California Dream 2.0

The New Fall Crop for Rice Farmers: Carbon Offsets

rp_robert-200x300.jpgThis September, a new crop will be made available to rice producers: carbon offsets.

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) took another important step forward last week when it published the latest draft standard for the development of carbon offsets. The standard lays out the steps a producer needs to take in order to sell his new crop. Once it is approved, producers will be able grow and sell it as a new revenue stream.

So how does this work?

Rice fields are flooded as a part of growing this worldwide staple. It’s necessary for its growth. However, when water comes in contact with organic matter, the organic matter decomposes, generating methane – a strong greenhouse gas. By reducing the amount of methane generated through rice cultivation, a farmer can generate a carbon credit that can be sold to companies to offset their carbon emissions.

What are the practices that produce credits? Read More »

Posted in Climate, Sustainable Agriculture | Tagged , , | 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

Fertilizer-Efficiency Credits Seed the Market for Agricultural Offsets

Robert ParkhurstFertilizer use is key to increasing the productivity necessary for farms to feed rising populations.  However, not using the right amount in the right place at the right time is one of the biggest threats to a stable climate. Nitrogen fertilizer not used by crops emits nitrous oxide, a heat-trapping gas 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. It also contaminates water supplies, causes algae blooms downstream and erodes soil health.

So, it was welcome news last week when the first greenhouse gas credits for fertilizer efficiency made their debut in the North American carbon market.

The American Carbon Registry issued the credits to Myron Ortner, a central Michigan farmer who voluntarily reduced nitrous oxide emissions from his crops by modifying his fertilizer use. Working closely with researchers at Michigan State University, Ortner tested fertilizer inputs on a 40-acre plot where he grows corn and soybeans in rotation. In an interview with Scientific American, he said he’s down to using 135 pounds of fertilizer per acre, less than the average 200.

"I found out we can use less nitrogen and get away with it through those studies," Ortner told the publication. "I want a few more years on it before I'm going to commit all my acres to it, but I don't think I've lost any yield by doing what we're doing." Read More »

Posted in Climate, Ecosystem Services, Sustainable Agriculture | Tagged , , | Comments closed

The cheapest way to cut climate pollution? Energy efficiency

This blog post was co-authored by Kate Zerrenner, an EDF project manager and expert on energy efficiency and climate change.

On June 2, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made a historic announcement that will change how we make, move and use electricity for generations to come.

For the first time in history, the government proposed limits on the amount of carbon pollution American fossil-fueled power plants are allowed to spew into the atmosphere.

There are two clear winners to comply with the plan while maintaining commitment to electric reliability and affordability: energy efficiency and demand response.

We’re already seeing pushback from some of our nation’s big polluter states, such as West Virginia and Texas. But the truth is that while the proposed limits on carbon are strong, they’re also flexible.

In fact, the EPA has laid out a whole menu of options in its Clean Power Plan – from power plant upgrades, to switching from coal to natural gas and adopting more renewable energy resources. States can choose from these and other strategies as they develop their own plans to meet the new standards. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Energy, Energy Efficiency, Smart Grid | 1 Response, comments now closed

These women won't let the clean energy revolution pass their city by

WIPThis is the third in a series of posts about leading women in the power, environmental science, advocacy, policy, and business sectors. Each entry stands on its own, and you can view the first post here.

For many communities across the country that remain overburdened with pollution, the promise of clean energy and livable cities is far from fulfilled. From Los Angeles to Atlanta, people aspire to live in clean, vibrant environments where their children can grow up healthy and safe.Women often play a unique role in grassroots organizing, and they gain followers by connecting people’s aspiration for a more thriving community with the vision for a low-carbon, sustainable economy. I recently met two such activists who possess the passion, charisma, and savvy needed to make sure that their communities are not left out of the clean energy revolution. They work tirelessly to bring the benefits and opportunities of this rapidly growing economy to the places where they live.
Working for environmental justice in Los Angeles

A section of a Keep Pacoima Beautiful mural that pictures solar cells behind a bright light bulb that doubles as the sun

Veronica Padilla, executive director of Pacoima Beautiful, has dedicated her career to the nexus between urban planning and environmental justice in the industrial suburbs of Los Angeles’s Northeast San Fernando Valley, one of the most polluted regions of the state.

Veronica’s journey as an advocate for her community began with a move across town to study at University of California-Los Angeles, where she quickly observed a significant decline in “graffiti and allergies.”

Through her studies and own personal experience, Veronica began to identify just how disproportionately her community was affected by pollution because of how industrial facilities had been sited – near homes and schools. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Energy Efficiency | Comments closed

California and Quebec: Friends in Low (Carbon) Places

KHK pictureA crucial feature of the U.S. EPA’s groundbreaking new Clean Power Plan for existing power plants is the flexibility with which states can pick and choose the emission reduction measures that work best for them. Instead of prescribing a silver bullet solution across all fifty states, the new rule allows each state to tailor its policies, resulting in the most cost-effective solution to climate change.

According to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, this flexibility can mean collaborating with others in joint programs: “If states don’t want to go it alone, they can hang out with other states and join up with a multi-state market based program, or make new ones.”

