Tag Archives: greenhouse gas emissions

Where California Businesses That Support Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions Should Go

If you go to the website for the US Chamber of Commerce (USCOC), America’s “voice of business” that claims to represent the interests of over 3 million businesses, it feels like you’ve found the site for a right wing advocacy group. There are clips from FOX News (that aren’t making fun of them), attacks on healthcare and financial regulatory reform, and links to Wall Street Journal op-eds claiming that America has more to fear from the political influence of labor unions than from corporations with annual profits in the billions. The implication is clear — American businesses have right wing values.

However, this assertion was challenged in 2009 when USCOC announced its opposition to attempts by the federal government to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. USCOC said that doing so would “strangle the economy”, called for a “Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century” as if human-caused climate change was yet to be proven, and threatened to sue the EPA if it decided to act without holding the trial. In response, Nike resigned from USCOC’s board of directors, and major companies like Apple, Pacific Gas and Electric, PNM Resources and Exelon left USCOC completely.

It turns out that when it comes to climate change, US businesses aren’t so conservative after all. That’s why a group like American Businesses for Clean Energy (ABCE) is so important. And if you own a business and believe the US should be doing more to fight climate change and help support the clean energy economy (which is creating jobs at 2.5 times the rate as the rest of the economy), you should seriously consider joining ABCE.

ABCE represents over 2,500 businesses of all shapes and sizes, including big companies like Gap Inc. and Warner Music Group as well as small local businesses from Al’s Painting in Ann Arbor, MI to Zoey’s Pizza in Manchester, NH. You don’t need to be a business that focuses on green products or services to join — all are welcome. There are no fees or dues to pay, no meetings to attend, no further obligations, and ABCE will not engage in any lobbying on your behalf. You don’t need to resign from any other business coalitions. All you have to do to join is visit ABCE’s website and enter some basic information about your business.

That’s it. You’re done. But you will have done something incredibly important.

Congress needs to know that USCOC does not speak for you, and that there are businesses of every kind in every state that support strong climate and clean energy legislation. They need to know that you don’t buy the right wing’s scaremongering that reducing greenhouse gas emissions will ruin the economy, especially when there is so much evidence that moving to a clean energy economy will create much-needed jobs and reduce dependence on foreign oil while improving the health of both people and the environment. You will have told Congress that your business is ready for a cleaner, sustainable, more prosperous future, and you want them to pass the legislation needed to make it happen. And while California is clearly a leader in green businesses as well as environmental awareness, CA businesses are currently underrepresented in ABCE. That’s got to change.

If you own a business, you are in a unique position of influence, and joining ABCE is a great, easy way to help the economy and the environment. If you don’t own a business, you can help by telling friends who are business owners about ABCE or recommend it to businesses that you frequent.

If history has shown us anything, it’s that when businesses speak, Congress listens. ABCE will make sure your voice is heard.  

Petition to Kill California’s Anti-Pollution Legislation Off to a Rocky, Slimy Start

So it’s been over a week since Texas oil refiners (and two of California’s worst polluters) Valero and Tesoro ponied up close to $2 million to launch a petition drive to get an initiative on the November ballot to kill AB 32, California’s nation-leading legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels and encourage job creation in the booming green/clean energy and tech industries. Naturally, Valero, Tesoro and assemblyman Dan Logue (R-Chino), one of the initiative’s primary sponsors, are doing their best to keep Texas Big Oil’s involvement in the petition a secret, refusing to confirm or deny that Valero/Tesoro are actually the sole funders of the signature drive and stand to profit from insuring that Californians continue to breath some of the dirtiest, most unhealthy air in the nation.

Unfortunately for them, the secret is out. Supporters of AB 32, the environment and clean energy started a website, NoOnValero.com, to let Californians know that the effort to kill AB 32 is about Big Oil profits, not saving or creating jobs. They also staged a rally in front of a Sacramento Valero station to tell Valero to mind its own business. Below is news coverage of the event, and you can also visit the No On Valero Youtube channel to hear what the protesters think of Valero’s involvement in trying to kill AB 32.

