Author Archives: Erica Morehouse

Supreme Court’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard decision: a victory for energy independence

By Erica Morehouse and Larissa Koehler

On this 4th of July week, a time of celebratory fireworks and barbeques, Americans commemorate our country’s hard-fought independence from colonial oppression. Americans are again working for greater independence, this time from fossil fuels that threaten our health, economic prosperity, and future. This week California won a pivotal legal challenge on this front.

Source: Flickr/johnkay

Source: Flickr/johnkay

Just three days ago, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). The Rocky Mountain Farmer’s Union and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers were seeking to overturn the sound and well-reasoned decision from the 9th Circuit. The High Court’s refusal affirms the legality of a vital policy that decreases our reliance on foreign oil by promoting alternative sources of energy while reducing climate and air pollution from our vehicles.

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

California’s Cap and Trade a Versatile Tool for Environmental Policies

rp_erica-morehouse-287x377-228x3001.jpgGovernor Brown signed a budget last week that lays out for the first time how to invest the millions from California’s landmark cap-and-trade program ($734 million so far). California has shown another way that cap-and-trade is like the Swiss army knife of environmental policies: a versatile tool known for its usefulness and adaptability.

A Multi-faceted Investment Portfolio

California will invest $850 million over the next year to reduce dangerous climate pollution, a portfolio of investments that will benefit almost every part of California’s economy, going to low-carbon and public transportation, weatherization and energy efficient buildings, water efficiency, waste diversion, and natural resources like urban forests. Substantial investments, at least 25% of the total, will be directed to benefit disadvantaged communities most likely to be impacted first, and worst, by climate change.

Research has shown that the green economy is a solid investment since it already grows faster and is more resilient than traditional economic sectors (the San Joaquin Valley saw a 133% growth in employment in seven “green economy” sectors between 1995 and 2010). The budget also creates long-term guidelines for investing in the green economy as the stream of revenue grows in coming years.

Where the Revenue Comes From

California already limits, or “caps,” total carbon pollution from industries like cement manufacturers and food processors, as well as utility companies. Next year, the cap will expand to include transportation fuels and natural gas providers– two of the biggest polluting sectors in the state. The dollars California is investing are generated by holding these polluters accountable for their impact on the environment. Read More »

Posted in Auction revenue, Cap and trade, Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32| 1 Response, comments now closed

To stay at the head of the class, California must focus on 2030 pollution goal

rp_erica-morehouse-287x377-228x3001.jpgTo be a class valedictorian, you can’t get an A on just one or two tests, or even in just the first quarter of a school year; being at the top means a concerted, continuous effort over the long-term.

For California to continue to be at the ‘head of the class’ on climate leadership, it must move forward on setting climate pollution reduction goals through 2030.

AB 32, the state’s landmark climate law, passed in 2006 and established a statewide emissions goal of reducing climate pollution to 1990 levels by 2020. California is well on the way to meeting that goal through a suite of policies, including cap and trade, which puts an absolute limit on this harmful pollution.

California was ahead of the curve, having passed a law in 2006 to stop unlimited climate pollution in the state. And since 2009 — spurred by AB 32 policies and a guarantee of reductions over a decade into the future — venture capital investments in California’s green sectors have grown by over 30 percent.

State legislators in California did not know what the energy landscape would look like in 2020 when they passed AB 32, but they set a goal and the state’s strong policies have helped to drive the growth of low-carbon energy sources around the country. For example, solar power generation in California has almost doubled in the last year, the cost of solar panel nationwide dropped 75% per watt from 2008-2011, and wind power generation has more than tripled in that time. Read More »

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

Transportation fuel policies continue to benefit drivers and communities across California

rp_erica-morehouse-287x377-228x300.jpgCalifornia is implementing a suite of innovative transportation policies and there is ample evidence illustrating how drivers and communities across the state will benefit.

One critical piece of research is the First Update to the AB 32 Scoping Plan released by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) yesterday. The Board will vote on whether to approve the updated Plan next week. We've blogged here, here, and here about how the Plan recommends smart 2030 targets, positions California as a continuing leader on climate action, provides enhanced economic opportunity, and recommends new efforts to reduce short lived climate pollutants.

One of the most significant elements is the amount of money drivers will save because of the policies that CARB has so carefully planned for and implemented.  CARB's own analysis shows that existing policies will reduce fuel costs for drivers by over $400 per year by 2020 (from 2012 levels) and by just over $600 by 2030.

