Tag Archives: California Gov. Jerry Brown

GRANT COOKE: CBR permit denied and new Green Inudstrial Revolution developments impact Benicia

Repost from the Benicia Herald

Grant Cooke: CBR permit denied and new Green Inudstrial Revolution developments impact Benicia

By Grant Cooke, September 22, 2016
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Grant Cooke

History, or at least precedence, was made Tuesday evening when the Benicia City Council denied Valero a land use permit to bring in volatile Bakken and Tar Sands crude oil from North Dakota and Canada by train.

In what appeared to observers to be a stunning change of heart, the council unanimously agreed with the Planning Commission’s earlier recommendation to reject Valero’s project permit.

With other Northern California cities —and San Luis Obispo—watching carefully, the council’s action set a precedent and reaffirmed a city’s right to regulate local land use and protect the health and safety of its citizens.

The decision may have marked the first significant rejection by a California small town of a fossil fuel company’s proposed major business expansion, and probably notes the diminishing power of the industry in local and state politics.

Interestingly enough, the most prominent rejection by a small town of an oil company’s intended expansion occurred in Denton, Texas. Denton, a quiet and prosperous suburb of Dallas, in the middle of America’s oil patch, banned fracking (a method of shale gas extraction that uses large amounts of water pumped at high pressure into channels drilled into rock to release gas) within the city limits in 2014.

Benicia council’s decision has signaled the city’s first steps away from its past dependence on the fossil fuel industry and its Company Town identity, and marks a tentative step toward a new reality. While local, the decision was significant and reflects the growing momentum of the megatrend known as the Green Industrial Revolution, which is replacing carbon dependent economies with those powered by renewable energy.

Despite the decision, and for years to come Benicia’s tax revenue will still be highly dependent on fossil fuel, and so the developments of the Green Industrial Revolution with its twin drivers of carbon emission reduction and non-carbon energy expansion will have enormous consequences. As the Green Industrial Revolution expands, it will lead to the decline of the fossil fuel industries and correspondingly to the reduction of Benicia’s tax base and carbon-dependent economy.

Here are some other recent events furthering this expansion, and while not local, all have a bearing on Benicia’s future.

The first event happened at the recent G20 meeting in Hangzhou, China. The G20 meeting, which occurs annually, brought together the world’s 20 major economies to discuss international problems and potential policies and solutions. Leaders from the U.S., the European Union, China, Japan and Russia among others, came together for the two-day summit. Next year’s meeting is in Germany.

Woodrow Clark, my writing/business partner, is a member of the B20, a G20 subgroup that focuses on international business and economic issues. As a member of the group that delivered a policy report at the Hangzhou meeting, Woody had a front row view of the historic G20 meeting. Among the policy discussions that the meeting generated, there were some remarkable initiatives. One was that Russia agreed to join the US and China, along with the EU in addressing climate change. I imagine that India will also commit to GHG reductions next year at the G20 meeting in Germany.

This is an expansion of the initial US/China agreement from December’s UN Climate Conference in Paris. It increases the pressure on the fossil fuel industry, which is already beset by plunging oil prices, corrupt and chaotic politics, and furthers the rapid development of non-carbon renewable energy. Its impact on Benicia is indirect, unlike a report from Japan’s Eneco Holdings, LTD, which was part of the G20 Executive Talk Series. (Here’s the link to the vertical edition http://g20executivetalkseries.com )

A second development was also part of the G20 meeting and featured the showcasing of a remarkable chemical breakthrough by Eneco Holdings, LTD, from Japan. The company has the potential to be one of Asia’s largest energy companies with their development of a nano-emulsion technology. It appears that the company has succeeded in making a “complete fusion” between water and oil through the ultra-miniaturization of components at the molecular level. In simple terms, they have succeeded, where all others have failed, in mixing water and oil into a combustible fuel. The result is a mixture that is 70 percent water and stable enough to be a used in internal combustion engines. Further, it is safe and environmentally friendly, emitting about half the carbon, nitrous oxide, and sulfur dioxide released in traditional internal combustion gasoline and diesel combustions. Additionally, when produced in large quantities it will be significantly cheaper than conventional gasoline and diesel.

Originally produced for the Japanese market, Eneco’s Plasma Fusion fuel is being tested and used in China and other parts of Asia. With clean emissions levels, it is ideal for the heavily polluted Asian megacities, and should rapidly grow into a viable alternative to conventional gasoline and diesel. Just imagine how healthy West Oakland’s port area would be without its diesel contaminates? Regardless, this emulsion fuel will be a transitional fuel to hydrogen powered vehicles.