Not to be outdone, the Teabaggers, America’s favorite racists and climate change/evolution deniers, decided to stage their own pro-Valero rally the next week. That’s right, a rally to celebrate the fact that an out-of-state Big Oil company — a member of one of America’s most hated industries after banks and health insurers — is attempting to further corrupt our political system and compromise the health of Californians. Because apparently Teabaggers, who claim to value what they call “freedom”, think it’s better if unelected Texas CEOs of heavy-polluting corporations write California’s anti-pollution laws. Also, someone may want to tell the Teabaggers that Valero’s involvement in the petition is supposed to be, you know, a secret. And I’ll be curious to hear what Valero thinks of getting the support of a group known mostly for racism, unhinged anger, willful ignorance and irrational, apocalyptic conspiracy theories.  

Then again, Valero may need all the support it can get. In a shocking turn, one of the leaders pushing for the anti-AB 32 ballot initiative, conservative Dan Costa of People’s Advocate, is now opposing the ballot initiative due to Valero and Tesoro’s involvement and the seediness of keeping it a secret, possibly in violation of state campaign laws. From the Sacramento Bee:

Ted Costa, of People’s Advocate, said he continues to believe in the thrust of the initiative but that the signature-gathering campaign has been “stolen” by big-money interests that have not identified themselves publicly.

“You ruin the whole organization when you go through this kind of muck,” said Costa.

And Costa told the LA Times:

“I wanted to do a grassroots operation and involve a lot of people,” Costa said. “But they believe they can run this thing out of the country club and to hell with the little people of California. If they have half a million dollars, how come they haven’t reported it?” he asked.

Of course, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to Costa that Logue would be hopping in bed with Valero and Big Oil, even if it seems unseemly or illegal. After all, Logue knows who owns him. From California Watch:

Last year alone, the oil and energy industries donated $14,200 to Logue’s campaign coffers, including $2,000 from Valero. Other Logue donors in 2009 include Chevron, Occidental, and the California Independent Petroleum PAC.

So Big Oil buys Logue through campaign contributions to get him elected, then Logue sponsors a ballot initiative to kill legislation that Big Oil is opposed to, then two Big Oil companies provide the funding to gather signatures for the initiative. Could the dots be any easier to connect? The Circle of Oil continues…

And in another surprise, not only are the authors of the thoroughly debunked Varshney/Tootelian report claiming that implementing AB 32 would lead to massive economic pain refusing to defend their work from the withering criticism it has received, but apparently they don’t think AB 32 is so bad. From the State Hornet:

“We conducted an independent and unbiased study, and certainly support the spirit of AB 32,” [Dennis Tootelian] said in an e-mail. “Our study estimated the costs, and we have no other comment.”

You’d think he’d have something a bit stronger to say after Tootelian’s co-author on the report, Sanjay Varshnay, received criticism like this:

“For a guy [Varshney] who purports to be a professor, this is an embarrassment to himself and an embarrassment to [Sacramento State],” said Chris Thornberg, economist and founding principal of Beacon Economics.

Thornberg said the report committed fatal flaws in basic statistical analysis. The authors used regression analysis, a statistical technique used to test one variable while controlliing for many others. The report looked at state output, but did not control for the number of workers and amount of capital in California.

“The results are so screwy and crazy,” Thornberg said. “It’s so bad that if a freshman student handed this to me, I wouldn’t even give him an ‘F,’ I would call it incomplete and hand it back to them.”

With only a month to get almost 434,000 signatures, the anti-AB 32 petition drive is off to a pretty rocky start. But one thing that’s for sure is that you should never, ever count the republicans out. They never give up and will fight to the end using the dirtiest tactics, the biggest lies and the most outrageous scaremongering imaginable. Plus, the anti-AB 32 movement was handed a gift this week in the form of a new report by California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office claiming that AB 32 will result in short-term job losses, even though the Union of Concerned Scientists pointed out that the report admits that predicting job losses or gains from AB 32 is extremely difficult, provides no independent research to back its claim of overall job losses, and fails to mention the numerous studies that have found that AB 32 would be a net job creator with little or no impact on small businesses.

With California’s reputation for setting precedents that the rest of the country often follows, you can bet that powerful players are gearing up for a fight that will only grow in intensity as the days tick down until the petition signatures are due on April 16.  

EXPOSED: Texas Big Oil Funding Petition to Kill California’s Anti-Pollution Legislation

Stealthily and without fanfare, a petition has been launched to get a measure on the November ballot suspending AB 32, California’s landmark legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions and spur green job growth. So who is funding the signature drive? None other than San Antonio-based oil refiners Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp. — the #7 and #8 biggest polluters in California. From the LA Times:

Two Texas-based refinery giants have pledged as much as $2 million to fund signature gathering for a ballot initiative to suspend California’s landmark global warming law [AB 32], according to Sacramento sources.