 

Source: First Update to the Climate Change Scoping Plan

Source: First Update to the Climate Change Scoping Plan

There is a growing body of work that supports and enhances CARB's finding that Californians will see overall benefits. Read More »

Posted in Cap and trade, Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Low Carbon Fuel Standard, Transportation| 3 Responses, comments now closed

For Landmark Climate Change Law to Work, California Must Stay the Course

rp_erica-morehouse-287x377-228x300.jpgFor months, EDF has been reporting on the exciting conversations happening at the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the Governor's office on the impressive progress California is making towards meeting its AB 32 climate protection goals and on what comes next for the state beyond 2020.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of continuing the dialogue as I testified in support of the AB 32 Scoping Plan Update before the California Assembly’s Natural Resources Committee. While some have recently debated the benefits of AB 32 and its cornerstone cap and trade program, most Californians recognize the benefits that the landmark law has delivered since its adoption in 2006, as well as the progress it promises with continued support from state leaders.

As the rest of the nation (and the world) eyes California, it is imperative that we remain focused on sustaining and strengthening the world’s most comprehensive climate change program,  and ensuring we remain on the path to reaching our 2020 and future greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. Read More »

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California and Quebec: A Partnership Par Excellence

rp_erica-morehouse-287x377-228x300.jpgOn Tuesday, the Canadian province of Quebec held its second cap-and-trade allowance auction.

Today, the results are in – and they’re encouraging.

99% of the current vintage year allowances and 84% of the future vintage year allowances offered for sale in this auction were purchased at the floor price of $11.39 CAD.  This is a significant increase from Quebec’s first action, which saw the sale of only 34% and 27% of current and future allowances, respectively.

These results reflect growing interest and demand in this burgeoning carbon market after it officially linked with California’s program at the beginning of 2014.

However, the results of Quebec’s auction are a bit different from the results we saw in California's sixth auction last month. Most notably, California’s auction saw higher demand for allowances, driving the settlement prices for both current and future allowances above those seen in Quebec’s auction.

So, why do these differences exist?  And what do the Quebec auctions actually tell us?  Read More »

Posted in Cap-and-trade auction results, General, Linkage| Comments closed

First Scoping Plan Update Lays Groundwork for a Low-Carbon Future

Erica Morehouse photoThe Proposed First Update to the AB 32 Scoping Plan (Proposed Update), released today by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), is a more focused and ambitious version of the document first released last fall that is part of a larger California climate strategy. Importantly, the Proposed Update continues to build a framework for significant post-2020 carbon pollution reductions needed for the state.

California is on the cutting edge of climate action but is not alone on the international stage when it comes to planning for the future. On January 22nd, the European Commission released a climate and energy plan proposing the EU reduce emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.  Last November, Mexico announced plans for a carbon tax that will include offsets.  And last summer, President Obama released a Climate Action Plan that builds on much of California's success especially in the areas of reducing emissions from cars and trucks and controlling emissions from new and existing power plants.

CARB’s Proposed First Scoping Plan Update:

Recommends smart 2030 targets

This Proposed Update recognizes that not only do we need to dramatically reduce carbon pollution in the first half of the 21st century, but with commitment and planning it is an attainable goal. Achieving an 80% reduction from 1990 levels by 2050 will mean California must slash emissions across the board and CARB is recommending that every sector explored – transportation, energy, waste, water, agriculture, and natural and working lands – should have a sector-specific target.  It's appropriate that California first focused on big emitting sectors like energy and transportation, but sectors like agriculture and working lands which are harder to regulate can't be ignored as we consider long-term reduction goals. These sector targets will serve as guides for cutting pollution, driving innovation, and spurring investment in California.

Positions California as an international leader and collaborator

The Proposed Update recognizes that in order to remain at the forefront of international leadership, California must continue to lead by planning for reductions after 2020 and by continuing collaborations with other states, provinces, and countries that are taking action on climate change.

