California Watch


State Struggling to Reduce Vehicle Emissions

This post was originated by our content partners at California Watch.

Report says driving needs to be more costly to get us out of our cars

By Marie C. Baca

Drivers now pay $6 to cross the San Francisco Bay Bridge during peak traffic hours. "Peak pricing" is one strategy to push commuters to alternative transit. (Photo: Craig Miller)

California faces significant obstacles in complying with a 2008 state law aimed at reducing passenger vehicle usage, according to a report by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.

The report points to unrealized rail transit investments and resistance to pricing tools like fuel taxes as factors that have slowed reduction in car usage.

The two-year-old SB 375 mandates that California’s major metropolitan areas reduce per capita emissions from driving by 7 percent by 2020 and by 15 percent in 2035. While the primary focus of the bill is a reduction in the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, the legislation places a special emphasis on addressing traffic and public health concerns by reducing the number of miles residents drive. Continue reading

CA Says “So Long, Energy-Sucking Light Bulbs”

(Photo: Craig Miller)

This post originally appeared on California Watch, a KQED content partner and a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting.

By Susanna Rust

Say goodbye to your 100-watt incandescent light bulbs. On Jan. 1, it’ll become increasingly challenging to find one on a store shelf in California.

That’s because the state has ordered a phaseout of the high energy-consuming light bulb.

The state is pressing to have the old incandescents replaced with newer, more efficient bulbs, such as compact fluorescents, halogens and light-emitting diode light bulbs, or LEDs.

And beginning in 2012, 100-watt incandescents will be off the shelves completely.

As is typical, California is getting a jump-start on a trend that will begin nationwide in a few years. Three years ago, the federal government enacted legislation to phase out the old bulbs. National phaseout will begin in 2014. Other countries, such as Australia, Ireland and Cuba have already banned them.

There are drawbacks to the new bulbs, however.

Fluorescent bulbs, or CFLs, contain mercury, which can be harmful to the environment and to human health. Therefore, the bulbs must be handled differently than other household waste.

Local hazardous waste centers, and some hardware stores, will take spent fluorescent bulbs for recycling. The other bulbs contain chemicals such as bromine and iodine. These do not require special recycling.

Consumers looking to find a replacement for the old 100-watt bulb will likely choose the energy-efficient 72-watt bulb, which will provide an equal amount of light but uses less power.

“The consumer will still be able to use the product and have the same results to light an office, a desk lamp, a hallway. A 72-watt light bulb will still provide the same service as the old 100-watt bulb,” Adam Gottlieb, a spokesman for the California Energy Commission, told the Scripps Howard news service. “Consumers really need to know they won’t see any difference. The difference they’ll see is a more energy-efficient bulb.”

The California Energy Commission website has a user-friendly FAQ page about the new light bulb standards and how the rules affect consumers.

Rumblings of Another Attack on AB 32

Texas - more than a little interested in California's Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Here’s proof positive conferences put on by the Minnesota Rural Electric Association are can’t-miss events. Mark Schapiro of California Watch attended last month, and got a scoop (and I’m not talking about a scoop of Minnesota’s famed butter.)

Schapiro learned the attorneys general of Alabama, Nebraska, Texas and North Dakota are preparing to sue California if the golden state’s landmark law limiting greenhouse gas emissions survives a challenge at the ballot box this November from Proposition 23.

The grounds? AB 32 interferes with interstate commerce, according to Wayne Stenehjem, attorney general of North Dakota (pop. 642,200), giving new meaning to old phrase “the long arm of the law.”

“We are going to test the limits of how much you can constrain interstate commerce in the name of climate change,” Stenehjem told Schapiro.
Continue reading