California Dream 2.0

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

New Energy in Sacramento: Jerry Brown Takes Office

Movers and shakers from throughout the State descended on Sacramento yesterday to see Jerry Brown become California’s 39th Governor.  You could feel the excitement in the long line that snaked around K Street into the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium for his inauguration. 

Our new Governor didn’t disappoint.  His 16-minute inaugural speech was energetic and frank.  He provided a brutally honest assessment of our broken political process and told an uplifting story about his wife’s ancestors, a courageous lineage of pioneers who settled in California. 

Brown speech—to no one’s surprise—centered on the budget.  He spoke passionately about the need to transcend Sacramento’s partisan political culture and stop using “delay and denial” when making tough budget choices. 

He laid out three principles for his budget proposal:

  1. Speak the truth on budget challenges
  2. No new taxes without the vote of the people
  3. Bring authority closer to the people (aka “realigning” core government responsibilities to local governments)

In a speech that didn’t delve into specifics, it’s notable that Brown singled out clean energy policy as a great economic opportunity for California.  Expanding investment in cleaner energy, he said, can help lead us out of the state’s 10th recession since World War II.

He mentioned one of the boldest pieces of his campaign’s energy platform: generating 20,000 megawatts of renewable energy— enough electricity to power 15 million homes.  Brown said that “sensible and bold decisions” were needed to reach this audacious goal and that we have to focus on the right “laws and rules” to meet it.

Brown’s priority on clean energy reflects a strong mandate voiced by voters, state leaders and private-sector investors: 

  • In soundly rejecting the Dirty Energy Proposition (Prop 23) two months ago, voters reaffirmed their support for California’s approach to securing a clean energy future, improving air quality, creating jobs and competing in the next industrial revolution, a global market that is estimated to be valued at $8 trillion.
  • Leaders in the Assembly and Senate have strong track  records as clean energy champions and are eager to advance energy solutions. 
  • The private sector sees the potential of clean energy: $10 billion in clean tech funding has flowed into California since AB 32 passed in 2006—almost half of all domestic clean energy investments.

Governor Brown’s leadership—combined with these factors—opens a great window of opportunity for California to break new ground in energy.  To paraphrase a 1980s one-hit-wonder, “the future’s so bright (for California clean energy), you gotta wear shades.”

This post originally appeared in the SF Chronicle’s City Brights blog.

Posted in Clean Energy, Politics / Read 1 Response

Taking Climate Change Personally

As summer turns to fall, it’s a good time to take stock of recent efforts on clean energy policy. A lot happened this summer: The Gulf Coast oil spill was finally capped and serious talk occurred in Washington, D.C. about moving the U.S. away from dependence on oil. Unfortunately, little came of this conversation. Climate and clean energy legislation stalled in the Senate and meanwhile, an attack on California’s clean energy law called Prop 23 will be on the November ballot. 

Amidst these political challenges in Sacramento and DC, I thought I’d lighten it up a little by reminding us how we can take action in our own lives to reduce our oil dependence. Simple personal actions we can take: No congressman to convince, no legislation to support. 

With the help of my favorite green guru Mindy Pennybacker, below are ten every day actions you can you can take to shrink your oil footprint while getting outside to enjoy the warm fall weather.

‘Wait’ you say? Can individuals really make a difference on these issues? The answer: Yes! Our collective consumer muscle, which according to Mindy represents 70% of the U.S. economy, matters now more than ever in redirecting the marketplace toward energy and products that rely less on fossil fuels.

Mindy’s new book, Do One Green Thing: Saving the Earth Through Simple, Everyday Choices offers a number of great tips we can use in every day life to protect the Golden State.

Below are the top ten things you can do for the environment today.  Starting from #10… 

10. Say no to bottled water and non-recyclable plastics.
If every American stopped buying water in disposable bottles and used free water from the tap, we’d save at least 17 million barrels of oil a year. That’s equivalent to taking one million cars off the road. And certainly we can do our part to reduce the great Pacific Ocean garbage patch. For a list of safer reusable plastics, click here. 

9. Use compost and organic fertilizers in your garden.
Synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, made from fossil fuels, overload the soil with nutrients.  These nutrients run off into waterways and out to sea, polluting groundwater supplies and stimulating the growth of algae which causes oxygen-depleted dead zones in the ocean.  Use natural composts when possible and while you’re at it, complete the composting cycle by putting your food scraps into the green composting bin. More than 200 vineyards and farms in Northern California now use compost from San Francisco instead of man-made fertilizers. 

8. Use green cleaning and personal care products.
Many conventional detergents, liquid soaps and shampoos contain chemicals that harm reproductive development in marine life–and may impact human hormones, too. Keep toxins out of the gay by using one of the many cleaning and cosmetic brands that steer clear of these and other toxic tongue-twisters.

7. Use a nontoxic sunblock.
Headed out for an afternoon in Golden Gate Park or the Oakland hills? Don’t forget safe sunscreen. A widely used sunscreen chemical, known as oxybenzone, has been linked to harming fish and coral. BP-3 is also a suspected human hormone disrupter that’s been found in 97 percent of Americans tested by the Centers for Disease Control. 