The companies, Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp., own refineries in California that would be forced under the law to slash emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

But neither Valero or Tesoro is owning up to it.

A Tesoro spokesman did not respond to inquiries. But the company’s website invites visitors to lobby Congress to ensure “fair” climate legislation and fight any effort by the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

Bill Day, a Valero spokesman, declined to confirm or deny the company’s involvement, saying that “any contributions would come out in normal disclosures” under California’s campaign laws.

And neither is Dan Logue (R-Marysville), one of the initiative’s main sponsors. From NYTimes:

Dan Logue, the Republican assemblyman behind the suspension, also refused to discuss where funds had originated.

So forget about the astroturf groups claiming the movement to kill AB 32 is a bunch of small local businesses worried about their survival in a tough economy. The mask is off the anti-AB 32 movement, and behind it is exactly what we thought we would find: big oil, big pollution, big corporations and the corporatist Republicans who love them. That’s why Logue, Valero and Tesoro refuse to admit where the money for the ballot initiative is coming from, even if it means possibly violating California Fair Political Practices Committee regulations. The fact that Texas Big Oil is funding an initiative to keep California’s air dirty and kill its burgeoning green economy is a PR nightmare.

So let’s have no more illusions about what the move to kill AB 32 is all about.

Killing AB 32 is not about job creation or lowering unemployment. Valero and Tesoro don’t care about creating jobs or lowering unemployment in a state over 1,000 miles away from them since that won’t increase their profits. If they did care about job creation, they would be supporting AB 32 since California’s clean/green economy is creating jobs at a rate 2.5 times faster than the rest of the economy while attracting billions in venture capital investment, including an announcement this week that Kyocera will be opening a plant in San Diego to manufacture solar modules. Besides, the Varshney/Tootelian report that AB 32 opponents often cite to prove that AB 32 will kill jobs and hurt the economy has been exposed by numerous economists, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the California Budget Project as being fatally, almost cartoonishly flawed, with one pair of economists calling it “one of the worst examples of schlock science we’ve ever seen.” Even Sanjay Varshney, one of the report’s co-authors, admitted that the report is “not exhaustive” and now seems to be backing away from its conclusions.

The move to kill AB 32 is about even more astronomical profits for Big Oil, regardless of whom or what it harms. Valero and Tesoro don’t care that hundreds of Californians die every year from respiratory illnesses aggravated by pollution, or that the adverse health effects of pollution disproportionately fall on minorities. They don’t care that the top four most polluted cities in the country are in California or that Californians breath some of the dirtiest air in America, with 95% of Californians living in areas with unhealthy air.

In fact, Valero and Tesoro want California’s air to become even more dirty and dangerous because they profit from pollution. Instead of being ethical and responsible and cleaning up their own mess, they can make even more by “socializing” and externalizing the cost of pollution — making Californians pay for it in the form of taxpayer-funded environmental cleanups, increased medical bills and lost work days stemming from pollution-related illness, and premature death. Tesoro claims it wants “fair” climate legislation when the most “fair” thing they could do is to clean up their own pollution instead of making others deal with it. And while they adamantly oppose any legislation that puts a price on carbon, the truth is that Valero and Tesoro know that carbon already has a price — the extra profits they make by not cleaning up the carbon pollution they generate.

Call Valero at (210) 345-2000 and/or email Tesoro and tell them what you think of what they’re doing. They’ll try to redirect you to a PR firm, but be insistent. And if anything, tell them that you and all of your friends will never, ever buy their gas again.

We’ve already had out-of-state interests stick their nose in to tell Californians who we can marry. Let’s make sure out-of-state Big Oil doesn’t dictate what kind of air we’re forced breath.

Let California Lead: the Green Economy and Lessons from 1990’s Zero Emissions Vehicle Mandate

California has always represented a better future, and we seem more impatient to get there than anyone else. The examples are endless: the settlers risking everything to reinvent themselves on California’s fertile soil, the surfers who decided they’d rather surf the streets on skateboards than wait for waves, to the dotcom boom that created the internet age. When California is ready to lead, it’s best if you get out of the way. Because when California leads, it often benefits the entire country — and sometimes the world.