The Proposed Update identifies international sectoral offsets, such as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), as a potential key opportunity for California to help curb deforestation, the cause of roughly 15% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, while efficiently meeting the state’s domestic emission reduction targets.  The state’s engagement on REDD, along with the ongoing collaborations with China, Mexico, and other U.S. states, is a building block of meaningful global climate leadership

Provides economic opportunity

The Proposed Update articulates how economic opportunity goes hand in hand with innovative environmental solutions. California has enjoyed a strong economic recovery during the first year of cap and trade, but the state isn’t turning a blind eye to the challenges that lie ahead. California needs significant innovation before we can reach our target of 80% reductions below 1990 levels by 2050. CARB’s plan will encourage new economic opportunities and ways to cost-effectively reduce carbon pollution such as: carbon capture and sequestration, expanding the electrification of our personal car fleet, and developing reliable electricity storage. We can expect to see growth in low-carbon sectors, new clean energy jobs, and auction proceeds investments that will further strengthen local communities and businesses.

Prioritizes emission reductions in uncapped sectors 

This plan brings needed attention to emission reductions in sectors not regulated by cap and trade such as agriculture, working lands, water, and waste, and recommends setting sector-specific targets. CARB identifies pragmatic policies for these uncapped sectors such as incentivizing the efficient use of fertilizers and reuse of organic materials. CARB should continue to promote these opportunities, and recognize that pragmatic working and natural lands policies will also provide co-benefits such as more efficient water use.

As the saying goes, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” CARB’s Proposed Update not only lays the groundwork for a low-carbon and clean-energy future, but points us towards strategic, and quantifiable, short and long-term goals – potential opportunities that will spark a much-needed conversation about what is possible as we approach 2030 and beyond.

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

A “Virtuous Cycle” of Low-Carbon Investments Especially for California's Most Disadvantaged Communities

Erica Morehouse photoCalifornians will see a “virtuous cycle” of low-carbon investments begin as cap-and-trade auction proceeds finally head out the door starting this summer.  This is the news from the Brown administration this week detailing how they propose to start investing dollars from 2014 carbon auctions while beginning to repay the $500 million borrowed last year.

We are especially excited to see that California's most disadvantaged communities — the ones that have suffered environmental burdens for years and will be hit hardest by climate change in the future — will see more than the mandated 25% of auction proceeds invested for their benefit.  Consistent with an investment plan released last year, there will be three major categories: sustainable communities and low-carbon transportation, energy efficiency and clean energy, and natural resources and waste diversion.   Clean transportation and sustainable communities will receive the largest chunk ($350 million) of the proposed $850 million investment.  This means we will see investments in solutions such as clean trucks and buses, electric vehicle rebates, zero-emission freight demonstration projects, and enhanced connectivity and modernization for public transit in disadvantaged communities.

Investments like these will create big wins for California’s most at-risk communities.

Consider this: Diesel trucks and buses are the single-largest source of toxic diesel pollution in the state, causing cancer, heart attacks, breathing emergencies, lost days at work, and even premature death.  Similarly, alternative personal vehicles like those with electric batteries can provide benefits to communities.  A recent study by ICF and an earlier study from UC Berkeley both showed significant benefits from investments in clean transportation and other low-carbon investments which include job creation, increased gross state product, and increases in personal incomes, not to mention indirect health care savings.

Why do we call this a “virtuous cycle” of investment?

The economic benefits are not simply the direct benefits you may think of first, such as job growth in areas like manufacturing and selling clean trucks, buses, and vehicles.  Research also shows that when you save $1 on energy costs — which would more than likely go to an international oil conglomerate — the benefit to the economy is $16.

How does this work?  Instead of sending those dollars overseas, you're most likely spending them in your community, on local products and services.

Today, Governor Brown committed to the first of many critical cap-and-trade investments in disadvantaged communities and cleaner options for Californians. With this new virtuous cycle of investment, we expect these and subsequent investments to pay dividends to the health of our citizens, our environment, and our economy for years to come.

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

The Winning Trilogy to California's Climate Approach: Research, Reduce and Adapt

Erica Morehouse photoNirvana, Lord of the Rings movies and a tasty BLT. Great things seem to come in threes – and California’s vigilant efforts to combat climate change are no exception.

With this week’s release of a major climate adaptation plan draft from California's Natural Resources Agency, the state continues to take bold steps to address climate change and cut pollution using a “research, reduce and adapt” approach.

The winning trilogy:

Conduct Thorough Research

As EDF knows, good policy is grounded in science. National and international reports warn us of the dire consequences of climate change, and on the local level, research shows California is particularly vulnerable to its impacts.  The first step in addressing any problem is gathering the facts, which is why reports from the Climate Action Team (CAT) dive into California specific climate impacts and science on mitigation and adaptation.