6. Reduce runoff when washing your car.
For those of us who have driveways, keep soapy, greasy water out of storm drains by washing your cars on flat surfaces instead of sloped driveways and use porous materials like gravel and pebbles for terraces, driveways, and paths.  For car-less BART and Muni riders (you guys are a step ahead!), conserve clean water by taking shorter showers and turning off the tap while sudsing, shaving and brushing teeth. 

5. Drive alone less, use public transportation, carpool, bike & walk more.
Not only are these methods of transport environmentally friendly, they are much cheaper ways of getting around. Casual Carpool is a great way to get around the Bay Area especially if you don’t live near public transportation hubs.  “If enough people reduce driving or switch to more energy-efficient vehicles, gasoline demand would decline and prices would decrease,” the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports.  Its basic economics: reduced demand results in reduced production. 

4. Properly inflate your tires.
Believe it or not, low tire pressure wastes over two million gallons of gasoline in the US—every day! Save about a tank of gas a year by keeping your tires properly inflated. And make sure to have your tires correctly aligned to maximize fuel economy. 

3. Use propane/gas or natural charcoal to fire up the grill.
Every July 4th, our 60 million U.S. barbecues emit 225,000 metric tons of CO2.  Use propane and gas tanks that release the least carbon when burned.  Get rid of toxic charcoal that spews sootcook with solid charcoal from well-managed forests instead of toxic-glue-bound briquettes (never dump these on a beach!). The EPA advises a chimney or electric starter instead of lighter fluids, which produce 14,500 tons of smog. Next time you’re headed to Crissy Field for a BBQ, make sure you grab clean charcoal!

2. Turn off lights and avoid air conditioning.
Incandescent light bulbs waste 90% of their energy as heat. Even CFLs waste 30%, so turn off unnecessary lights to keep your space cooler. For those rare, toasty days when you use air conditioning in the Bay Area, turn the temperature up a bit. Air conditioning represents 21% of annual home electricity consumption. A shift from 72°F to 74°F in the summer will save 366 pounds of CO2/year and $28 on the average annual energy bill.

 1. Most importantly, join other Californians to TAKE ACTION. Two Texas oil companies are trying to kill clean energy and air pollution standards in California by killing our landmark law AB32. The oilies have put Prop. 23 on the November ballot, which will allow polluters to avoid our state’s clean energy standards, kill competition and jobs from California’s emerging clean technology companies, and keep us addicted to dirty, costly oil. 

Join the NO on Prop 23 campaign and fight to keep California’s landmark clean energy policy moving us forward. 

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Pacific Ocean, Politics / Read 2 Responses

Oil companies saying greenhouse gases are not ‘pollution’ = cigarette companies denying health impacts of smoking

As the world experiences the hottest year on record, the oil companies backing Prop 23 are arguing that carbon dioxide (CO2 )—the main greenhouse gas causing climate change—is not pollution. Rather, they say, it is merely an “emission.” 

Really?  Do they think that California voters will be duped that easily? In a campaign full of misrepresentation, this whopper of a lie stands out.  

This double-talk reminds me of the slick mid-century ad campaigns by tobacco companies—featured in the current TV hit Mad Men—that convinced generations of smokers that tobacco brought no health risk. 

Consider this straightforward definition of pollution: “the introduction of harmful substances or products into the environment.”  There’s no doubt that CO2 fits this definition and our basic understanding of the term “pollution.” Of course, the oil industry uses “emissions” because it’s a scientific term that isn’t as easily understood as “pollution.” When the truth is ugly, there’s a tendency to dress it up with fancy words and confusing descriptions. 

Numerous studies show that CO2 does indeed have direct and local health impacts. The latest research was done by Stanford University Professor Mark Jacobson, who I was with on a panel yesterday at this year’s CAPCOA Climate Forum.

Jacobson studied the local health effects of “CO2   domes” that form over cities. He found that these domes could increase urban smog and other air pollution problems, an effect that could cause the premature deaths of 50 to 100 people a year in California and 300 to 1,000 in the continental United States. 

These findings make the case for reducing CO2 emissions at the local level, which is exactly what California is doing through various clean energy and clean air policies, including AB 32.

It’s also undeniable that AB 32 measures—which will increase energy efficiency and our use of solar and wind energy—will reduce the need for coal plants that create air pollution that costs Americans billions of dollars every year in health care and lost productivity.

California already has some of the most polluted air in the country with more than 91% of residents living in counties that got failing grades in air quality

Prop 23 is backed by two of California’s—and this country’s—largest polluters. California voters are smart. They know that a vote against Proposition 23 is a vote for cleaner air and a healthier environment.

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Politics / Read 2 Responses

Climate War Moves to California

California has emerged as a key battleground state in EDF’s national effort to move America toward a clean energy future.  When Californians go to the polls in November, they’ll be deciding on the state’s landmark climate and energy policy—an outcome that will have national and international ramifications. 