The third development that will have a significant impact on the fossil fuel industries is the continual plunge in the price of solar panels. Last week at a meeting, a solar developer told me that panel prices are now the lowest they have ever been in California, plus they are functioning at their highest levels of efficiency.

Driven by the economic principle of Zero Cost Margins—once the equipment is paid for, the rest of the energy is free—solar and renewable energy are expanding at the rate of Moore’s Law, or doubling about every 18 months. Developing and developed nations are rapidly adopting renewable energy, mostly wind and solar, as a replacement for fossil fuels. In about 20 areas in the world, particularly in Asia, solar and renewable energy are less expensive than fossil fuel. Even Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are developing large solar power generation sites.

Because of Russian aggression and threats of shutting off the natural gas supply, Europe has accelerated its transition from fossil fuel and atomic energy to wind and solar. Germany is a major user of solar energy despite the northern climate, and the United Kingdom is building the world’s biggest offshore wind farm called Hornsea off the Yorkshire coast. Hornsea will be the world’s first offshore wind farm to exceed 1 GW in capacity and will produce enough energy to power well over 1 million homes.

Closer to home, the United States’ Pacific coastline has enough wind and tidal resources to power most of the nation’s needs, and by adding solar to the mix, the U.S. could easily generate enough electricity for centuries to come. Roughly speaking, wind power costs about 2 to 4 cents per kilowatt hour and solar about 5 to 6 cents. PG&E charges around 22 to 24 cents per kilowatt hour, so it’s just a matter of time before on-site or distributive energy overtakes traditional energy delivery.

Further, the carbon industries and the large central utilities have flawed business models that are dependent on ever increasing growth and they cannot adapt to the lower prices available from renewable energy, or the increasing efficiency of vehicles and buildings. This is why Clark and I have written extensively on energy cost deflation and the shrinkage and decline of the carbon industries and the large central utilities.

Finally, we come to Sept. 8’s monumental signing by Gov. Jerry Brown of Senate Bill 32, the legislation that has catapulted California into a leadership role of the international efforts to slow global warming. SB 32 will force the state’s trillion-dollar economy, one of the biggest in the world, into a much smaller carbon footprint. In fact, the legislation requires the state to slash greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, a much more ambitious target than the previous goal of hitting 1990 levels by 2020. Cutting emissions will affect nearly all aspects of our lives, accelerating the growth of renewable energy, prodding people into buying electric autos, and pushing developers into building denser communities connected to mass transit. (Details: http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-jerry-brown-signs-climate-laws-20160908-snap-story.html ).

One other key element to California’s pursuit of clean air and reduced greenhouse gases is the state’s cap-and-trade program. The program requires the state’s heavy polluters to buy carbon offsets, or credits, to release emissions into the atmosphere, creating an additional operating cost for the oil and utility industries.

SB 32 and the expansion of cap-and-trade will have dramatic impacts on the state’s fossil fuel industries. Likely many of us are driving our last conventional gasoline powered vehicle, with the next one probably powered by electricity or hydrogen. It’s not hard to predict that since the Bay Area’s refineries are the heaviest of the area’s polluters, that the combination of reduced revenue from shrinking demand and increased costs of production and operation will eventually lead to refinery closings.

The fossil fuel industries won’t give up easily, there’s trillions of dollars at stake. Many of the industries leaders and the more prescient investment bankers know that the fossil fuel era has peaked and started to decline, which is why Russia overran the Crimea and is poised to take over Ukraine. Which is why the U.S. and Canada are being besieged by the fossil fuel interests to ignore or eliminate environmental and safety protections that hamper production.

Which is why Valero pushed so hard to transport volatile Bakken crude by rail cars through the densely populated Sacramento corridor and cram the trains into Benicia and a refinery that is not designed or equipped to deal with them. The industries, the refineries and all connected to the fossil fuel era, know that the incredibly lucrative period when oil was king and black gold flowed from the sand is coming to an end.

Bringing this back to Benicia, we see a city that is dependent on Valero for tax revenue and its governing process glimpsing a new reality. Small cities like Benicia that have been so dependent on the fossil fuel industries for so much and for so long, struggle to change. Other cities like those in the deindustrialized Midwest that have suffered sudden collapses of their major companies and tax bases have had to reinvent their economic drivers or just blow away. But it’s hard for a city like Benicia with its apparent prosperity and ease of living to understand that its fossil fuel base is in decline and that the future is elsewhere.

