California Dream 2.0

Four Powerhouse Bills to Help California get to 50 Percent Renewable Energy

2000px-Seal_of_California.svgCalifornia 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 »

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A Secret Ingredient in the Climate Action Arsenal

Erica Morehouse photoIt’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 »

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From Sea to Shining Sea: Cap-and-trade Programs Showing Success on Both Coasts

rp_KHK-picture-200x300.jpgWhen 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 »

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California’s “Grand Experiment” in Climate Policy is Working

jorge-mardridSometimes 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 »

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To Meet Methane Emissions Duty, California Must Look Beyond its Own Borders

By: Tim O’Connor, Director of California Climate Initiative, and Amanda Johnson, Legal Fellow

Methane MoleculeCalifornia is in the midst of multiple regulatory efforts to reduce methane emissions from natural gas and oil operations throughout the state. It’s a key opportunity to make a real dent in the state’s climate impact since methane, the primary component of natural gas, packs over 84 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after it is released unburned.

Methane emissions in-state and out of state

One of the key efforts going on in the state is the development of new rules by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to reduce methane emissions from natural gas transmission, distribution, and storage, the systems that deliver gas to homes and businesses. And, at the California Air Resources Board (CARB), a new statewide plan to cut short lived climate pollutants from sources across the state is in development, as are new regulations to reduce emissions from oil and natural gas production, processing, and storage in California. Read More »

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This Oil Industry “Recycling” is bad for the Environment

rp_Tim-OConnor-Nov-2014-214x300.jpgEarlier this year in Oregon, as they did in California several years ago, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), together with American Trucking Alliance (ATA) and Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), filed a federal lawsuit to try and derail a cutting-edge, scientifically-based, and legally sound clean fuel standard. Not discouraged by their recent losses challenging California’s clean fuels program (the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, or LCFS) in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and U.S. Supreme Court, the plaintiffs have proceeded with nearly identical constitutional law arguments – simply recycling issues and claims that were rejected many months ago.

Like the California LCFS, the Oregon Clean Fuels Program reduces the carbon intensity of transportation fuels by requiring fuel sold in state to have reduced lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Compliance is based on the schedule developed by the Oregon Department of Environmental Protection and designed to spur innovation in the fuel sector, as the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard has already done. The fuels program itself does not choose a formula for carbon reduction, but allows the market to find the best path forward.

A significant portion of Oregon’s climate pollution comes from the use of gasoline and diesel in transportation, as it does in many other U.S. states, and it’s high time for Oregonians to have access to cleaner burning, lower carbon alternative fuels. Once in use, these alternatives not only cut climate pollution, they also deliver reduced emissions of multiple air contaminants that damage the health of the public while also improving energy security. In light of these substantial benefits to the people and economy of Oregon, on March 12, 2015, Governor Kate Brown signed a bill passed by the state legislature that removes the sunset date established in the 2009 law, allowing the Oregon Clean Fuels Program to move forward unimpeded. Read More »

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