Author Archives: Derek Walker

While Countries are Talking, California is Doing

Climate change is all over the news these days and while most of the news isn’t good, there are a few signs of progress.

First the bad news: a recent report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that we have five years to act if we want to avoid the most extreme consequences of climate change.  A subsequent report issued by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in mid November confirms that the extreme weather events over the last few years are a direct result of climate change. Unfortunately, expectations are low that there will be much agreement at the international climate talks taking place in Durban this week.

Now the good news: California, the world’s 8th largest economy and 12th largest climate polluter, is leading the way on fighting climate change and the state’s economy is benefitting from an early-mover advantage.

The state just unanimously adopted a cap-and-trade program as part of its landmark Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32), the law requiring California to cut climate pollution to 1990 levels by 2020.  To meet the 2020 level, California is implementing nearly 70 policies, including cap-and-trade.

The recently adopted cap-and-trade program will cover 360 of California’s largest polluters and, by 2015, over 85% of all climate pollution in the state, accelerating new innovations in clean energy, energy efficiency and fuels and stimulating next-generation solutions we have yet to even imagine.

According to a number of reports, the latest of which was published in Science Magazine, these reductions are critical if we hope to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change. That report lays out what it would take to meet California’s long-term vision of slashing climate pollution 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

More good news: California can achieve early AB 32 targets through energy efficiency and other existing measures alone. Deeper cuts require significant innovation and deployment of new technologies, which is, of course, why California’s cap-and-trade system is so critical. It will put a price on pollution for the first time, motivating investors, innovators and entrepreneurs to deliver solutions that will get us where we need to be at the lowest cost possible.

The Science report should strengthen our resolve and be a wake-up call about the scale of our task.  The U.S. and other countries that are fighting about whether dramatic action is necessary will be big financial losers, and the entire world and everyone on it will be at greater risk.

As our international climate director stated on Monday in Durban, “Given the current global political and economic situations, renewal of the Kyoto Protocol is highly unlikely. But that is no excuse for the world to sit back and do nothing. We need to build on the efforts of individual countries and regions so that every nation does their part to reduce the emissions that are harming our way of life.” 

California's examples cannot be just the CFL light bulb burning at the end of the tunnel. They must be the locomotive of a bullet train into the clean energy future.

 

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32| Comments closed

California Shapes National Action on Clean Car Standards

Fortunately, when it comes to climate and energy policies, what happens in California doesn’t stay in California.

Yesterday the Obama Administration announced a second phase of national greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards—covering passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks for model years 2017-2025—that California played a key role developing. California also announced new Advanced Clean Cars package to deliver cleaner air, slash greenhouse gases, rapidly increase numbers of zero-emissions vehicles. 

Yesterday’s announcements represent a key step forward in addressing our fundamental economic, energy and environmental priorities.

The federal standards are expected to result in at least $1.7 trillion in savings, reductions of an estimated 2.2 million barrels of oil a day by 2025 and 6 billion metric tons of climate pollution. California’s package—covering cars and light-duty trucks for model years 2012-2025 will likely result in having 1.4 million zero-emission vehicles and plug-in hybrids on the road in 2025 with savings of $5 billion that same year for consumers and businesses.

Consumers and businesses are rightly concerned about our dependence on imported oil and rising energy prices. Setting new greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards will address those concerns by saving them money and creating a healthier environment. 

The new auto standards are widely supported by a diverse coalition of automakers and the United Auto Workers, as well as businesses, consumers, veterans, health and environmental organizations. These standards will help create jobs, grow our economy, break our addiction to oil, save consumers trillions of dollars at the pump and dramatically cut climate change pollution.

 This is great news for Americans in every state and further proof that California serves as the model for climate change policy.

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Cap-and-economic-growth, indeed

That is an editorial headline in today’s Baltimore Sun about a new study demonstrating the economic benefits of the Region Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) cap-and-trade program.

The money quote:

"There are any number of lessons that can be drawn from this. But perhaps the most important is that as a market-based solution, a cap-and-trade program, can work well and deliver real economic value to participating states.’

The New York Times covered the findings under the headline, ‘Carbon Trading Initiative a Success, Study Says’ and illustrates how the program has saved money for consumers, stimulated job growth and kept money in local economies in the six New England states, New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware.

