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.

EPA’s CO2 Rules Old-Hat for California

A much-hyped EPA ruling to regulate greenhouse gases in 2011 doesn’t really change much for California.

A lot’s being made of the move by the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s move to start regulating greenhouse gases in the new year, but policy analysts are greeting it as a relative non-event in states like California (and Massachusetts), which are already moving ahead with their own carbon regulation strategies.

“It’s really a complement to what we’re doing with AB 32,” said California Air Resources Board spokeswoman Gennet Paauwe.

The EPA is acting in response to a 2007 US Supreme Court finding that greenhouse gases fall under the jurisdiction of the Clean Air Act, and therefore are subject to regulation by the federal agency.

Critics of the EPA’s move, such as incoming House Energy Chair Fred Upton (R-Mich), say it’s a job-killer that will hurt domestic energy production. Other members of Congress, like California’s Barbara Boxer, support the EPA’s action.

The new regulations will affect power plants and refineries, which together produce about 40% of all carbon dioxide emissions in the United States.  Starting January 2, industry will be required to consider new technologies and implement measures to mitigate greenhouse gas pollution for approval of new facilities and “major modifications” to existing ones.

“This is about taking a look at what technologies are available that can cost-effectively achieve reductions in greenhouse gases,” EPA assistant administrator Gina McCarthy told reporters in a recent conference call. “We set the standards, and the industry themselves figure out the most cost-effective ways to achieve those standards,” she said.

Vickie Patton, a lawyer for the Environmental Defense Fund, says a similar process is already in place for monitoring many other pollutants, and the new ruling simply adds greenhouse gases to the list.

Existing power plants and refineries will have to address greenhouse gas emissions, too, but not for at least a year.  Draft standards (providing details of the new rules) aren’t expected for power plants until July 2011, and December for refineries.  The agency says those standards wont be finalized until mid-to-late 2012 after a long period of public comment. By that time California’s cap & trade plan under AB 32 will be up and running, barring any legal delays.

The EPA says it will be up to each state to devise it’s own plans for implementing the standards.  And that’s where much of the uncertainly lies.  Texas has already refused to cooperate and sued unsuccessfully to stay the EPA ruling, long before the draft standards have been released or any formal process has been established for implementation.

“We’re really early stage,” said McCarthy. “I can’t tell you what types of reductions we hope to achieve. That’s all going to be driven by the technologies that come to our attention through the public comment period.”

Patton says that despite that state’s high profile objections, most states are on board with the federal process.

“Virtually every state in our country has rolled up its sleeves, prepared for this transition, and is ready to begin carrying out these protections to address global warming pollution, except for Texas,” she said.

Patton said that states like California, which has been a pioneer in both new technologies and in emissions regulation, will have “an important voice” as the standards are being developed.

“In the absence of an effective price on carbon or other incentives for industrial plants to choose clean technology, this is very important and useful tool to help the transition to clean energy and industry in California,” said CARB’s Paauwe. But once the AB 32 program is in motion, she said, this regulation could be redundant, as CARB hopes that the state cap and trade program as well as other market incentives will motivate firms to install the cleanest technologies on their own.

At that time, she said, “We can look at whether a separate clean technology process is necessary.”

It’s (Sort of) Official: Cap & Trade Is (Almost) Here

After a ten-hour hearing in which board members endured more than 170 speakers, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted to “endorse” a 200-page set of rules for what will be the world’s second largest cap & trade program (after Europe).

CARB is charged with implementing the 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act, or AB 32, which mandates that California reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.  The cap & trade program is a key piece of the Air Board’s plans.

“It’s an exciting program,” said Board chair Mary Nichols. “It’s a very big step forward.”

Not that the job is done. Several facets of the regulation will now undergo a fine-tuning process, with another report back to the board in July of next year. Eventually it will find its way to the state’s Office of Administrative Law for review, and finally to the governor’s office, to be signed as an executive order. Continue reading

Lonely Road for Cap and Trade

California is the lab rat in the cap & trade maze

(Photo: Craig Miller)

One day after the midterm congressional elections, President Obama was already talking about cap & trade in the past tense: “Cap & trade was just one way of skinning the cat. It’s not the only way,” the President told reporters. “It was a means, not an end. And I’m gonna be looking for other means to address this problem. Senator Joe Lieberman put it more bluntly. “Cap and trade is off the table,” Lieberman said. “We have to start on the presumption that the table is clean, that nothing is on it.”

