bills than residents of 45 other states (see graph below) and almost $60 less than the national average per month. This is due to in-large-part to California’s energy efficiency measures, which have led Californians to use almost 45% less electricity per capita than the U.S. average.

Californians spends less on energy than residents of 45 other states. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)

Californians spends less on energy than residents of 45 other states. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)

 2.       California’s climate law will yield significant environmental AND economic benefits for its citizens.

Not only are the costs of AB 32 policies much smaller than the VICA/CARE report would lead you to believe, California’s climate policies actually yield significant economic and health benefits. Read More »

Posted in Cap and trade, Clean Energy, Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Jobs, Transportation| 1 Response, comments now closed

California Cements Latest Climate Alliance, this Time with Next-Door Neighbor Mexico

It’s been an invigorating few days for anyone looking for meaningful action to combat climate change, and especially for those following California’s global leadership in those efforts.

As a delegate to Governor Jerry Brown’s Trade and Investment Mission to Mexico, I witnessed first-hand California and Mexico sign a Memorandum of Understanding and formally agree to work together on a range of actions to address climate change.

The agreement between Governor Brown and representatives of Mexico’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) and Mexico’s National Forestry Commission lays out areas where California and Mexico agree to cooperate and coordinate efforts on addressing climate change, including:

  • Pricing carbon pollution
  • Increasing renewable energy use and development
  • Addressing short-term climate pollutants
  • Cleaning up the transportation sector
  • Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation

A Joint Vision for Low-Carbon Prosperity

It makes perfect sense that Mexico is California’s latest climate change and clean energy ally. After all, the relationship between the two jurisdictions runs deep.  Mexico is California’s largest trading partner, and our cultures and economic interests have undoubtedly been entwined throughout history. Both have much at stake with climate change, and this latest collaboration embraces a shared environmental vision which recognizes that a low-carbon future goes hand-in-hand with economic prosperity. Read More »

Posted in Cap and trade, Clean Energy, Climate, Energy Efficiency, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Linkage, Low Carbon Fuel Standard| Comments closed

Finding Common Ground on Pricing Clean Energy Resources in California

This post was co-written by Chris Yunker, Rates and Analysis Manager at San Diego Gas & Electric.

Source: limelightpower flickr

Industrial and environmental stakeholders are usually portrayed as adversaries. But one exciting example from California proves there can be another side to that story. San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) worked with Environmental Defense Fund, Sunverge, Google, and the California Public Utility Commission at Rocky Mountain Institute’s eLab Accelerator to investigate electricity tariffs that enable new technologies and practices and to reveal their costs and benefits to the grid. As distributed energy resources (DERs) continue to grow rapidly, there is increasing need to enable the marketplace to value utility-supplied grid services and customer-sited resources.

SDG&E serves 3.4 million people in and around San Diego, and is also home to roughly 10,000 electric vehicles and 40,000 rooftop solar systems. SDG&E is responsible for keeping the lights on despite growing demand (the region has one of the largest EV adoption rates in the nation) and variable electricity generation (PV panels stop producing at sunset).

Rather than resisting these changes, SDG&E has been working collaboratively to explore a vision of a future with even greater quantities of distributed energy resources. That vision looks at several features: Read More »

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The 2014 U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index: Did your State, City Make the Cut?

cleantech indexjpgIf there is one thing that works in the world of advocacy, it is a ratings table that shows how one state, metropolitan area, or utility compares to its peers. The latest report, U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index, from Clean Edge does just that.

The fifth annual U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index finds that California, Massachusetts, Oregon, Colorado, and New York lead the way among states in solar and electric vehicle adoption, with smart climate policies and clean energy financing driving the clean tech leadership index growth.

Clean energy is becoming a popular choice for mainstream America with 11 states now generating more than ten percent of their electricity from non-hydro renewable sources, according to the Clean Edge report. As seen in the graph below, Iowa leads the way in utility-scale wind, solar, and geothermal electricity generation. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Jobs, Smart Grid| Comments closed