For states thinking about cross-border collaborations to comply with the new rule, they can find a promising example in California.

In an announcement today, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and the Fight against Climate Change (MDDLECC) of Quebec revealed that the two markets are taking the final step in linking their markets with the initiation of joint auctions. The first will be held in November, following a practice auction to be held in August. The practice auction will allow the program regulators, as well as auction participants, to get comfortable with the updated joint auction platform.

Not only is the Golden State leading the way in transitioning to a low-carbon economy ahead of EPA’s recently-announced power plant standards, but California is forging ahead to show that working across state lines on climate policies is possible – and can be productive. Read More »

Posted in Cap and trade, Cap-and-trade auction, Clean Energy, Linkage | Comments closed

EPA Hands Over the Keys with Clean Power Plan, California Already on Cruise Control

rp_dWalker.jpgEPA’s Clean Power Plan, proposed today, is a roadmap for cutting dangerous pollution from power plants, and as with any map, there are many roads to follow. For this journey, states are in the driver’s seat and can steer themselves in the direction most beneficial to their people and to the state’s economy, as long as they show EPA they are staying on the map and ultimately reaching the final destination.

As usual, California got off to a head start, explored the territory, blazed a lot of new trails, and left a number of clues on how states can transition to a lower carbon future, and California’s successes are one proven, potential model for other states to follow. The state’s legacy of clean energy and energy efficiency progress is a big reason the White House and EPA could roll out the most significant national climate change action in U.S. history.

Way back in the mid-1970s, when Governor Jerry Brown did his first tour of duty, California pioneered what remains one of the most effective tools for cutting pollution and saving money:  energy efficiency. The state’s efficiency standards, largely aimed at buildings and appliances, have saved Californians $74 billion and avoided the construction of more than 30 power plants. All those energy savings have translated into California residential electricity bills that are 25% lower than the national average.  What’s more, California produces twice as much economic output per kilowatt hour of electricity usage as the national average.

While energy efficiency has done yeoman’s work pulling costs down, reducing the need for dirty energy, and supercharging the state’s clean energy economy, California has also brought bold approaches to cleaning up its power supply. The California Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requires 33% of all electricity sold in California to come from renewable sources by 2020, the most aggressive of the 29 states with RPS measures on the books. Read More »

Posted in Cap and trade, Clean Energy, Climate, Energy Efficiency, General, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32 | 1 Response, comments now closed

No Water Means No Beer, and Other Insights from an LA Water Conference

rp_Emily-Reyna-300dpi-716x1024.jpgBeer lovers – now that I have your attention – let’s talk water. Nowhere in the country is water more critical an issue and looming risk than in my home state of California… critical to farmers, utilities, businesses, and yes, even breweries. 

The current drought has brought a host of challenges for our growing state, including more wildfires, collapsing delta ecosystems and fisheries, decaying infrastructure and declining water quality. While California is on track to reduce carbon pollution due to our progressive climate and energy policies, our water challenges are the elephant in the room.

So it was inspiring to attend a daylong event convened by the Pacific Institute in Los Angeles, where leading corporate, nonprofit and technical water experts honed in on water stewardship and shared innovative solutions to the business and environmental challenges we face with regard to water scarcity.

The companies represented there – including AT&T, Deloitte, MillerCoors and Veolia – see water scarcity as a current business risk, as well as a critical component to economic growth in California, the Colorado River Basin and around the world. The World Economic Forum even ranked water crises as the third most pressing global risk for 2014. “Often, the greatest risks come from conditions over which the company has the least influence,” noted Jason Morrison of the Pacific Institute, whose Water Action Hub offers a powerful guide with tools and resources for collective action.

The day’s far-reaching discussion would be impossible to capture in a single blog post, so I'll highlight here just a few of the challenges and solutions that stuck with me after a full day of information sharing. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency | Comments closed

The United States Supreme Court Hears the Other Side of the Story on California’s Cleaner Fuels Policy

rp_OCONNOR-PHOTO-MAY-20121-200x300.jpgYesterday, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and the Conservation Law Foundation filed a brief in opposition to March 2014 petitions for Supreme Court review in American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers Association v. Corey and Rocky Mountain Farmers Union v. Corey, cases in which oil and ethanol companies attack the constitutionality of California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS).

The LCFS, adopted under California’s trail blazing Global Warming Solutions Act, is a central contributor in the effort to move the transportation system away from the current paradigm of unsustainable global warming pollution, foreign energy dependence, and community-choking air pollution. The LCFS works by putting market incentives in place that encourage the production and use of low carbon fuels that were not prevalent when the program went into effect.  It is projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from California’s use of transportation fuels by 16 million metric tons per year by 2020.

As we have explained in prior posts here and here about this important case, the challengers in the litigation have argued that the LCFS discriminates against ethanol and oil coming from outside of California and that it attempts to regulate actions occurring outside the state in violation of the U.S. Constitution's Dormant Commerce Clause. A panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected these arguments in September 2013. In their March 2014 petitions, the industry challengers seek Supreme Court review of the appeals court’s decision. The Supreme Court’s decision on whether to take the case could come as early as late June. Read More »

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