Another component of climate research is looking at the hard numbers. How much carbon pollution are large facilities in California emitting? This data is released annually by the Air Resources Board and the US EPA. As recent numbers show, emissions at most of these facilities have been decreasing since 2008, but the state still has a lot work to do to reduce its overall emissions, especially after the closing of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Once policy makers are armed with the science and hard data, they must take action. The CAT’s first report led to the passage of AB 32, California's Global Warming Solutions Act, which aims to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The 2008 Scoping Plan gave a broad overview of how California will use different policies to meet this target, and last month EDF and other stakeholders submitted comments to the 5 year update draft of the Scoping Plan.

This update noted that California is on track to meet its 2020 target, and that the state should focus on setting a new reduction target for 2030 that will set us on the path to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. A second draft of this updated Scoping Plan is expected in late January.

Adapt to a Changing Climate

While reducing emissions to avoid catastrophic effects is absolutely critical, climate change is now a reality and some costly and damaging impacts are unavoidable.  That’s why in 2009 California became the first state to develop a comprehensive plan for adapting and living with expected climate impacts including drought, wildfires, rising sea levels and water shortage.

The draft 5-year update of the adaptation plan, released this week, looks at the ways we will need to adapt to things like changing water patterns, more hot days and increased demand on our electricity system.  In addition, the Natural Resources Agency noted the need to better understand impacts on wildlife and habitats, and assess the adequacy of our emergency response systems.

While the science keeps evolving, the need for adaptation to increased impacts keeps growing. And until the global trajectory of carbon pollution reverses, we must continue to push for innovative emission reducing policies.

This trilogy of interlocking strategies — research, reduction and adaptation — provides California with a solid foundation to continue its groundbreaking leadership on climate change.

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

Long-Term Emission Reduction Goal Starts with Post-2020 Policies

Independent experts and leaders in California agree that the state is on track to meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gas pollution to 1990 levels by 2020.  That was one finding from a report released by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories (LBNL) today.  In this goal, California is somewhat like the weekend warrior, harboring dreams of running a marathon but focused on the immediate milestone just ahead – running a 5K next weekend.

Make no mistake, the Golden State has a bigger target on the horizon — reducing GHG pollution 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 – a marathon-like challenge that can seem daunting, especially to a state still in 5K mode, working to meet its more immediate 2020 goal.

Like any long-term training though, our would-be marathoner might first need to target their work outs toward running a half marathon.  Similarly, the California Air Resources Board and the Governor's Office of Planning and research have recently recommended that rather than focus on 2050, California should set a mid-term target for reducing pollution by 2030.

The LBNL report also demonstrates the wisdom of this approach.  The research looks at three policy scenarios and explores what reductions each would achieve: 1) policies California has already committed to i.e. those used to reach the 2020 target, 2) a suite of policies that reflects current proposals to strengthen existing policies and 3) strengthened scenario two policies plus likely technology upgrades like more electric vehicles and higher efficiency in cars and trucks.  The research found under the second and third scenarios, which are both considered realistic, emissions would decline by 32% or 50%, respectively, below 1990 levels by 2030. 2050 was not the focus of the study but the report did conclude that more would be needed beyond scenario three to meet the 2050 target.

The fact that reaching our 2050 target will be challenging shouldn't come as a surprise, just like it wouldn't be a surprise to find out that a new training regimen might be needed to run a marathon.  A 2011 study, by some of the same researchers, showed that California needs significant innovation before we can reach our 2050 target.  This effort to decarbonize our state may include technologies such as cost-effective carbon capture and sequestration, almost completely electrifying our personal car fleet, and developing reliable electricity storage.  It might seem like a lot now, but just think about all of the innovations we didn't have 30 years ago (the internet comes to mind) and more importantly, what critics said about the initial 2020 goals.

Like training for any long race, new research will help us focus on the magnitude of the challenges ahead.  This push will lead California and others to focus on policies that create and encourage innovations like the Low Carbon Fuel Standard and other clean energy policies.  This task also shows the importance of setting concrete intermediate goals showing where we want to be in 15 years.  And as we approach 2030, we can anticipate that innovation and an unwavering commitment to reducing greenhouse gas pollution will bring our 2050 targets into reach and get us past the finish line.

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