Let’s be clear: American Power Act does not prevent California from implementing AB 32

I had a chance to join KQED’s Forum yesterday to discuss the American Power Act (APA) and what it means for California. (To read about the extensive show of support the Senate bill has received, please visit our Climate 411 blog.)

It was an interesting and wide-ranging conversation. We talked about whether the long-awaited bill hurts states such as California that are leading on clean energy policies. 

It doesn’t. But it’s easy to see why some reports have incorrectly assumed that the APA would prevent states from adopting landmark energy policies such as building energy standards, renewable portfolio targets or fuel efficiency requirements.

In fact, the current bill would expressly reward states such as California that are steering the nation toward a clean energy future and economy that is creating good, well-paying jobs.  

The federal bill sets up a national marketplace to put a price on greenhouse gas pollution and calls for reducing emissions 17 percent from 2005 by 2020. As we noted in a recent blog post about the bill, when it comes to creating economic markets to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, bigger is clearly better.    

California’s landmark clean energy act, AB 32, which passed in 2006, was the nation’s first law calling for a mandatory cap (limit) on greenhouse gas emissions. It is being implemented in stages and has already benefited the state’s burgeoning green economy.

AB 32 includes a roadmap for meeting a target of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. It includes more than 70 measures to reach the 2020 target and puts us on course to meet the more ambitious goal of cutting emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. 

Measures include more investments in solar and wind electricity generation, appliance efficiency standards for energy intensive electronics, “smart grid” development and transit-oriented housing development. It also includes establishing a cap-and-trade system that is expected to get additional reductions out of the utility, industrial and transportation sectors. 

The cap-and-trade portion of AB 32 would account for approximately one-fifth of total anticipated reductions and is the only AB 32 measure that’s exempted in the current proposal of the Senate bill.

In other words, the Senate bill would allow California to continue moving forward with AB 32 measures that are designed to help it achieve four-fifths of its targeted reductions.  

By doing so, California will also continue attracting billions of dollars in clean technology investments (we regularly receive the largest percent of domestic investments, which have tripled since AB 32 passed) and creating hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the state (which are growing faster than any segment of our economy).

AB 32 can and will be a necessary complement to a federal climate bill. Simply put, we need strong national action on clean energy and pollution reduction and continued leadership and innovation from California. It’s not a case of “either/or” but a case of “both/and.”

Oil interests are fighting progress on both fronts. These special interests—led by the Valero Energy Corporation—will continue to try to stonewall fair competition from renewable energy at the federal level, while engaging in a deceptive campaign to kill AB 32 in California. 

Supporters of energy independence, clean energy jobs, and healthier air must fight back against big oil at both levels of government. Our time is now.

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