The bottom line: the investment of revenue from RGGI allowance auctions have yielded $1.6 billion in net economic value to the regional economy and generated 16,000 jobs.

What’s more, every household and business in the region can expect to benefit from the RGGI system: The study estimates that the average home will save $25, and that owners of commercial and industrial buildings that use a lot more energy per meter than homeowners will save $181 and $2,493, respectively.

Other key findings:

  • Customers are expected to save nearly $1.1 billion on electricity bills, and an additional $174 million on natural gas and heating oil bills, for a total of $1.3 billion in savings over the next decade through installation of energy efficiency measures using funding from RGGI auction proceeds to date
  • Reduced demand for fossil fuels keeps more than $765 million in the local economy

Power plant owners experience $1.6 billion in lower revenue over time, although they overall had higher revenues than costs as a result of RGGI during the 2009-2011 period.

The new study offers a taste of what California, which just unanimously approved its cap-and-trade program that goes into effect in 2013, can look forward to.  The Golden State has already experienced a dramatic increase in clean technology investments and jobs in the five years since our climate change law passed.

 

Posted in Cap and trade, Climate, Jobs| Comments closed

Momentum building for California's cap-and-trade program

Late last month, a story in Reuters' Point Carbon ran under the headline, "California Governor Backs Carbon Market." The state’s Air Resources Board recently completed a legal analysis comparing cap-and-trade with other alternatives. The board will vote on the analysis at its August 24 hearing and is widely expected to reaffirm cap-and-trade as the “preferred regulatory approach over a carbon tax or a mix of policies.” 

Other recent developments further bolster the case for cap-and-trade.  A study and article in the Energy Journal entitled, "Inducing Clean Technology in the Electricity Sector: Tradable Permits or Carbon Tax Policies?", favorably compares cap-and-trade to a carbon tax.

The study conducted by UC-Merced and the University of New South Wales found that cap-and-trade will “trigger adoption of clean technologies at a considerably lower level of carbon prices” compared with a tax system. The authors used various models to test a scenario in which a small firm that owns a coal-fired plant considers investing in clean technology to provide electricity for its customers.

A savvy climate blogger who writes for Grist covered the study under the headline, "Cap-and-trade could spur faster cleantech investment than carbon tax." He concludes that clean tech investment happens faster in the short term when you have a cap-and-trade system in place, in part because volatility in future permit prices will likely induce suppliers (such as the owner of the coal-fired power plant) to take early actions to hedge against carbon risks.

A second piece, "The case for cap-and-trade", was published by the Property and Environment Research Center. It made the point that, “Reducing excessive pollution is a legitimate purpose of government, but the guiding principle should be to do so in the least obtrusive, least heavy-handed way possible.” The authors point out that market-based approaches have three advantages over command-and-control regulations:

  1. They create flexibility in who cuts pollution. Industrial facilities that find it easy to reduce emissions can save money by making extra cuts and selling unused pollution rights, while those facing steep abatement costs can pollute more.
  2. Market-based approaches create flexibility in how cuts are made. Plant managers, who know their business better than anybody in Washington, are given freedom to make the cuts however they choose. 
  3. Market-based approaches create incentives for entrepreneurs to find ways to reduce pollution more efficiently.

The article ends by saying that, “Whatever their feelings about applying it to carbon, conservatives and free market liberals alike can cheer the cap-and- trade approach to pollution as a victory for their ideals.”

California’s cap-and-trade system, which begins in 2013, applies many of these lessons and should serve as the model for innovative, market-based environmental policies in the future. California officials recently pushed back enforcement of the cap-and-trade by one year, giving the state more time to hone the regulation while keeping its environmental and economic goals (and resulting benefits) completely intact.

Posted in Cap and trade, Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32| Comments closed

EDF’s Take on Friday's Ruling in California’s Cap-and-trade Lawsuit

Key Takeaways 

  • The court’s decision confirms that CARB has the legal authority to implement AB 32 Scoping Plan measures, including cap-and-trade, which is the cornerstone of the program and key to reducing pollution.  
  • EDF is confident that any further actions by the Petitioners and the State will be consistent with their goal of keeping AB 32 moving forward and achieving its goals.

