Assembly Bill 32

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Reducing Emissions with Inflated Tires

The state Air Resources Board passed a new regulation this week designed to increase fuel efficiency and reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.  It requires auto shops to check the tires on their customers’ vehicles and to inflate them to proper levels whenever they are doing an oil change or providing any other service.

CARB estimates that if every car in California had properly inflated tires, the state could save 75 million gallons of fuel and reduce emissions by 900 metric tons. Continue reading

California Fails to Pass Renewable Energy Bill

California wrestles with its clean energy goals. (Photo: Lauren Sommer)

It came down to the final minutes before midnight last night for SB 722, the bill that would make law California’s 33% renewable energy goal by 2020. But as the bill’s author State Senator Joe Simitian says, “The clock just ran out. It’s as simple and painful as that.” Continue reading

US EPA Official Says “No on 23″

US EPA Regional 9 Administrator Jared Blumenfeld, at Crissy Field in San Francisco on August 25th. (Photo: Gretchen Weber)

The ranks of officials publicly opposing Proposition 23 seem to be growing.  Earlier this month we reported that Energy Secretary Steven Chu said passing the measure would be a “terrible setback” for California’s clean energy leadership and that the state’s Air Resources Board Chairman Mary Nichols called Prop 23 a “very serious threat” to the core programs of AB 32 and related regulatory programs.

Today, at a meeting of the California Air Pollution Control Officers Association in San Francisco, federal EPA Administrator Jared Blumenfeld urged attendees to vote against the measure.

Doing so, he said, “is certainly what you should do.”
Continue reading

The Overspray from Prop 23

On Monday, US energy secretary Steven Chu became the latest high-profile voice against California’s Proposition 23, the statewide initiative to suspend AB 32, the state’s four-year-old climate strategy.

“AB 32 was a good bill and continues to have California in a leadership role in developing clean energy and the efficient use of energy,” Chu told reporters at a dedication in Menlo Park. “From the middle 1970s California played that role and it would just be a terrible setback.”

Last week the trend was given full voice by Mary Nichols, who, as chair of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), is charged with getting AB 32 fully implemented in the next two years, called Prop 23 a “very serious threat,” not just to the core programs of AB 32, but to an array of regulatory programs that support the state’s attack on greenhouse gases. Continue reading

Nichols: No Solo Cap-and-Trade

Cap-and-Trade is a lonely business these days. But according to the state’s top regulator in charge of implementing it, California won’t go it alone.

Air Board Chair Mary Nichols, flanked by Google Green Energy Czar Bill Weihl (left) and PG&E Sr. VP Tom Bottorff, at a panel sponsored by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. (Photo: Craig Miller)

Mary Nichols, who chairs the state’s Air Resources Board, made the remark in a Silicon Valley panel discussion today. The ostensible topic of the event was renewable energy but it turned into a pep rally against Proposition 23, the statewide ballot measure designed to halt California’s comprehensive climate law, AB 32. Nichols was joined on the panel by executives from Google, PG&E and venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, all of whom voiced strong opposition to Prop 23.

When asked about the cap-and-trade provisions of AB 32, Nichols said: “We won’t launch this program without partners to trade with. It doesn’t make sense for an economy even as big as California, to try to do this all by ourselves.” The comment came days after congressional leaders threw in the towel for the summer, on a federal bill to address climate change and energy security. “To get the kind of leverage that you really need to make this program succeed, the US has got to step in,” said Nichols.

California is part of a nascent regional trading pact known as the Western Climate Initiative. But among the seven US states and four Canadian provinces signed on to the WCI, only California, New Mexico and Quebec are prepared to move forward with a working carbon trading market. Others still lack enabling legislation, and Arizona has overtly pulled out of the carbon trading plan, raising the question of how many “partners” California will have, even with WCI in the mix.

“I don’t expect to be faced with this dilemma,” Nichols told me after today’s event, “but if the worst were to happen and none of these states were able to move forward with their own programs, I think we would think long and hard about whether we would actually start enforcing the program, unless and until we were really confident that our  state had the ability to do it in a way that would not put us at a competitive disadvantage.”

Proponents of Prop 23 contend that full implementation of AB 32 will give other states and nations a competitive edge over California, resulting in “leakage” of jobs and businesses to regions with fewer regulations.

The panel, entitled “Electric Bills and Oil Spills: Will California Continue To Be a Clean Energy Leader?” was held on the Google corporate campus in Mountain View.

Whitman Commits on Prop 23 — Sort of

The mystery of whether Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman does or does not support Proposition 23 would appear to be solved. After weeks of steadfastly refusing to take a stand one way or the other on the ballot measure to freeze the state’s climate law known as AB 32, Whitman conceded on a radio broadcast that “In all likelihood I will vote ‘No’ on Prop 23.” Continue reading

Coal, Soot and A Mighty Wind

This week in climate news: coal dollars in California, soot in the air, and wind in the desert.

