California Dream 2.0

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California’s Secret to Green Jobs and a Thriving Clean Economy? It’s Policy.

California has a thriving clean economy. In fact, the Golden State boasted more green jobs in clean energy and transportation last year than the other top 4 states combined, according to a new report by Environmental Entrepreneurs.

Here are some more highlights:

Innovation – The state is a hub for clean energy innovation. Clean technology patents grew by 26 percent in the past 2 years, outpacing the country and the rest of the world.   It is the “undisputed leader in solar technology patents” according to Next10.org, with totals greater than the cumulative solar patents of the next eight highest states. 

Energy Generation – Total renewable energy generation has grown 28 percent between 2007 and 2011 and wind energy has doubled during this same period.  Earlier this month, the state broke its own record for solar power – over 15,394 megawatt-hours of power to the grid, enough for every Californian to keep a 100-watt bulb lit for four hours.  Not to be outdone, the state also surpassed 4-gigawatts of wind power — similar to what California’s two nuclear plants can churn out at full power, or enough to momentarily supply over 2.5 million homes.

Jobs – Green jobs are growing four times faster than the rate of all other jobs nationwide, with the majority happening in California according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  EDF’s analysis of California’s clean economy finds that jobs in core sectors like energy efficiency, renewable energy, clean transportation, and advanced storage and materials have not only remained resilient during the worst of the Great Recession (2008-2010), they outpaced all other job growth and grew 109 percent from 1995 to 2010.

Green jobs are also good jobs in California.  They are diverse, across a wide range of education-level and skills, and almost half of all jobs in the clean economy don’t require a college degree according to the Brookings Institution.  On average, green jobs offer a higher median wage and career advancement opportunities. An analysis by Philip Romero, the former Dean of CSU Los Angeles College of Business and Economics finds that “workers command wages with a 50-to-100 percent premium over the average job,” and estimates that the overall clean economy will grow “by at least 60-to-100 percent” by the late 2030’s.

Something exciting is happening in California, and at this point you may be wondering what our secret is? 

It’s policy.   California boasts a legacy of innovation stemming from the state’s leadership in environmental policy – it happens here first and it transforms markets.  It is evidenced in everything from improved tailpipe emission standards and higher performing gas mileage in cars, greater efficiency in household appliances, and greener building practices that has transformed the sector and created hundreds of billions of dollars in economic value.  All these innovations started with policy

I believe good stuff can happen when you set clear policies that signal markets and influence behaviors.  There is a reason why 24 percent of hybrid and 32 percent of electric vehicles in the US are registered in California:  good policy that led to better cars and consumers who could see the improvement to their bottom line at the gas pump.  California leads in renewable energy, efficiency, and clean transportation in strong part because of strong policies like AB 32 which puts a price on carbon and sets a statewide Renewable Portfolio Standard, providing a clear market signal for greater investment in clean technology.

And by the way, someone local has to install all those solar panels and wind turbines, weatherize all those homes, as well as maintain and operate all those buses and rail cars – good jobs in the clean economy follow smart policy.

It turns out that California’s “secret” to growing green jobs and a thriving clean economy is not so secret at all…it’s good policy.

Posted in Clean Energy, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Jobs / Also tagged , , | Read 8 Responses

New study confirms cap-and-trade leads to low-cost pollution reductions

After hearing that his obituary was published in the New York Journal, Mark Twain was quoted as saying, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” 

A similar retort applies to media coverage of a recently released report that questioned the effectiveness of cap-and-trade policy, since the study actually found that federal programs to control sulfur oxides (SOx) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) achieved goals at lower than expected costs. 

In the study, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL) researcher Margaret Taylor found that greenhouse gas cap-and-trade programs do not necessarily induce the private sector to develop patents for innovative technologies to address climate change.  

Unfortunately for the study, the finding has been woefully misinterpreted and seized upon by those looking to undermine California’s plan to use cap-and-trade to cut climate pollution. David Roberts of Grist called the report’s announcement “a classic example of a press release overhyping and oversimplifying.” 

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the paper reaffirms the well-documented idea that cap-and-trade programs help companies meet emissions targets more cheaply than anticipated. The consequence, observed Taylor, was low allowance prices and a consequent decline in related patents.   

The key point of the paper though—and the main reason that this is a positive—is that cap-and-trade regulations keep pollution abatement costs low by encouraging program participants to find and adopt an unexpected range of approaches for reducing emissions.

Here are two key takeaways from Taylor’s paper:

  1. Reducing emissions more cheaply than expected goes hand-in-hand with faster-than-expected deployment of clean technologies and strategies.
  2. The flipside of low costs and rapid deployment means fewer new inventions and patents (a point Taylor emphasizes).

Overall, the report should be read as good news for California. As Taylor found, these approaches may not result in an onslaught of new patents but they are likely to cut pollution quickly and efficiently. Companies that are capped under California’s program can use industrial energy efficiency, building weatherization and fuel switching efforts to cut emissions.

We appreciate the spirit of Taylor’s inquiry. Yet, the question being asked isn’t the right one.  Rather than asking if a policy spurs measurable innovation in the face of climate change where action is unquestionably needed, the right question is, “does cap-and-trade show greater promise to spur low-cost solutions better than the alternatives?” 