Last Friday, a Superior Court judge in San Francisco issued a “Statement of Decision” requiring California to stop implementing its climate law, AB 32, until additional Environmental Quality Act work is completed and approved by the Court.

The decision supported certain assertions by the defendants, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), and assertions made by plaintiffs (the Association of Irritated Residents and other groups). 

In support of CARB’s defense of AB 32, the judge found that the state had the legal authority to determine what measures to pursue, including cap-and-trade, as part of the Scoping Plan developed to meet the law’s emissions reductions goals. It also found the state performed a sufficient analysis on the potential impacts of Scoping Plan measures. 

In support of the plaintiffs, the court reiterated concern with the length and breadth of the documents developed to assess alternatives to the cap-and-trade program, and that CARB began “implementing” the program through public workshops while comments to the program were still being considered. 

These concerns over the state’s procedure serve as the basis for a court order that commands CARB “to set aside its certification of the FED (CEQA Functional Equivalency Document) and enjoining any further implementation of the measures contained in the Scoping Plan…” until a new document is written, approved by the board and submitted to and approved by the court.

So what’s next? It is likely that a Writ of Mandate will be filed within 10 days of Friday’s decision. The Writ is the plaintiffs’ interpretation of the decision and will include their preferred remedies.

The judge will then decide on the final remedy. Any appeal to that decision would have to be filed within 60 days from the date the decision was entered. 

It is unclear exactly what the court-ordered remedy will consist of and whether it will affect all work on measures to reduce greenhouse gas pollution; most likely it will not. It is clear from examining arguments of both parties before the Court that CARB and the environmental justice groups bringing the action against the State are committed to improving California’s environment and fighting climate change and do not intend to bring AB 32 work to a halt.

EDF expects that the parties will work to narrow the remedy so that CARB can proceed with some or most of the work to implement AB 32 while a new analysis is finalized and approved by the Court. Such a narrowing of the Writ is possible under California Public Resources Code 21168.9(b) and will be critical to ensuring that CARB can pursue a plan that protects public health, grows the state’s clean energy economy and reduces pollution. 

Although the parties are the best arbiters of their legal strategy, either party can appeal Friday’s decision. As a general rule, for cases of this type in California, a lower court decision is immediately stayed (barred from being implemented) pending the outcome of the appeal – meaning more legal back-and-forth could be in the works. 

Stay tuned.  We will keep you posted.

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Litigation| Comments closed

Attacks on Clean Air Act Threaten Healthy Air for America and California’s Environmental Leadership

Would Stop Clean Cars Program, Put Pollution Reduction Goals at Risk and Threaten State’s Communities

Attacks on America’s landmark clean air law intensified on Wednesday in Washington D.C. The U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Power Subcommittee held its first hearing on a draft bill to undermine the country’s Clean Air Act.

The attacks take direct aim at California’s long-standing clean cars program – vital clean air measures that have protected California’s health and environment for more than 40 years.  

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) — and a companion version of the bill in the Senate sponsored by Jim Inhofe (R-OK) — would strip the Environmental Protection Agency’s planned update to improve the act’s pollution limits by addressing greenhouse gases (GHG).  

Among other things, the bill would:

  • Overturn the EPA’s independent scientific determination that greenhouse gas pollution endangers human health;
  • Overturn the Supreme Court’s finding affirming that the EPA has the authority and responsibility to regulate those emissions,
  • Block EPA’s measures to require the nation’s largest industrial emitters to deploy cost-effective pollution mitigation at the time of construction or modernization; and
  • Prohibit the EPA from requiring additional GHG reductions from motor vehicles and repeal California’s long-standing authority to regulate these harmful emissions.

What hasn’t been reported so far is the blow this legislative attack would have on California’s successful environmental leadership, a record that has delivered tremendous health and economic benefits to Californians and to all Americans.   

Many of the folks I’ve spoken with believe that environmental attacks in D.C. won’t really impact California since we have our own air pollution limits and groundbreaking environmental standards. In this particular case, unfortunately, they’re wrong. 

