California Dream 2.0

The American Power Act: A View from California

Today’s release of the long-awaited climate bill by Senators Kerry and Lieberman has set D.C. abuzz.   As everyone delves into the details of this initial proposal (aka the “American Power Act”), it’s clear that this announcement marks real progress in the fight against climate change.

Most importantly, the formal proposal reignites the prospect that our country will take real action this year to reduce our dependence on oil and produce more American-made power and clean energy jobs. Amidst the Gulf Coast oil spill and a high national jobless rate, this energy bill is exactly where national leaders should be focusing.

Our colleagues in D.C. that have tracked this effort closely believe the draft is a good starting point for a bipartisan conversation. Among its key provisions are:

  • Strong goals for reducing carbon emissions and protecting the climate
  • Significant consumer protections against cost increases, and
  • Provisions to ensure environmental safeguards of any domestic energy production

So with all the attention focused on the announcement back east today, what does this proposal mean for California?  Here are a few thoughts:

1) California, with our history of groundbreaking energy policy, made this bill possible. 

Our state has demonstrated conclusively over the last 30 years that bold new approaches can reduce energy use, cut pollution and save people money.  The average Californian now uses a fraction of what’s used by the average American each day, while our state’s economic output has outpaced the rest of the country.  More recently, California’s actions in 2006 to pass the nation’s first comprehensive climate change law—AB 32—has shaped the national conversation and led to innovative approaches within the proposed Senate bill.

2) Our early action on energy and climate will benefit California financially under the American Power Act.

In the current draft of the American Power Act, early actions taken to reduce energy and greenhouse gas pollution will be officially recognized by the federal program.  In some instances, California businesses will receive compensation for investments already made to reduce pollution.  As California’s transition to clean energy continues, our state’s residents and businesses will continue to benefit from growing clean tech investment and jobs creation in this area.

3) In the case of creating economic markets to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, bigger is clearly better. 

The larger the market for carbon emission reductions, the more pollution we take out of the atmosphere. The news that the Act will create national markets for reducing pollution is a great development.  What still needs to be discussed is the role that States will play in these markets and what States can do in addition to these proposed federal actions. California businesses and consumers have saved billions of dollars through our state’s energy policies and clean technology companies are creating thousands of jobs here in California as a result of this policy leadership.  We want to ensure this California’s ability to innovate is preserved in any federal climate bill. Getting the balance right between federal action and allowable state actions is critical.  Over the coming weeks, EDF will be working to help the Senate achieve this balance in the bill.

4) The fight against oil companies to preserve California’s clean energy laws has never been more important.

The current attack by Texas oil companies that on California’s clean energy and jobs policy—AB 32— has never been greater.  If these oil companies are successful at killing clean energy policy in California, this rollback will have a damaging, chilling effect on passing strong federal clean energy laws.   Oil companies’ attempted roll back AB32 would also mean taking away economic rewards that California businesses will receive through a federal climate policy.  As our private sector takes early action to reduce energy use and pollution, they are lowering operating costs and racking up savings.  In the current proposal of the federal bill, these actions will be rewarded.  Killing AB 32 would take this money away from California businesses.

Important areas of the bill still need to be negotiated and members will have the opportunity over the coming weeks to shape the bill as it moves to the Senate floor.  We now have a foundation for those conversations.  EDF will be doing everything we can – working in and outside of the Senate – to help ensure a strong bill and to help achieve the votes it needs to pass in the Senate.

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

Gulf Oil Spill: What’s Needed Now

 On Sunday, Channel 5/KPIX-TV political reporter Phil Matier asked me if the Gulf Coast oil spill will be “President Obama’s Katrina.” That depends on what the president and Congress do next. The disaster’s vivid projection by the media into every home, workplace, and public space in the country presents a unique opportunity for the president and Congress to demonstrate leadership on two fronts:

As oil continues to seep towards the Gulf coast, a huge priority must be placed on protecting and restoring the area’s most valuable asset, the wetlands. The wetlands of the area are what hold the ecosystem together, and without them, much of the area’s islands and protective shore will be lost to sea. This exposes the people of New Orleans to greater risks from hurricane damage, and undermines the fabric of life that supports birdlife and seafood, including half of the nation’s shrimp, 35 percent of its blue claw crabs and 40 percent of oysters. This is a major body blow to the Gulf’s fishermen, who are leading on innovative programs to fish sustainably. Fishing has been placed on hold in the area, and no one knows for how long. And now the valuable properties along Florida’s prized beaches are also at risk. 

The tragedy holds a number of lessons for California. First, we need to prioritize restoring the Bay-Delta ecosystem that provides water for millions of California families, farmers and fishermen and critical habitat for hundreds of species of birds, fish and mammals. Only 10,000 acres of the original 350,000 tidal marsh acres remain in the Delta and Suisun Bay system. Chinook salmon and other fish are rapidly dwindling, leaving thousands of fishermen out of work. This is a warning signal that something is seriously out of balance in the ecosystem, and we shouldn’t wait for a major disaster to begin to repair it.  Restoring the wetlands that historically lined the Bay-Delta system must be prioritized.  

Second, the Gulf Coast oil spill catastrophe is another reminder that America must transition to clean energy.  It won’t happen immediately, but we’ve got to start now by passing a strong clean energy and climate bill. Here in California, we must stave off efforts by out-of-state oil companies to roll back our clean energy law, AB 32. Governor Schwarzenegger is to be commended for his recent decision to prevent new drilling off the Santa Barbara coastline.  He recognized that the risks didn’t justify the rewards.

As the nation recovers from the oil disaster and considers its energy future, California can lead by example in restoring our own Bay Delta ecosystem and in the choices we make towards a clean energy future. Now President Obama and Congress must act quickly to protect the Gulf’s wetlands and the vital ecosystem services that they provide and set the nation on a course to produce clean, safe and renewable energy.

Posted in Clean Energy, Ecosystem Restoration / Comments are closed