And California is ready to do it again, with a plan to guide America to a greener, cleaner, more sustainable future, and pull the nation out of the worst recession since the Great Depression. That plan is AB 32 (aka the Global Warming Solutions Act), California’s nation-leading initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) to 1990 levels through a mix of energy efficiency, clean/sustainable energy investment and regulations to force California’s polluters to clean up their own messes. In addition to improving the environment and the health of Californians, study after study show that AB 32 will be a major job creator with little or no impact on small businesses. That’s why over 2,400 large and small businesses, many in California, have joined American Businesses for Clean Energy, a diverse coalition calling on Congress to pass clean energy and climate legislation. And with the green/clean economy creating job growth and venture capital investment at a faster rate than the rest of the economy, California could position itself to lead the nation and the world in exportable green technology and solutions, just as it has with computers, software and the internet.

But this is not the first time California has attempted to lead the nation with a pioneering piece of legislation to reduce GHGE. In 1990, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) passed the Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) Mandate. It stated that any large automaker selling cars in California would have to derive at least 10% of its overall sales from cars that produce practically zero emissions — with 2% of the cars producing no emissions at all — by 2003. That meant that unless an automaker wanted to lose the huge California car market, they would have to begin making all-electric vehicles.

A great cry went up from defenders of the status quo — eerily similar to what is happening now with AB 32 — predicting economic doom if the legislation was enacted. “Electric cars with broad consumer appeal are an idea whose time has come and gone, much like eight-track tapes, Betamax, and New Coke,” said Jo Cooper, president of a major auto industry lobbying group. “It’s not that we can’t [build electric cars]. It’s that we don’t think it’s the right thing to do. In financial terms, it’s insane,” said Donn Walker, a regional spokesman for General Motors, adding, “The internal combustion engine is here to stay. It’s what customers want.” Automakers warned that plants would shut down, jobs would be lost and businesses would flee the state. Many claimed that it would be pointless for a single state (albeit the world’s 8th largest economy) to take such an ambitious step on its own — all claims currently being made about AB 32.

While automakers and lobbyists filed lawsuits to derail the mandate, they also quietly prepared to comply with it should their efforts fail. And in the case of General Motors, they succeeded in creating a great electric car called the EV1, which was leased to a few hundred lucky Californians (including celebrities like Tom Hanks and Mel Gibson) who quickly fell in love with it. Because of California’s leadership, it seemed like the automotive future had finally arrived and America could begin the long farewell to smog, dependence on foreign oil and one of the major contributors to global warming.

Then George W. Bush was elected, with an administration full of former oil executives, as well as Andrew Card, the former CEO of the American Automobile Manufacturers Association and GM’s VP of government relations, as chief of staff. The ZEV mandate was killed and GM took back and destroyed every EV1, despite the leasees’ offer to purchase them. This sad tale of potential lost is told in the excellent, must-see documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? See my ReThink Review of WKTEC? below and my post about it here.

California was denied the opportunity to lead the nation into a new generation of auto fuel efficiency. And look what happened.

The auto industry went in the opposite direction, creating gas-guzzling SUVs that actually decreased America’s overall fuel efficiency. Our dependence on foreign oil increased, enriching countries like Saudi Arabia (home of Osama bin Laden and nearly all of the 9/11 hijackers), as well as Iran and Venezuela, handing them hundreds of billions as we fruitlessly rattled our sabers at them. Stratospheric spikes in oil prices coupled with the Bush recession left many SUV drivers unable to even fill their tanks, causing demand for gas guzzlers to seemingly evaporate overnight. With hundreds of thousands of SUVs left on their lots and few fuel-efficient or hybrid cars on their rosters, GM and other American carmakers were decimated, declaring bankruptcy, closing dozens of plants, laying off tens of thousands of workers and shuttering or selling off several of their brands. In the meantime, Toyota, which continued their investments in fuel efficiency with hybrid cars like the Prius, became the world’s number one carmaker for the first time in 77 years. Nissan’s electric car, the Leaf, will be onsale in December 2010. This week, GM announced it would stop making Hummers, the worst gas guzzler and an “automotive pariah”, forever.

If California had been allowed to lead with the ZEV mandate, America could have been selling electric cars in the late 1990s instead of fumbling to get their half-baked hybrids and electric concept cars into showrooms as they are now. GM’s electric vehicles and the pioneering technology they were based on would be sold around the world, saving and creating thousands of jobs in the US while reducing pollution from tailpipe emissions.