If this bill becomes law, California will be prohibited from limiting global warming pollution from vehicles, which accounts for nearly 40 percent of the state’s emissions. Blocking California’s ability to reduce pollution within its borders would mean:

  • more pollution;
  • less fuel efficiency in cars and trucks; and
  • sagging demand for innovative hybrids and electric vehicles.

This would cripple California’s ability to cut pollution to 1990 levels by 2020 as required by the state’s landmark clean energy and climate change law, AB 32.  It would also mean importing more oil from unstable and unfriendly governments, and forcing California drivers to pay more at the pump.

James Goldstene, executive officer of California’s Air Resources Board (CARB), the primary agency charged with protecting the state’s air quality and overseeing implementation of AB 32 testified at yesterday’s congressional hearing. He said that California has established pollution standards for new vehicles sold in the state since the 1960s. Since the 1980s, each successive California standard has gone on to become the national standard.

“Preempting the authority for EPA to regulate the emissions of vehicles would rob this country of one of its most powerful tools not just to reduce carbon pollution, but also to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and to save consumers money. And every dollar not spent on foreign oil is a dollar spent here.”

Last year, the EPA adopted the first national greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and light trucks for model year 2012-2016 vehicles. These were based on California’s standards, which 13 other states had adopted. They are expected to improve fuel efficiency by about five percent annually, reduce fleet-wide greenhouse gases 21 percent by 2030 and save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the vehicles sold under the program.

Upton’s bill “changes the manner in which motor vehicles have been regulated in the United States for 40 years” and would prohibit the EPA and California from establishing new tailpipe emissions standards and from making further revisions to the standards announced last year.

As EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson noted in her testimony at the hearing, Chairman Upton’s draft bill would eliminate portions of the Clean Air Act that “saves millions of American children and adults from the debilitating and expensive illnesses that occur when smokestacks and tailpipes release unrestricted amounts of harmful pollution into the air we breathe.”

Last year alone, EPA’s implementation of the act:

  • saved more than 160,000 American lives;
  • avoided more than 100,000 hospital visits;
  • prevented millions of cases of respiratory illness, including bronchitis and asthma;
  • enhanced American productivity by preventing millions of lost workdays; and
  • kept American kids healthy and in school.

According to Jackson, it also contributed to dynamic growth in our domestic clean tech industry, which in 2008, generated nearly $300 billion in revenues and $44 billion in exports.

Californians pride themselves on their state’s innovation. If we want to continue this leadership role, Upton’s bill, and other like-minded attacks, must be defeated.

EDF will continue working with our allies to protect the Clean Air Act, which an overwhelming majority of Americans and tens of thousands of businesses support–for good reason.

Posted in Climate, Politics| Comments closed

Just Under the Wire–Court Lifts Restraining Order Against CEC

The California Court of Appeal Fourth District has just lifted a restraining order that would have prevented California's Energy Commission (CEC) from distributing $33 million in federal stimulus money that was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Today’s decision in favor of the CEC protects critical funding for "Energy Upgrade California,” an energy efficiency (EE) retrofit program that will help create jobs, save people money and protect the environment. The CEC  restraining order would have blocked money for this comprehensive, statewide energy efficiency and renewable energy building improvement program sponsored by the PUC, utilities and local governments.

Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council publicly warned that the program needed to proceed as planned, cautioning that, if California loses the money, we all lose out. We also filed a brief in the California Court of Appeals in Riverside County asking the court to hear an emergency petition by the CEC to lift the restraining order. 

The court’s action will help bolster California’s clean energy economy by paving the way for a groundbreaking retrofit program that creates jobs and reduces pollution while putting money in the hands of consumers and small businesses through lower energy bills.

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate| Comments closed

California Clean Tech Leadership: A Success Story under Siege

If there was a public policy that could create jobs, reduce our dependence on oil, save individuals and businesses money on their energy bills and reduce pollution, would you support it? 

Well, there is and you can: California’s clean energy policy. 

While most states in the U.S. have passed policies to grow their clean energy sectors, California has easily been the most visionary. Who wouldn’t want to be America’s leader in this booming global market? States across the country are looking to supplant California as the leader in this growing new economy. 

