AB 32

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Californians Stand By Call for Climate Action

…though most remain clueless about the state’s imminent cap-and-trade program

Craig Miller / KQED

Wind turbines in Solano County. 78% of Californians polled favor federal support for renewable energy.

Much has been made lately of Berkeley physicist Richard Muller’s recent “conversion” to the position that global warming is both happening and stoked by human activity.* But it turns out that the controversial scientist and author has been playing catch-up.

In a statewide survey released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), 60% of Californians polled said that the effects of global warming have already begun. Asking the question in a slightly different way, both the Brookings Institution and the Pew Center for People & the Press found that in 2011, 60% and 63% of Americans, respectively, believed that there was solid evidence that global warming is happening.

Californians took it a step further, however, with nearly three-in-four of the 2,500 participants responding that government should take steps to “counter the effects of global warming right away.” PPIC conducted the survey in July and it includes responses in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese. Continue reading

California Dreaming? Selling Congress on Low-Carbon Fuel

Researchers hope to sway Congress on expanding the California-based standard, though it remains untested at home

Proponents of California’s low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS) hope problems with the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) could spell an opportunity to promote the state’s groundbreaking alternative approach at the national level.

UC Davis

Dan Sperling is leading California's LCFS research group.

Scientists from six research institutions—including UC Davis—are attending a bipartisan briefing on Capitol Hill this week to present the results of a new study touting the potential benefits of a national low-carbon standard.

LCFS — part of California’s AB 32 climate change legislation — calls for a 10% reduction in the “carbon intensity” (CI) of transportation fuels in California by 2020. The federal Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), by contrast, calls for a gradual increase of 35 billion gallons of biofuel by 2022. It also establishes threshold production levels for various biofuel feedstocks, which is where it has run into trouble. Continue reading

The New Cap & Trade Battlefront: How to Spend the Revenues

Lawmakers weigh in on what to do with the carbon-trading windfall

Craig Miller

AB 32 requires California's largest emitters to meet carbon reduction targets. If a firm's emissions are below state-mandated targets, it may auction off its remaining "allowances" to firms that exceeded their emissions targets.

Since the enactment of AB 32 in 2006, California’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction law, analysts have speculated about how to spend the money generated from the law’s cap-and-trade carbon allowance auctions, the first of which is set for this November.

On Tuesday, the State Assembly passed new legislation, AB 1532, that narrowed the options. The bill, which the California Chamber of Commerce has described as a “job killer” and an “illegal tax,” passed 47-26 and awaits action in the Senate. If ratified, it would establish a “Greenhouse Gas Reduction Account” within the state Air Pollution Control Fund and authorize spending auction proceeds on clean energy technology, low-carbon transportation, conservation and green energy research and development.

On Friday, the California Air Resources Board held a public hearing to discuss where auction funds might be spent, as a panel of speakers from across the state and country — representing a broad array of industries and interests — sounded off on where this sizable stream of new funding might be best directed. Continue reading

Cap-and-Trade and Your Electric Bill

State rebates could offset electrical sticker shock, finds a new study

Forcing utilities to pay for their carbon emissions, as California plans to do, will mean more costly megawatts. Six months before formal compliance with the state’s new cap & trade system begins, regulators are still sorting out what to do about that.

One of them is to provide rebates to offset hikes in electric bills. A new report from the clean-economy advocates, Next 10 attempts to sort out the options and put some concrete numbers on them. For example, the authors estimate that for PG&E customers, pricing carbon will add somewhere from two-to-seven dollars a month to summer electric bills, and anywhere from $2.50-to-more than $10 for customers served by Southern California Edison. Where you fall in that range depends in part on which of California’s many climate zones you live in. Places like the Inland Empire, which rely more on air conditioning, would fall in the upper end of the range. Continue reading

First Real Partner for California’s Cap & Trade Program

Quebec takes the plunge with California to swap carbon emissions permits

Asif A. Ali / flickr

Montreal at sunset: Quebec's economy is about one-sixth that of California.

Quebec has emerged as California’s first full-blown partner in the carbon trading program that ramps up later this year. That means that, pending final approval next month, when the two governments issue their first round of greenhouse gas pollution permits in November, industrial buyers will be able to use them both interchangeably. Continue reading

California’s Low-Carbon Fuel Standard Back on Track — For Now

But the courts aren’t finished with the next big piece of the state’s AB 32 climate strategy

By Thibault Worth

Craig Miller

California aims to cut the carbon content of fuels by 10%.