1. Big Coal Donates to Fiorina Campaign

Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina received $63,000 in donations  from out-of-state coal mining interests. About a third of that money is from Murray Energy Corporation in Ohio, the largest privately owned coal producer in the U.S. Continue reading

Poll Shows Support for Climate Law

An expansive new poll on environmental attitudes suggests that despite the recession, Californians are holding fast to their environmental priorities.

Among the findings in the report released this week by the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California is that support for the state’s climate change strategy remains strong, even in the face of a well-financed campaign against the law known as AB 32. Two-thirds (67%) of the respondents support the 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in California–about the same level as when PPIC polled the question last year. Continue reading

In the (Climate) News

We know there’s a lot happening out there.  In case you missed them, here are a few recent climate stories that have been on our radar this week.

1.  Charges against “Climategate” scientists dismissed for the third time
Another independent review of British researchers in the “Climategate” scandal came to the same conclusion of previous investigations: The researchers did not manipulate their data. However, the review does fault the researchers for being less-than-forthcoming with their data at times, and for being  lax in response to critics.
(Read more at the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, and BBC.com)

2. Utility giant PG&E opposes AB 32 blocker
CEO Peter Darbee released a statement in opposition of Proposition 23 saying that “…unchecked climate change could cost California’s economy alone tens of billions of dollars a year in losses to agriculture, tourism, and other sectors.”  Prop 23, which qualified for the Nov. 2 ballot last month, would suspend AB 32 until unemployment falls to 5.5 percent for four straight quarters.
(Read more at the The Sacramento Bee and CleanTechnica.com)

3. Federal funding for carbon capture and storage research
This week the Department of Energy announced approximately $67 million for ten projects designed to develop technology for CO2 capture and storage from coal power plants, a strategy considered central to reducing global CO2 emissions.  Menlo Park-based Membrane Technology and Research, Inc. is slated to receive almost $15 million of the funds.
(Read more at The New York Times Green blog.)

5. Cloud seeding could make things wetter
Spraying seawater into clouds to combat global warming could yield wetter seasons, a Stanford study found.  The analysis used computer simulations of the global climate system with increased CO2 levels and more reflective clouds over all of the world’s oceans. Researchers said they were surprised by the findings because previous computer simulations have found that using geoengineering to whiten clouds and decrease solar radiation could make the Earth drier, not wetter.

Chistopher Penalosa is a Climate Watch intern.

National Panel Backs State Climate Efforts

A hefty stack of reports issued by a top national science board appears to affirm California’s response to the challenges of climate change.

The National Research Council, an arm of the National Academies of Science today released three reviews of the current climate science, each focusing on a different aspect of it. The first report, a 400-page assessment of the state of the science, affirms the prevailing view among scientists that global warming is proceeding apace, propelled largely by emissions of greenhouse gases, and that some of the early impacts are already upon us.

Stanford’s Pamela Matson, a specialist in biogeochemical ecology and lead author of the science assessment, said these conclusions are supported by “multiple lines of evidence” and have “stood firm” in the face of intense scientific scrutiny. Matson conceded, however, that much uncertainty remains in the science, and that the credible range of global warming projections runs from two, to eleven degrees, Fahrenheit, by the end of this century.

Two companion reports focused on mitigation and adaptation strategies, respectively (for a closer look at the latter, see Nicole Heller’s post at Climate Central).

Robert Fri, who led the NAS panel on “limiting the future magnitude of climate change,” said that federal policies should “enable flexibility and experimentation in policies at state & local level.” Fri cited California and Alaska as leaders in climate response policy at the state level. Mary Nichols, who chairs California’s Air Resources Board and effectively heads the implementation of the state’s climate strategy, also sits on the “Limiting Panel” of the NAS review. Nichols has been a vocal promoter of state and regional efforts, such as the Western Climate Initiative.

When queried about pending federal legislation that might nullify state programs to regulate carbon, Fri said that “the bar ought to be pretty high for federal preemption. States have already done a lot,” he said, and it’s important not to act in a way that reverses the progress.”

Likewise Fri’s colleague, Tom Wilbanks, head of the study’s adaptation panel, said that what’s needed is “not a federal response but a national response,” and that Washington’s role should be to “create a framework” of policies and resources that “reinforce each other rather than get in each others’ way.”

The recommendations come as California’s sweeping 2006 climate strategy, known widely as AB 32, is under attack from Republican gubernatorial candidates and a well-funded initiative campaign to suspend most regulations under the law. Likewise both the House and Senate bills pending in Washington would either preempt or temporarily freeze state programs to reduce carbon emissions.

Fri also provided the morning’s most eyebrow-raising moment when he said that current technology will not be up to the task of reducing warming.  “We can’t get there by just deploying what we know how to do,” he said, noting that brand new technologies will be required. “And we probably won’t be doing it at least cost,” he added.

The NAS reports released today do not recommend specific targets for GHG emissions. The three reports are the first in a series of five requested by Congress as part of the program called America’s Climate Choices.

A webcast of the one-hour public rollout of the reports is available at the NAS website.