The capstone of California’s approach is its landmark climate policy—AB 32—that has delivered to it the lion’s share of economic rewards in the form of business investment and energy-related financial savings.

That is the finding of a new report released this week by the Cleantech Group, California in Perspective: A Review of State Energy Policies and Their Impact on High Growth Cleantech Markets. 

Here are the CliffsNotes: 

  • In the four years since AB 32 passed, California has distinguished itself as the domestic market leader in clean tech, a global industry that is expected to grow from $10 billion this year to $80 billion in 2020.
  • Since 2006, California clean tech companies have reaped 40% of all dollars that went into market categories related to AB 32: renewable energy; energy efficiency; cleaner vehicles and low-carbon transportation fuels.

The report concludes that, ‘If California’s clean energy policies remain in place, we can assume that leading venture-backed states like California will receive an outsized portion of market share in these large clean energy markets going forward to 2020.’ 

All of this will be at risk if Prop 23 passes in November. Prop 23 is backed by two Texas-based oil companies that are spending millions to kill California’s clean energy and clean air standards so that they can continue polluting, kill competition and jobs from our clean tech companies and keep us addicted to dirty fossil fuels. 

To ensure we maintain and increase our market leadership—and deliver a higher quality of life to those who live and work here—California voters should vote 'no' on Prop 23 and support clean energy and air policies that benefit not only our economy but our environment as well.

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Politics| Comments closed

California’s Climate War: Far From Quiet on the Western Front

Federal climate legislation is on the shelf for at least this year, making California’s AB 32 the most significant U.S. effort to cut global warming pollution. 

This means polluters—especially oil and coal companies that have been fighting clean energy for years—are spending millions to derail it.

We’ve been seeing this for decades in Washington and in international venues. Few have a keener or more insightful perspective on this history than Eric Pooley, who will be in Sacramento tomorrow to discuss his acclaimed new book The Climate War: True Believers, Power Brokers and the Fight to Save the Earth.  

Pooley’s book takes readers on a multi-year journey on the front lines with climate warriors such as EDF’s Fred Krupp, former Vice President Al Gore and the sometimes edgy, always enigmatic CEO of Duke Energy, Jim Rogers.  

The story is as tantalizing as it is timely: Californians head to the polls in five weeks to vote on Proposition 23, the polluter-funded initiative to suspend AB 32.  The initiative’s main backers—Valero, Tesoro and the billionaire Koch Brothers—known as the Toxic Triplets, were dealt a big blow last week when gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman came out and opposed it. Still, these deep-pocketed polluters will spend millions on ads between now and Election Day to try and win this war.

Eric will read from and discuss The Climate War tomorrow from 8:30 to 10:00 a.m. at a breakfast co-sponsored by EDF and the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies (CEERT) at CEERT’s office, 1100 11th Street, Suite 311, in Sacramento.  For information or to RSVP, please contact me at dbwalker@edf.org.

Pooley will also be the special guest speaker at a California Air Resources Board event later tomorrow.

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Holding Steady: Majority of Californians Support Clean Energy, Climate Plan

The results are in from the 10th Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll on Californians and the Environment.

Despite economic conditions, Golden State residents overwhelmingly support the state's clean energy and clean air measure. What’s more, they strongly believe that aggressively pursuing cleaner energy and environmental protection is a ‘win-win’ proposition that will create jobs.  Twice as many respondents predict that AB 32, California's landmark Global Warming Solutions Act, will create rather than cost jobs.    

Two thirds support AB 32, which is no surprise given Californians’ deeply held environmental values coupled with the job growth and investments flowing into start-up companies across the state.

Support for AB 32 has held steady over the last two years. This is good news for those who support it and bad news for the Texas oil companies bankrolling Proposition 23. Considered by many to be the battle royal among November’s initiatives, this cynical effort to kill our clean energy and air quality programs appears headed for defeat, if these numbers are any indication. The message is clear—we don’t want out-of-state polluters to slow our booming green economy and keep us addicted to their dirty, polluting products.  

Californians do want AB 32, believing it is key to getting people working on energy solutions to increase our independence, help us compete in a trillion dollar global market and protect public health and our way of life. 

See you at the polls in November.

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Politics| 1 Response, comments now closed