Cutting gas and diesel use in California has been a focus of Sacramento policy makers for years. After all, fuel combustion chokes our state with exhaust, releases a massive amount of global warming pollution, and undermines our economic security. And, at nearly 20 billion gallons of total use per year costing drivers over $50 billion a year – with much of the money flowing directly out of the state – it is no small challenge.
Despite many in-state efforts to cut gas and diesel use over the past decade, population and economic growth have erased many of the fuel use reductions achieved. This year, through dedication by Governor Brown and the legislature to fight climate change and make California stronger, there are promising solutions on the horizon. The solution making the biggest splash is SB 350 (De León) – a bill currently before the legislature – proposing (among other things) a statewide goal of 50 percent petroleum use reduction by the year 2030. With this ambitious goal, California can and will make real progress towards meeting its transportation needs using less oil for the years to come.
Understanding how California can meet a 50 percent petroleum use reduction goal by 2030, and why this goal is good for the state, hinges on four key concepts (explained in more detail here). Read More
California is deep into the dog days of summer, and pressure is mounting on the state’s electric grid to keep up with demand. Luckily, California’s legislature is working to bring more clean energy resources to the grid, diversifying how we power our homes and businesses while also improving the resiliency, efficiency, and carbon footprint of our energy system.
State lawmakers are directly addressing our dependence on polluting fossil fuels used to produce electricity. They are doing this by increasing California’s reliance on renewable energy, establishing energy efficiency resource standards, and providing certainty that California will meet its renewable energy and climate goals. The state’s current Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) has already achieved tremendous success in growing the market for renewables while bringing down associated costs. Building on this success, California’s legislature is currently undertaking four bills that will keep the state on a path to a reliable, affordable, and clean energy future – for the health of its citizens and economy. Read More
It’s summer time and many Americans are perfecting their grilling techniques and outdoor recipes. This week, EPA’s final Clean Power Plan rule is giving states a cupboard-full of ingredients to create signature recipes for climate action. The rule signals what the finished product must look like – the nation’s first limit on power plant pollution – but states can pick and choose elements that deliver the right combination of energy bill savings for customers, cleaner air, and clean energy investments. Fortunately, California and nine New England states (known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative or RGGI) have cooked up successful solutions in the past decade, implementing effective cap-and-trade programs that limit total pollution and demonstrate how strong climate action can stimulate economic growth.
California and RGGI have added a secret ingredient to their climate recipes, a catalyst that can not only drive further pollution reductions but can strengthen communities, create jobs, boost local economies, and improve health. Both programs are reinvesting dollars from the sale of carbon allowances (the currency of cap-and-trade that polluters must hold for every ton of pollution they emit) into further efforts to reduce climate pollution. Read More
When the preliminary plans for California’s cap-and-trade program were first introduced in 2010, it was quickly regarded as a groundbreaking policy due to its stringency, size, and scope. California was the ninth largest economy in the world – it has now jumped to eighth – and the Golden State’s program would soon implement the first economy-wide cap on greenhouse gas pollution in the country. But, it was not the first cap-and-trade program in the United States. In fact, ten states in the northeast had implemented the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in 2008. Like California’s program, the RGGI system places a mandatory cap on greenhouse gas emissions and sets a corresponding price on carbon, but covering only the electricity sector. Despite the difference in scope and location of these two programs, they are both demonstrating that carbon pricing through cap-and-trade is an effective way to decrease harmful greenhouse gas pollution while allowing the economy to grow.
A new report released this past Wednesday by the Acadia Center digs into the most recent data out of the RGGI system. According to the Acadia analysis, the RGGI states have decreased their emissions by 35 percent since the start of the program, while emissions from the 40 states unregulated by a cap only decreased by 12 percent over the same period. At the same time as emissions dropped, the RGGI state economies grew by 21 percent as compared to the non-capped states, which only saw an 18 percent growth in their economies. California has similarly been able to grow its economy impressively while implementing an aggressive cap on emissions. During the first year of the program, the Golden State moved from ninth to eight largest economy in the world, grew its GDP faster than the national average, and decreased capped emissions by four percent. Read More
Today, a group of major investors from across the country, who manage more than $1.5 trillion in assets, issued a letter calling for strong rules to limit harmful methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. Among them are California’s two biggest retirement funds – CalPERS and CalSTERS, which together manage nearly $500 billion in funds on behalf of approximately one and a half million members.
The powerful statement issued by the group of investors calls out the “serious threat” methane poses to climate stability, saying that it compelled them to support action on the issue to avoid near term threats to “infrastructure and economic harm that will weaken not only the companies we invest in, but the nation as a whole.”
California’s Leadership Role
Although the investors’ letter focuses on national rules, the relevance to California cannot be overlooked as the state has, over the past year, taken a leadership position on regulating harmful methane emissions from oil and gas operations. For example, California is currently developing new rules at the California Public Utilities Commissions (CPUC) to reduce methane emissions in the natural gas supply chain, and a new statewide plan and regulations are being developed at the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to limit methane emissions from oil and gas production. Read More
Sometimes we need to look back in order to see the road forward. Whenever I reflect on the success of California’s climate policies, I like to hop in my time machine and dial it all the way back to ancient history – circa 2010 – when I was a young staffer in Washington D.C. fresh out of grad school with big policy dreams and an even bigger student debt.
For climate advocates, they were the best of times, which quickly became the worst of times. In 2010 the Senate was considering a federal climate bill to finally reign in the carbon pollution driving climate change, while jump-starting a clean energy economy to help pull us out of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Visions of hope and change ran high.
But as history goes, the bill failed. Despite different accounts of how the story went down, all agree those were some dark days for the climate movement.
I was there to see it firsthand, and as dreams of big climate policy started to crumble, many advocates held on to one thought to keep us going: “At least we have California…” Read More