AB 32 has the same potential, if not more, as the ZEV mandate. And despite high unemployment and economic uncertainty that would seem to breed timidity, Californians are still prepared to lead, and are, in fact, proud of their reputation for doing so. In a recent poll by Tulchin Research, 79% of Californians said they are proud of the state’s leadership in innovation and technology, with a staggering 96% seeing it as an essential part of the state’s economy and 66% feeling strongly that policymakers should boost the tech sector and encourage innovation to strengthen the state’s economy.

California is ready to lead. It’s in our DNA. Don’t listen to the scaremongers defending the status quo, who have been so disastrously wrong in the past. Just let us do it.

(with research by Sarah Phillips)

Green Makes Green ($): How Sustainability Creates Jobs

The #1 argument by corporations and politicians who oppose reducing pollution, fighting climate change and moving America to a cleaner, greener, more sustainable future is that doing so will cost the country jobs and hurt the economy. In fact, since many corporations and politicians claim to believe that climate change is a serious issue that must be dealt with (eventually), the “sustainability = job killer” argument is essentially the only one they have.

And it’s a lie — scaremongering from dirty energy companies so they can keep polluting at current levels, protect their unsustainable energy monopoly and maximize their short-term profits. They claim that responsibly cleaning up their own poisonous mess — instead of “socializing” the cost of dealing with it by spewing it into the air or dumping it in our oceans and streams — will force them to raise energy rates. This is a way to blackmail small businesses into defending the status quo and joining their efforts to kill any legislation that promotes efforts to reduce pollution or invest in sustainable energy. But the dirty energy companies are simply fighting to be the last of the dinosaurs, forestalling the inevitable day when they join the fossils that created their fortunes.

The green economy isn’t some untested theory or pie-in-the-sky fantasy — it’s already here, and its kicking butt. So here are some links that show why reducing pollution and embracing sustainable energy and green technology will create jobs and give our economy the boost it needs.

If you think the green economy won’t create jobs, you might want to tell those dirty hippies at the multinational bank HSBC, who found this in a 2009 report:

Global revenues from climate-related businesses such as energy efficiency rose by 75 percent in 2008 to $530 billion and could exceed $2 trillion by 2020, HSBC Global Research estimated on Friday.

In the 2006 Stern Review on the economics of climate change, climate-related revenues were forecast to climb to $500 billion by 2050.

“We can see that this seemingly huge figure has already been surpassed well ahead of time as more and more businesses adapt their business model,” said Joaquim de Lima, global head of quant research for equities at HSBC.

You also might want to tell the Chinese. A January New York Times article found that China’s decision to become the leader in producing solar panels, wind turbines and other renewable energy technologies is paying off:

Renewable energy industries [in China] are adding jobs rapidly, reaching 1.12 million in 2008 and climbing by 100,000 a year, according to the government-backed Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association.

The Pew Charitable Trusts released a report finding that, despite “a lack of sustained government support”, America’s clean energy economy grew two and a half times faster than overall jobs from 1998 to 2007.

Pew found that jobs in the clean energy economy grew at a national rate of 9.1 percent, while traditional jobs grew by only 3.7 percent between 1998 and 2007.  There was a similar pattern at the state level, where job growth in the clean energy economy outperformed overall job growth in 38 states and the District of Columbia during the same period.

A group of economists at Economics for Equity & Environment released a study this week that found that reducing emissions, becoming energy independent through clean energy and embracing the green economy would generate net job growth. The study goes on to debunk many of the myths that say reducing emissions and investing in the green economy would hurt the larger economy. A study by the Union of Concerned Scientists came to the same conclusions about the green economy generating job growth, as did a recent study conducted by UC Berkeley that examined the effects that implementing the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) would have on California’s economy.

But the clean, green gravy train is leaving the station, and if America isn’t careful, we could miss it. Michael Northrop tells us that “the clean energy gold rush” has already begun. However, due to a lack of policies to provide a stable marketplace for green tech investment, we’re letting that $2 trillion slip through our fingers:  

Even with growing unemployment, America seems incapable of recognizing a golden opportunity. With no goal or effective policy framework, not only are we shipping oil dollars to the Middle East, we are watching our solar, wind, and other renewable energy dollars begin flowing to Asia. (snip)

Without the economic security of guaranteed purchase contracts, companies will keep relocating overseas. Evergreen Solar, an up-and-coming solar manufacturer in Massachusetts, recently disclosed all of its manufacturing will be based in China.