But while Washington is “looking for other means” to reduce the carbon emissions that cause global warming, the table is set for cap & trade in California. By day’s end Thursday, the state will likely have the nation’s first system that covers more than electric utilities. Continue reading

Californians Who Rely on Delta at “Severe Risk”

Here’s a shocker: Yes, action is necessary on the San Francisco Bay Delta

(Photo: US Fish & Wildlife)

State and federal authorities provided an update Wednesday on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), which is tasked with restoring the damaged ecosystems of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and safeguarding California’s water supply.

“The 25 million Californians who rely on the Delta for clean drinking water are at severe risk,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, on a call with reporters. Continue reading

Cancun Postscript: Leadership Key For Climate Progress

In this guest post: Some reflections on the recently concluded UN climate talks  from Louis Blumberg, who heads the California Climate Change Team for The Nature Conservancy.

Cancun provided glimmers of what could be if nations put their minds to it

By Louis Blumberg

Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico – I stood up – every one stood up – and applauded loudly for three minutes – twice!  Patricia Espinosa, President of the UN Climate Change Conference walked into the cavernous hall Friday night, calmly took her place at the head table and the place went wild.  The 1500+ people (it could have been 2500) spontaneously gave her a standing ovation and there were still about six  more hours of work to come.

Joining colleagues from the Nature Conservancy and about 9,000 others from 194 countries, we were in Cancun to shape the foundation of what could become a comprehensive, legally binding treaty to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius and avoid major climate disruption.  Last year’s effort in Copenhagen had provided little success and expectations for Cancun were low.  However after two weeks of talks, a balanced package of decisions was reached for a few key issues – like the role of preventing deforestation – and set the stage for completion of the treaty next year in South Africa, potentially. Continue reading

“Tangible” (if Minor) Progress in Cancun

Photo: Gretchen Weber

The UN climate talks in Cancun finally closed in the wee hours of Saturday morning with an agreement that doesn’t set new limits on greenhouse gases, but does move the discussion forward in key areas, such as funding to help developing nations deal with climate change and broad plans to reduce emissions by slowing deforestation in tropical areas. Continue reading

Poll: Californians Still Support Cap-and-Trade

A new poll shows Californians holding firm to their support of California’s climate strategy, including cap-and-trade provisions likely to be approved next week. The poll accompanies a sheaf of new studies commissioned by the pro-clean-tech think tank known as Next 10.

(Photo: Craig Miller)

The Field poll of about 500 Californians, taken right before Thanksgiving, shows two-thirds (66%) of respondents still favor (either “strongly” or “somewhat”) the 2006 climate law known as AB 32, including the cap-and-trade provisions (64%). About one in four oppose both.

The studies released with the poll point to an economic anticlimax under the cap & trade regulations of AB 32, with net benefits in the long-term. One of the lead investigators, David Roland-Holst, calls it a “small ripple in a giant teapot,” the teapot representing the massive California economy. A “synthesis of the findings” released by Next 10 shows a “very small” impact on the state’s economy, and “very small” changes in retail electricity rates. It also concludes that so-called “leakage” — the regulation-induced exodus of business from California is “likely to be small.” That’s not to say there are no losers. “We’ve got to be honest and say there will be trade-offs,” said Roland-Holst. Continue reading

Climate Battle Takes to the Streets

In Cancun and San Francisco, a call for climate solutions from the ground up.

Photo: Gretchen Weber.

Chanting the Spanish equivalent of “The fight continues!”, hundreds of protesters made their way through the streets of downtown Cancun Tuesday, to call for dramatic action on climate change.  Located about an hour by bus away from the Moon Palace where the UN talks are being held, the procession brought together climate activists from around the world, members of Mexico’s indigenous communities, and dozens of journalists eager to report on one of the few major protests at COP16.

Coordinated by a network of climate groups who dubbed Tuesday a “Global Day of Action – 1,000 Cancuns,” the march was timed with demonstrations around the world, including one in San Francisco.  In Cancun, the marchers chanted, sang, beat drums, and danced in the streets, called for workers’ rights, protested inaction on global warming, and in some cases, denounced capitalism. Continue reading

Chu Tones it Down for Cancun

Energy Secretary takes the cautious route in Cancun; just part of the sideshow at COP16.

US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu appeared to pull some punches while speaking at the US Center in Cancun on Monday. (Photo: Gretchen Weber)

The UN climate negotiations in Cancun may be the official attraction, but in many ways, there’s just as much happening at the “side events” here at COP16.  There are dozens everyday — last week there were more than 150, and that number is increasing this week as more people arrive for the final days of the talks.  While the negotiations are limited to representatives from national governments, the side events provide a stage for non-governmental organizations (NGOs), scientists, business leaders, and local and regional government officials, many of them, it turns out, from California. Continue reading