Outlets from Bloomberg to the Wall Street Journal are cover the brewing battle that will shape what happens next on the national climate policy front: 

  • Bloomberg just ran a story quoting a Deutsche Bank AG executive (who oversees billions of dollars in climate related investments) saying, “It would be a big setback for clean energy in the U.S. if California’s climate-change law is overturned.”  He said that if the most populous state backs away, it would give other states and the federal government “a free pass to do nothing” on curbing greenhouse gases. 
  • Grist quoted a CEO saying, “If AB 32 is sustained by the voters of California, you will have the largest plebiscite in the history of the climate change debate cast by voters in the world’s seventh largest economy. If AB 32 survives and Jerry Brown gets elected governor, I think you’ll have cap-and-trade nationally by 2013. 

Proposition 23 is at the epicenter of the debate.  It is a great example of dirty energy efforts to kill our largest domestic clean energy economy. Bankrolled by Texas-based oil companies Tesoro and Valero, two of California’s biggest polluters, Prop 23 would kill the climate policy known as AB 32 until state unemployment drops and stays below 5.5% for a full year. Since that rate has occurred just three times in the past 40 years, Prop 23 would effectively delay AB 32 far into the foreseeable future. 

California’s climate law passed in 2006 with bi-partisan support. It was the nation’s first statewide limit on greenhouse gas pollution. It spurred national efforts, serves as a model for federal legislation and features a roadmap for reducing pollution that calls for renewable energy and “smart grid” investments, stronger energy efficiency standards and transit-oriented housing development.  

Setting a cap on emissions has helped California catalyze clean tech investments, start a green industrial revolution and create jobs.  Since ‘06, California has captured 60% of U.S. clean tech investment. Its economy is creating green jobs—now totalling 500,000 and considered the cornerstone of the state’s recovery—10 times faster than any other sector.

It will be 2012 when AB 32 policies are scheduled to take effect. That is unless the oil companies have their way.  Their goal is clear: roll back California’s progress transitioning to cleaner, renewable forms of energy and drive a stake in the heart of states’ leadership on climate policy.

 The stakes couldn’t be higher.  

If the oil industry prevails in California, it will have a lasting chilling effect against passing a national clean energy and climate policy. The U.S. will fall further behind in the $8 trillion clean energy race. It will forego the largest source of job growth at a time when Americans needs jobs the most. 

If, on the other hand, this attack on clean energy policy fails, we will gain tremendous momentum for the climate movement. We will send a loud and clear signal of support that America’s largest state is forging ahead and ready to compete in the clean energy future.  

The importance of defeating Prop 23 can’t be understated.  That’s why EDF is part of a broad coalition of business, environmental and labor leaders that are working to win this battle.  If we succeed, we will show the rest of the country and the world just what public support for climate leadership looks like.

Posted in Clean Energy, Politics / Read 1 Response

Spare me (and yourself): How to reduce Bay Area “Spare the Air” days

If you’ve watched local news or seen a newspaper this week, you may know today’s a Spare the Air day.  Today’s forecast shows where air quality is the worst in the Bay Area.

On summer days when smog makes air unhealthy to breathe, the agency charged with reducing local air pollution issues “Spare the Air Smog Alerts.”  We’re asked to do what we can to cut back on activities that create smog, like unnecessary driving. 

As someone who welcomes gorgeous, hot weather in San Francisco and Oakland, I’ve learned it has an invisible cost.

On Spare the Air days, many local residents are actually advised to limit time and activities outdoors, particularly in the afternoon.  Today, most of the East Bay and South Bay have air that’s “unhealthy for sensitive groups” including active children and adults and people with respiratory diseases such as asthma.    

The American Lung Association has a great chart that grades air quality throughout California. It shows that more than 91 percent of Californians live in counties that were assigned failing grades for air quality. San Bernadino County is one that has, on average, 227 days a year of unhealthy air. 

The Bay Areas has a handful of these days every year.  And we’re actually the lucky ones, thanks to our coastal location and cool temperatures.

While Bay Area air is cleaner than other parts of the state, it’s changing.  As temperatures rise in the presence of climate change, the number of pollution alerts is expected to spike as our air quality worsens and threatens one of the things Californians love most—time outside.

This scenario is not inevitable though.  California has some of the strongest air quality laws in the country, including its climate bill, AB 32.  That landmark law—passed in ’06— holds polluters accountable and requires them to reduce air pollution that threatens human health and contributes to climate change.  That bill also launched California to the forefront of the clean technology industry and has brought new jobs and businesses to the State.

But, to no one’s surprise, two of the state’s biggest polluters–Texas-based oil companies Valero and Tesoro–are spending millions of dollars to kill AB 32 by bankrolling a November ballot initiative, Proposition 23.  Of the more than $6 million that’s been spent, 96 percent has come from oil companies, 85 percent of which is from out-of-state.  Their agenda is clear: roll-back California’s progress transitioning to cleaner, renewable forms of energy that will result in cleaner air.

While there are lots of small things we can do to Spare the Air today, one big action is marking the calendar to vote against Prop 23 on November 2.  Casting a ‘no’ vote on Prop 23 is casting a ‘yes’ vote for cleaner air in the Bay Area.

Posted in Climate, Politics / Comments are closed