So don’t let yourself or anyone else be fooled by the dirty energy industry’s lies. They want our heads in the tar sands because relying on fossil fuels makes them money, regardless of what it does to the environment, your health or anything else. And they’re not the only ones. As Thomas Friedman wrote in a NYTimes op-ed this week:  

Indeed, I suspect China is quietly laughing at us right now. And Iran, Russia, Venezuela and the whole OPEC gang are high-fiving each other. Nothing better serves their interests than to see Americans becoming confused about climate change, and, therefore, less inclined to move toward clean-tech and, therefore, more certain to remain addicted to oil.

That Guy On The Sunday Talk Shows Sounds Like A Good Governor, We Should Get Someone Like That

When Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t governing by magazine cover, he’s governing by Sunday talk show.  This is a good venue for him, because nobody asking him questions has any idea what Arnold’s actually done to California, and he can spout off one-liners and talk the Beltway language of post-partisanship without rebuttal.  These kinds of interviews are never given to reporters in his home state, because they might actually have experience with his tenure and thus would be in position to know a lie when they see one.

For example, the Governor is getting a lot of ink for the line about how he’d be willing to take any stimulus money from any governor in the country who rejects it.  Less discussed is the essential falsehood present in this comment:

STEPHANOPOULOS: So when you — we’re looking at a similar budget crisis in the coming years here in the United States. Does the Republican Party have to re-think its absolute opposition to tax increases of any kind?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, no, I think that the Republican Party or any party has to always think, when you make a decision, “Do I want to make a decision that’s based — that’s best for the party? Or am I a public servant and have to serve the people, what is best for the people?”

And in this particular case, in order to solve a $42 billion deficit, the only way you can do that is a combination of making severe cuts and also having some revenue increases.

Really?  Arnold was “listening to the people” when he helped ram through a massive corporate tax cut, in a time of deficits, for large multinational corporations?  Show me the poll where the public was clamoring for a multinational corporate tax cut.  How about the poll where the public was desperate for waiving environmental laws regarding public works projects and delaying implementation of laws regulating diesel emissions?  Actually, the California public has spoken pretty profoundly that they want a serious reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

I mean please.  This is a guy who campaigned almost entirely in 2003 on cutting the vehicle license fee, costing the state almost enough to fill this entire budget gap over 6 years, and now he’s raised it after admitting defeat.  Arnold Schwarzenegger is a born liar.  He has the interests of the California Chamber of Commerce and anything but the people of California.  That’s why he refuses to engage with them or their elected representatives, preferring to float above it all and run to the national media with false tropes about “serving the people.”  Forget just apologizing to Gray Davis, he should abdicate to him.

This last bit from John Myers was amusing:

And in non-governor news, he confirmed an interest in a cameo appearance in an upcoming Sylvester Stallone flick, picked Mickey Rourke to win an Oscar, and said The Candidate was his favorite political flick. That movie is an interesting choice, given it’s about a candidate who’s so focused on winning — rather than governing– that after his victory famously says: “What do we do now?”


Major Climate Change Legislation Makes California A National Leader

Yesterday’s adoption by the California Air Resources Board of a comprehensive plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is really worthy of praise.  Ignoring the bleatings of neo-Hooverists and apologists for polluters who insist that concern for the environment is a “job-killer,” the board, led by Mary Nichols, put forward 31 rules designed to cut carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.  This will force innovation and provide a boost to the economy and the burgeoning industry of green technology, as the Governor noted in his remarks.

The Modesto Bee has a look at some of the plans.


• Impose an emissions cap on utilities, refineries and other large industrial sources of greenhouse gases.

• Allow those large polluters to gradually lower emissions by participating in a cap-and-trade market.


• Put into effect a 2002 California law requiring automakes to produce cleaner vehicles. The Bush administration has blocked the law, but state regulators expect President-elect Barack Obama’s administration will back it.

• Require fuel companies to reformulate fuels so they are a combined 10 percent less carbon-intensive by 2020.

• Give local governments incentives to curb urban sprawl and reduce how far people drive to work or school.

• Require cargo and cruise ships to turn off their engines while docked.


• Require utilities to generate one-third of their electricity from renewable sources such as wind, solar and geothermal by 2020.

• Strengthen energy-efficiency standards for appliances, as well as for existing and new buildings.