First it was go. Then it was stop. Now, it’s go again.

As of Monday, California’s groundbreaking Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) was back on track for implementation after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay of an injunction against an earlier lower court ruling.

In a statement, the state’s Air Resources Board, which is responsible for the regulation, said the court’s decision would allow California to “continue implementation and resume enforcement of this important program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” [full statement PDF] Continue reading

California Braces for the Complex World of Carbon Markets

In which Air Board chief Mary Nichols performs a dramatic reading of a vintage Jerry Brown speech

California Air Resources Board

As chair of the California Air Resources Board, Mary Nichols is presiding over the nation's first comprehensive cap-and-trade program.

When its nascent cap-and-trade program ramps up later this year, California will be the first state in the nation to reduce greenhouse gases by making a broad spectrum of big polluters buy permits to exceed their allotted emissions.

Other governments, industry and scientists will be watching, but there’s still a lot to sort out. That much has been evident at this week’s carbon market and policy conference in San Francisco, “Navigating the American Carbon World.”

The long and winding road to carbon trading was highlighted by Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, in a little prank she played on the gathering. Obviously reading from a script, she stumbled over words, looked up at the audience, then back down at the page, plodding through her replies to moderator Diane Wittenberg. Continue reading

Why Shell Oil Supports California’s Climate Change Legislation

Shell CEO is pro-AB 32, but stands by taking legal action against environmentalists in Alaska

Shell, US

Shell has partnered with MIT to explore carbon sequestration.

Royal Dutch Shell CEO, Peter Voser affirmed his company’s commitment to AB 32, California’s climate change legislation, and also explained why a carbon trading system is crucial to the development of alternative energy sources.

“We are clearly in favor of cap and trade systems,” he said to an audience of Silicon Valley business people and climate experts Wednesday in Burlingame. “We’d like to have it globally, to level the playing field.”

This statement from Shell, the global oil and gas company headquartered in the Netherlands and one of the world’s largest companies, is notable when you consider the strong opposition to AB 32 from the oil industry at large. In 2010, Proposition 23 attempted to derail the imposition of AB 32 provisions and was largely bankrolled by Tesoro and Valero, two Texas oil companies.

Continue reading

Fuel Cell Reality Check: A Blooming Solution at Caltech?

The “Bloom Box” may be moving one step closer to affordability at Caltech — but is it even close to tipping point for the mass market?

Bloom Energy

Caltech needed more generation capacity to meet the demands of its energy-intensive research.

Sunnyvale-based Bloom Energy made a big splash in 2010 when it came out of stealth mode – on the CBS program 60 Minutes no less – and announced its high-efficiency fuel cell, spawned by a NASA project for Mars. It has earned an impressive roster of clients including Google, eBay and Walmart.

But beyond the inevitable skeptics, the really big catch? “Bloom Boxes,” as the fuel cells have been dubbed, have a price tag of around $700,000. Hardly affordable for all but the largest companies with plenty of cash.

Yet California Institute of Technology, the private research university generally known as Caltech, had twenty Bloom Boxes installed on its Pasadena campus in 2010. Each box now produces 100 kilowatts of electricity for a total of two megawatts capacity; or 17% of the university’s electricity demand.
Continue reading

California Adopts Nation’s Most Sweeping Cap & Trade Plan

But it’s just another milestone in a long journey that’s far from finished

It’s official (no, really, this time). California has cap & trade — or will once the program starts ramping up next year. Today’s approval by the state’s Air Resources Board was described by chair Mary Nichols as like “moving a large army a few feet in one direction.”

John Myers

Ready to roll: A license plate in Sacramento bears the legislative shorthand for California's landmark climate policy.

The objective that “army” is marching — or shuffling — toward is, of course, the fulfillment of California’s goal to roll back greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the end of this decade. With at least a semi-intentional pun, Nichols calls cap & trade the “capstone” of that effort, although the program is expected to produce at most, 20% of the hoped-for reductions in carbon emissions. The rest will come from other measures either lumped under or related to the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act, more widely known as AB 32.

Those other measures include stricter standards for tailpipe emissions, a “low-carbon fuels standard” (still being worked on), and the ambitious-but-attainable goal to get a third of the state’s electricity from renewable energy sources, also by 2020. Continue reading