Governor: RPS Order "Stronger than Law"

Gov. Schwarzenegger fields questions from Greg Dalton of the Commonwealth Club's Climate One initiative. Photo: Governor's Office

Gov. Schwarzenegger fields questions from Greg Dalton of the Commonwealth Club's Climate One initiative. Photo: Governor's Office

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is defending his planned veto of two renewable power bills, saying the executive order he issued instead is “stronger than the law” because it places fewer limitations on electricity imported from other states.

At the tail end of the legislative session, California’s assembly and senate passed separate bills requiring the state’s utilities to draw a third of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. But during a Q&A session at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club Thursday, the Governor said that the recently passed bills were “for special interests” and that they “represented protectionism,” the latter a reference to limits on how much energy could be imported from neighboring states. The Governor’s own executive order has the same proportional requirement or “renewable portfolio standard” (RPS) as the bills but sets no limits on imported power. Also unlike the legislature’s bills, the order does not exclude particular sources, such as hydro-electric from the definition of “renewables.”

Critics contend that succeeding governors might simply rescind the order, which Governor Schwarzenegger does not deny. He faces an October 11 deadline to veto the bills.

Governor Schwarzenegger’s appearance was designed to mark the third anniversary of the state’s adoption of AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, a law which has its own detractors.

Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay, who is running for governor said last week that she would issue a moratorium on most AB 32-related rules on her first day as Governor.  When asked about  Whitman’s remarks Schwarzenegger dismissed her comments as “just rhetoric.”

“I think she will probably reconsider what she has said and will see that the greatest thing that can happen for California is to move forward. I’m sure she does not want to be counted as one of those Republicans that want to move us back to the Stone Age,” he said.

Touting the state’s achievements in renewable energy innovation, emissions reductions,  and technology, the Governor painted a rosy picture of an invigorated economy, new jobs, and a cleaner environment throughout the state.

“A wave of green innovation is washing over our state right now,” he said.  “In last three years,  scientists and entrepreneurs have pumped more than $6 billion of venture capital into California.  Since 2005, green jobs in California have grown ten times faster than other jobs. California companies hold more than 40% of the nation’s new patents in solar and wind technology, and solar installations this year alone in California have gone up by 120%.”

Focusing largely on projected economic benefits, he made a case for continuing on the path California started three years ago with AB 32 and is continuing under his executive order from earlier this month, saying that the current path offers far more economic opportunity than economic risk.

“I know that it’s possible to protect the environment and the economy at the same time,” he said. “Technology will save us all. It’s all about technology, technology, technology. ”

Not all of the speech was about legislation, green technologies and the economy, however. The Governor did respond to a question from  group of fourth-graders attending the talk, asking what he says to his children about climate change.

“I’ve had major fights with my kids,” he said.

He said he has imposed a five-minute shower rule in his house and that he sometimes “spies” on his children to make sure they are obeying his order.

“If their showers are more than five minutes, there will be consequences.”

He added that other environmental steps his family has taken at home are to install solar panels nearby to provide energy for the family swimming pool and jacuzzi, and that they have converted the regular engines on their Hummers to hydrogen or bio-fuel engines.

Updated: Disaster Status Sought for Valley

Five days after filing it, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was still awaiting some response from the White House to his request for a federal disaster declaration, to address drought conditions in Fresno County.

Meanwhile, the Washington bureau of the McClatchy newspaper chain (which includes the Fresno Bee) reports that the request is something of a longshot.

The Governor made the request last Friday, one day after he faced a tense gathering in Fresno, where water issues upstaged even the precarious condition of state finances, and shortly after a meeting with farmers in Mendota.

The governor has had a standing statewide drought emergency in effect since February. Friday he signed an executive order freeing up state resources to help ease drought-related impacts. A federal declaration would allow affected businesses to apply for federal aid. President Obama has since signed several other disaster declarations last week, in response to storms in Missouri, wildfires in Oklahoma and other incidents.

Speed Bumps on the “Hydrogen Highway”

Seems like the Governor is spending a lot of time looking at cars lately. If the rest of us spent as much time cruising Auto Row, the recession might already be fading in the rear-view mirror.