The fact that a renewable standard, cap and trade, green building, smart growth and development, energy efficiency and clean fuels are all combined into this large agreement is very hopeful.  While the political sector is a mess, this is truly one area where California can become a model for the nation.  And while there will be up-front costs, those can be mitigated by expected federal attention to renewable energy and green jobs, which could allow consumers to be eligible for federal tax incentives to implement these ideas.  What’s more, as Nichols argued, this is a big-picture savings over the long term.

But Air Resource Board chairwoman Mary Nichols said California’s plan would save its residents and businesses money in the long run.

“We believe that California, again and again, has pushed for higher levels of efficiency in our electric sector, our buildings and appliances, and time after time it turns out efficiency measures have not only saved us money but leaped our economy ahead,” Nichols said after the vote.

A board report found that the average household would save $400 a year by driving more fuel-efficient vehicles and living in more energy-efficient homes. And already, private investors have given more than $2.5 billion this year to new companies that have sprung up in California, in part to respond to the state’s environmental goals, said Bob Epstein, co-founder of Environmental Entrepreneurs.

“Our president-elect has called for stimulating our economy,” said Bill Mcgavern, director of California’s Sierra Club. “I think he and the Congress will be looking to the state of California, and these measures can serve as a model for the rest of the country.”

This is one area where we can be proud to be Californians.  The SacBee has more.

Great Developments in Emission Reduction

This happened a couple days ago, but as it’s crucial that the clean-truck program at two of the nation’s busiest ports go forward, I think it’s significant:

A federal court judge in Los Angeles on Monday tentatively denied a trucking association’s bid to block a landmark clean-truck program at the nation’s busiest port complex.

After a 40-minute hearing, U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder said she would probably allow the program to move forward, despite objections from truckers.

“The balance of hardships and the public interest tip decidedly in favor of denying the injunction,” she said in court.

Under the program, the adjacent ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach would upgrade their aging fleet of about 16,800 mostly dilapidated rigs that produce much of the diesel pollution in Southern California.

Though the American Trucking Association is opposing the bill and filed the attempted injunction, the clean-ports program was borne of a true blue-green alliance between labor and environmental groups, which is the next level of how we’re going to fight climate change in this country and build millions of new green-collar jobs.  The courts are now on the record as saying that reducing greenhouse gas emissions are in the public interest.  And the ATA is being a little coy here – a good number of the trucking firms are already upgrading, so their injunction effort was meant to satisfy a few big corporations.  It didn’t work.  

The second exciting development is SB 375, which for the first time links emissions to urban planning, and could easily become a model for the nation.  We have to make sure it’s signed into law, of course, but if and when it is, it will represent a great leap forward for the environment, live/work issues, quality of life, and traffic reduction.

The measure, known as SB375, aims to give existing and new high-density centers where people live, work and shop top priority in receiving local, state and federal transportation funds. The idea is that such developments check sprawl and ease commutes, in turn cutting the car pollution wafting through the Golden State.

Authored by Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), the bill reflects California’s push to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020. Sponsors say the measure is part of a much-needed growth policy for a state whose population is expected to swell to 50 million from the current 38 million in two decades.

“Many places across the country have realized that if you just build spread-out developments, with the expectation that everyone will have to drive for everything, it should be no surprise when the result is excessive burning of gasoline,” said David Goldberg, spokesman for Smart Growth America, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit group that helps cities and towns plan more workable, environmentally friendly growth.

“SB375 breaks new ground, because it specifically links that pattern of development to excess driving and what we need to do to address climate change,” he said.

Instead of trying to capture more resources every time there’s an energy shortage, we can reorganize our lives to maximize existing resources while making our lifestyles far less stressful and more pleasant.  It’s the solution that works on all fronts.

The budget madness is super-depressing, but these developments are cause for optimism.

Mid-Morning Musings

• Do read Robert in Monterey’s report about Abel Maldonado, Don Perata’s best buddy, running as a write-in candidate in the Democratic primary to stall an attempt to get an opponent on the November ballot.  First of all, this is an example of why crossfiling should be banned once and for all.  Second, Abel Maldonado is a snake and I can now see why Don Perata would knock on doors for him.  Apparently, neither of them have much interest in the democratic process.