The answer is a definitive “yes” when the cap-and-trade policy creates expectations of a nontrivial, persistent price on pollution. A recent story in Reuters stated that global warming is close to becoming irreversible if we don’t act now. California and economies around the world are acting by putting a price on carbon. This is the most environmentally and economically sensible approach to cutting emissions, which is key to helping us avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

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California Answers Obama’s Call to Seize Our Sputnik Moment

Yesterday’s launch of the “Clean Energy Jobs Initiative” by California’s Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez proved yet again that they are clean energy champions who understand that using smart energy investments, incentives and policies can accelerate the state’s economic recovery and growth.

California is known for innovating game-changing technologies and this initiative will help bolster its ability to compete for a leadership position in the fast-growing, multi-billion dollar clean energy market.

The legislative leaders’ new plan will fuel the fastest-growing economic sector: clean technology.  By increasing demand for renewable energy, expanding incentives for energy efficiency and training a vibrant, talented ‘green’ work force, the “Clean Energy Jobs Initiative” will grow the state’s economy and put more people to work. California already attracts 60 percent of all clean tech venture capital in North America. Over the last five years, more than $9 billion in venture capital has been invested here. The results are hundreds of thousands of new jobs, more than 10,000 companies, and an employment growth rate three times that of the state’s overall economy. These economic benefits are due, in large part, to the state’s landmark clean energy and climate law, AB 32, which passed in 2006.

What’s more, Steinberg and Perez are carrying out the will of the people: last November, Californians overwhelming endorsed the State’s leadership in building a 21st century clean energy economy by resoundingly defeating Proposition 23.  Our fellow citizens and Legislative leaders understand that you can have a strong economy while preserving clean air and healthy communities.

In President Obama’s recent State of the Union address, he highlighted our opportunity to unleash a wave of innovation that creates new industries and millions of new jobs. “This is our generation’s Sputnik moment,” he said, highlighting his plans to send Congress a budget that allows us to invest in, among other things, “clean energy technology, an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.”

By introducing this initiative, California’s legislative leadership is stepping up to seize our generation’s Sputnik moment.

Posted in Clean Energy, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Politics / Tagged | Comments are closed

The Dirty Air Act: An Attack on California’s Environmental Legacy

Any day now, the Senate will vote on Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski’s “Resolution of Disapproval.” During an interview this week with Betsy Rosenberg, host of Progressive Radio Network’s “On the Green Front,” I explained that environmental groups are deeply opposed to the bill, which would strip the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of all of its existing authority under the Clean Air Act to reduce carbon pollution. 

Talk about being on the wrong side of history. Amidst the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf and a national economic recession, the transition to a clean energy economy—and the jobs it will create—has never been more necessary or urgent.  

Passage of what’s come to be called the “Dirty Air Act” would be a disaster for our country, plain and simple. The bill takes a giant leap backward:  it would wipe out EPA’s scientific finding that greenhouse gases cause global warming and are a danger to public health–a finding that forms the legal basis for any further steps the EPA can take to address carbon pollution. 

It is also a slap in the face to California and an attack on our environmental legacy. Here’s why: it would dismantle one of President Obama’s major environmental accomplishments thus far—national vehicle efficiency and emissions standards that were spurred by California’s unparalleled leadership.

The national standards are based on California’s clean cars standard passed in 2002. Called the ‘Pavley Standard’ for its author and fearless champion State Senator Fran Pavley, it was the first law in the country to set limits on greenhouse gas pollution from tailpipes. 

California’s standards were adopted by 13 states but faced fierce resistance—and lawsuits—from automakers and the previous administration, which argued that states couldn’t adopt such standards and denied waivers that would allow them to do so. At the same time, the EPA denied its responsibility to reduce global warming pollution. A landmark Supreme Court ruling affirmed EPA’s power to address global warming pollution under the Clean Air Act and helped paved the way for putting the standards into effect. 

One of the Obama administration’s first environmental actions was to grant California’s long-standing request for a Clean Air Act waiver so they could implement the standards. Then the President went one step further. He helped forge an unprecedented agreement—with the EPA, Department of Transportation (DOT), U.S. automakers, United Auto Workers, EDF and other environmental organizations, plus California and other states—to set a national fuel efficiency and emissions standards for cars and light trucks for model years 2012-2016. These passenger vehicles account for 40 percent of U.S. oil consumption and 20 percent of our greenhouse gases. In exchange, California and other states agreed to drop their state standards. 

Those standards were strengthened last month and today President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum in the Rose Garden directing the EPA and DOT to continue fuel economy improvements for those vehicles for model years 2017 and beyond and to create a first-ever national policy to increase fuel efficiency and decrease greenhouse gas pollution from medium- and heavy-duty trucks for model years 2014-2018. These measures will further reduce our dependence on oil, help cut fuel costs and create jobs.  

These historic achievements would be erased with passage of Murkowski’s bill by prohibiting the EPA from enforcing the standards. 

It’s a horrible attack on progress toward cleaner air and energy at a time when such progress is needed most. It’s a bailout for polluters and takes the EPA off the job for years. It would make us more dependent on foreign oil, do nothing to help American manufacturing compete with China or other nations in clean energy technologies, and cripple efforts to address global warming.  

It’s truly ironic that even as we watch what may end up being the most serious environmental and ecological disasters in our nation’s history – the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – there are senators who are actively trying to block pollution regulations and hamstring the EPA’s ability to protect the public. 

(To tell your Senators that you want them to vote against this bill, hold polluters accountable and reduce America’s dependence on fossil fuels, please send them an email today.)

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