Governor Schwarzenegger tries out the Volkswagen Passat Lingyu. Photo: Governor's Office

Governor Schwarzenegger at the wheel of a Volkswagen Passat Lingyu. Photo: Governor's Office

But California’s chief executive isn’t interested in run-of-the-mill rolling stock (he will, of course, happily take credit for inventing the Hummer). He’s into exotics: the alternative-fuel cars of the future–and in some cases, present.

At least five times in the last three weeks, the Governor’s Office has created photo ops with alt-fuel autos, prototypes or refueling stations; from a fuel-cell Volkswagen (June 3) to the Mutt-&-Jeff of electrics, Hummer and Peapod (May 28 & June 10, respectively), he’s kicked the tires on a whole generation of not-widely-available wheels–not to mention the home ethanol refinery (June 4) or the hydrogen refueling station in Santa Monica (May 27).

All of which got us to wondering: “Dude, where’s our Hydrogen Highway?” You may recall the Governor’s promise five years ago, that California would by now be coming down the home stretch on a whole new infrastructure for the coming swarm of cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

Monday morning on KQED’s weekly Quest radio feature, David Gorn reports that we’ve apparently hit a few speed bumps:

“The technology clearly has promise, but it’s behind schedule. Schwarzenegger’s original plan called for 100 to 150 hydrogen fuel stations by next year, and so far there are only about two dozen. He also wanted 2,000 hydrogen-powered cars on the road, yet fewer than 200 are being road-tested today. The lack of progress has prompted California’s non-partisan state legislative analyst to recommend scrapping state funding for the hydrogen program. And on the federal level, Energy Secretary Steven Chu has asked Congress to cut about half of the national hydrogen-research budget. Chu said hydrogen technology is too far from fruition.”

None of these details stopped Governor  Schwarzenegger from hyping the 2009 Hydrogen Road Tour, a recently concluded San Diego-to-Vancouver rally, designed to highlight fuel-cell technology:

“We will keep pushing, and thanks to our public-private partnerships and the commitment of these automakers and energy companies, the era of pollution-free transportation is dawning.”

The Governor’s statement went on to say that “Auto manufacturers expect the number of hydrogen vehicles to increase to 4,300 by 2014 and more than 40,000 vehicles by 2017.” Of course, that was before Energy Secretary Steve Chu announced that R&D funding for hydrogen fuel cells on the road didn’t quite make the cut for the next DOE budget. Plug-in hydrid, anyone?

Governor Gets His White House Climate Confab

Our Governor is a hard man to ignore. Less than a month ago, he and eleven other U.S. governors wrote a letter to the new President, reminding him of commitments he made to work in earnest with states on climate issues. Governor Schwarzenegger specifically recalled a line from President (then-elect) Obama’s remarks to the Governors’ Climate Summit last November: “Any governor willing to promote clean energy will have a partner in the White House.”

The January letter (this link is a .pdf download) requested a meeting with top-level members of the White House environmental team “as soon as possible…to discuss a state-federal partnership on clean energy and climate change issues.” This weekend the governors got their meeting.

The President didn’t show up but at least four high-level players did, including energy secretary Steven Chu, interior secretary Ken Salazar, EPA chief Lisa Jackson and the President’s energy and climate deputy, Carol Browner.

While no substantive announcements came out of it, Governor Schwarzenegger said afterward:

“Today’s meeting was the first step in creating a close and lasting partnership with President Obama and his administration on climate change. I look forward to working hand-in-hand with our federal partners to realize the ambitious clean energy and climate change goals I know we share, and that I know will provide a boost to our nation’s economy.”

Some remain skeptical that the path back to prosperity is paved with Green. California’s governor has been a vocal cheerleader for just such a strategy, to tackle both environmental and economic challenges.

The governors’ group’s stated goals include aggressive programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and harnessing “market mechanisms” (read that: “cap-and-trade”) to fund development of clean energy technology. They also want to “preserve and enhance state and local authority” in the regulation arena, and stave off “federal preemption” of what the states have already started.