• Arnold thinks the legalization of gender-neutral marriage will be a boost to the sluggish economy, but I hope he’s not basing his entire budget on a sharp uptick in gay weddings.  I mean, there are only so many Mr. Sulus rich enough to have that surge register more than a blip.  By the way, good for Mr. Sulu.  And good for Ellen DeGeneres for telling Straight Talk Express where to shove it.

• Speaking of John W. McCain, he’s in California today.  Nobody show him the PPIC numbers!

• Lucas mentioned this, but Darrell Issa got in the middle of a heated exchange between Henry Waxman and EPA Adminstrator Stephen Johnson over the EPA’s breaking the Clean Air Act.  Emptywheel has video:

• Why Fabian Nuñez is claiming racial bias at this late date over questions about his travel practices is completely beyond me.  And he’s taken to Spanish-language television for these accusations to stoke divisiveness in the Latino community, too.  It’s so counterproductive, as well as misleading.

• Speaking of Spanish-speaking media, this is an older story, but it’s fascinating to me that the Spanish-language channels in LA are so much more substantive than the English-language ones, featuring longer, “more deeply reported” pieces.

• We could see a settlement very shortly on prison overcrowding in the state which would not require early release.  There are some decent components to this deal, but it basically gives everyone three more years to clean up their act, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it just puts us in the same siutation come 2011.  The policies needed are well-known; the political will remains elusive.

• The Bay Area AQMD passed a carbon tax for businesses that emit greenhouse gases.  It’s “not enough to change behavior,” one expert said, but it does presage what may be coming down the pike for polluters.  Whether you get there through selling carbon permits at auction or with a tax, the bottom line is that pollution is going to cost enough money to alter business’ approach to engaging in it.  This is a good step.

• Interesting that we denied the endorsement to Rep. Laura Richardson (CA-37) on the same day that she is forced to defend herself against allegations that she walked away from her foreclosed home in Sacramento.  It sounds like the Congresswoman renegotiated the loan, but the conservative fever swamps are all over this one (check the comments in that LAT blog post).  She did buy the half-million-dollar home with no money down, and then left Sacramento almost immediately after winning election to fill the open seat in Congress.

Lawsuit On Gas Emissions Tossed – Will California Get to Regulate Their Own Air?

A big step forward in the opportunity to finally regulate the air we breathe and the emissions we create in California.  Today a US District Court judge threw out a lawsuit by the automakers that challenged the state’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases.

Automakers sued the state over the tailpipe standards it approved in 2004, which would force automakers to build cars and light trucks that produce about 30 percent fewer greenhouse gases by 2016 […]

In its lawsuit against the state, the auto industry argued that California did not have the authority to set its own standards because it would force manufacturers to produce vehicles using too many different fuel efficiency standards.

But Ishii rejected that claim, saying Congress gave California and the EPA the authority to regulate vehicle emissions, even if those rules are more strict than those imposed by the federal government.

This is a big victory.  However, the state still needs a waiver from the EPA to allow it to implement the tailpipe emissions law.  So far the EPA has dragged its feet, and the state sued them back in November.  There is now a voluminous amount of case law arguing in favor of the EPA granting the waiver, so they almost can’t deny the state at this point.  But the biggest impediment to this now is the Bush Administration trying to subvert their authority through changes in the latest federal energy bill.

The White House has raised last-minute concerns over regulation of automobile emissions and fuel economy that aides said could lead to a presidential veto of the energy bill now before Congress.

The bill, which passed the House and is now pending in the Senate, requires auto makers to meet a fleet average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020, but does not specify which government agency should enforce the new rule.

Primary regulation of mileage standards has historically fallen to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an arm of the Transportation Department. But vehicle tailpipe emissions are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, and a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year affirmed the E.P.A.’s authority to regulate emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from passenger vehicles, which basically would mean regulating their fuel use.

The White House, echoing a position taken by auto manufacturers and a coalition of industry groups, is asking that the energy legislation be changed to specify the highway safety administration as the primary enforcer of fuel efficiency standards, with the E.P.A. in only an advisory role. Democratic leaders in Congress rejected that position as a “nonstarter” and indicated their intent to move the bill with the current language intact.

If the EPA is stripped of their authority to enforce mileage standards and regulating emissions, California (and the other states who want to copy their law) would essentially have to restart the process, and may not be able to be granted the waiver.  I’m confident that Nancy Pelosi would do nothing to subvert the state’s ability to regulate emissions, but Congress must hold firm.  This is a dirty trick designed to undermine current law and forestall any meaningful action on climate change.