Climate Summit Set to Start as L.A. Smolders

The Governors’ Climate Summit convenes Tuesday against the poignant–and salient–backdrop of the multiple wildfires and smoldering ruins ringing Los Angeles.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is hosting the somewhat hastily arranged conference, which is “co-hosted” by the governors of four other U.S. states; Florida, Illinois, Kansas, and Wisconsin. Governors of four other states have pledged to send delegates. Two of these states, Utah and Washington, are already partners with California in the Western Climate Initiative, which recently rolled out a framework for its regional cap & trade program, set to take effect in 2012.

Governor Schwarzenegger said in September that “all 50” US governors would be invited. Sacramento-based AP writer Samantha Young documented invitations to at least 36 governors.

Those who made it are joined by representatives from a dozen other nations, including Mexico, Brazil and importantly, China and India. These last two are linchpins in the success of any concerted effort to control emissions of greenhouse gases. Brazil can make a major contribution in the preservation of tropical forests. And Mexico–well, they’re right next door. And annoyingly, GHG emissions tend to flout international borders. It’s been estimated that on certain days, a quarter of L.A.’s air pollution can be traced to China, though today was certainly not one of them. The odor of smoke from surrounding wildfires followed me down I-5 from Castaic, into the L.A. Basin.

Tuesday’s summit agenda is dominated by breakout sessions devoted to specific sectors and topics, such as energy, transportation and cement manufacturing. Discussions will include representatives of diverse interests, from The Nature Conservancy to Wal-Mart. By Wednesday organizers expect delegates to sign a “joint declaration agreeing to pursue collaborative action to reduce greenhouse gas emission and create opportunities to grow green economies.”

I’ll be following the proceedings and blogging daily from them.

Governor Orders Plan for Rising Seas

Governor Schwarzenegger today issued an executive order (S-13-08) requiring state agencies to assess and plan for rising sea levels caused by climate change.


The order instructs the California Resources Agency, Dept. of Water Resources, Energy Commission and others to come up with a game plan for coping with the risk of encroaching sea water in coastal areas, and gives them two months to convene an “independent panel” to study the problem and make recommendations.

According to the Governor’s order:

“California’s water supply and coastal resources, including valuable natural habitat areas, are particularly vulnerable to sea level rise over the next century and could suffer devastating consequences if adaptive measures are not taken…”

The nation’s oldest continuously operating sea level gauge, located at Fort Point in San Francisco,  logged a seven-inch rise during the last century. Current projections, which combine data from traditional ground-based meters with satellite telemetry, project that with a lax response to climate change, the Pacific could rise three times that much this century.

The order goes out three days before Schwarzenegger hosts a Governors’ Climate Summit in Beverly Hills.

Another Climate "Summit"

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said today that he plans to host a major climate conference in November. Few details were offered for the planned Governors’ Global Climate Summit–not even a date–but there is a goal and that’s to “form a broad international alliance,” to lay a “framework” for the next round of UN-sponsored talks,  scheduled for December in Poznan, Poland. Schwarzenegger plans to invite every U.S. governor as well as provincial governors from around the world, including China.

At the conferences in Poznan and later, Copenhagen, negotiators will try to build momentum toward a meaningful international climate accord, before the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

In his speech before members of the Commonwealth Club of California, at San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel, the Governor took U.S. leaders to task for being “asleep at the wheel” when it comes to taking action to mitigate global warming. “We are not waiting for the federal government,” said Schwarzenegger, “We (will) continue on and push forward.”

He also had some choice words for U.S. automakers, who he said “need to get off their butts” and start building greener cars. He applauded Tesla Motors for its decision to build electric cars in San Jose, a project touted to bring 1,000 new jobs to Silicon Valley.

The Governor sidestepped a question about Proposition 10, the natural gas initiative supported by Texas entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens, saying he’ll take a position on that and other statewide ballot measures in the weeks to come.

Schwarzenegger said he would “review very carefully” SB 375, the anti-sprawl bill awaiting his signature. He said he “loves the idea” but that the bill would have effects almost as sweeping as the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.

The Governor’s entire speech will be broadcast on KQED Radio tonight at 8 p.m., with re-broadcasts scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.