Grant Cooke is a longtime Benicia resident and CEO of Sustainable Energy Associates. He is also an author and has written several books on the Green Industrial Revolution. His newest is “Smart Green Cities” by Routledge.
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Demand sags for California credits aimed at greenhouse gases

Repost from Associated Press

Demand sags for California credits aimed at greenhouse gases

By Ellen Knickmeyer, Aug. 23, 2016 6:46 PM EDT

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California’s latest carbon auction brought disappointing results Tuesday as litigation and lagging support by lawmakers weigh down the state’s landmark programs combating climate change.

State officials said only 34 percent of the available carbon pollution credits were sold in the latest auction under the program, which requires companies that emit climate-changing gases to buy the pollution permits.

It was a slight rebound from this spring, when investors bought just 10 percent of the pollution credits offered, signaling a rocky period for the state’s overall campaign against climate-changing pollution from fossil fuels.

The cap-and-trade program is a keystone of Gov. Jerry Brown’s efforts to reduce climate-changing pollution in California and is being watched closely around the world as other governments put together efforts to fight climate change.

Dave Clegern, spokesman for the state air board that runs the effort, said the program is adapting as it should to shifts in the market.

“The California cap-and-trade program is first and foremost a greenhouse gas reduction program, and it is working” to bring down carbon pollution from fossil fuels, Clegern said in an email.

Pollution credits consistently sold out after the cap-and-trade program began in 2012, bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars quarterly for initiatives that reduce greenhouse gases. The proceeds are used to fund a high-speed rail project pushed by Brown, along with other transit construction and energy conservation efforts.

This year, demand plummeted amid uncertainty about the program’s viability. The result was the steep decline in revenue at a spring auction, prompting concerns that funding won’t be available long-term to continue the programs.

Brown, backed by environmental groups and some Democratic lawmakers, is struggling to win support for extending the state’s landmark global warming law amid opposition from oil companies, Republicans and moderate Democrats in the Legislature.

Republican lawmakers called the latest middling auction results a failure and a flop, and called again for the state to abandon the cap-and-trade program.

However, the state Assembly took a critical step Tuesday when it advanced the latest global warming legislation to the state Senate, where it is also expected to pass before next week. Both chambers are dominated by Democrats.

The California Chamber of Commerce is fighting cap-and-trade in court, claiming it is an illegal tax that did not go through the proper legislative approval process.

The lawsuit in particular is scaring away some potential investors, said Dan McGraw, a Houston-based carbon analyst with the ICIS trade publication.

“Potentially there’s a lot to lose if the California Chamber of Commerce wins that case,” McGraw said.

The growing backlog of unsold carbon credits also is weighing on the cap-and-trade program, he said.

“They’re going through something every carbon market has gone through,” the analyst said. “The question is: What do you do now?”

The latest auction results show that the market needs certainty about the state’s long-term cap and trade program, through either the Legislature or state voters vouching for its future in a ballot initiative, Nancy McFadden, Brown’s chief of staff, said in a statement.

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Sacramento: Oil firms challenge state over clean fuel

Repost from SFGate

Clean fuels shaping up as fight of the year in Sacramento

New battle lines drawn in fight over low-carbon policy
By Laurel Rosenhall, CALmatters, Mar 5, 2016 Updated: 3/6/16 3:33pm
A pending fight over low-carbon fuel standards could hinge on how they affect the state’s cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions. Photo: Ted S. Warren, AP
A pending fight over low-carbon fuel standards could hinge on how they affect the state’s cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions. Photo: Ted S. Warren, AP

A Harvard economist known globally for his work on climate change policy sat in the Sacramento office of the oil industry’s lobbying firm recently, making the case that California is fighting global warming the wrong way.

The state has a good cap and trade system, Robert Stavins said, but some of its other environmental policies are weakening it. He pointed to a rule known as the low carbon fuel standard, which is supposed to increase production of clean fuels.

Environmental advocates consider it a complement to the cap and trade program that makes industry pay for emitting carbon; Stavins had other words.

“It’s contradictory. It’s counter-productive. It’s perverse,” he said. “I would recommend eliminating it.”

California’s low carbon fuel policy is shaping up as a major fight this year for the state’s oil industry, an influential behemoth that spent more than $10.9 million lobbying Sacramento last year, more than any other interest group.

“There’s a storm coming,” biofuels lobbyist Chris Hessler told a roomful of clean energy advocates at a recent conference on low carbon fuels. “If we don’t meet this attack vigorously, we’re all going to be in a lot of trouble.”

NEW BATTLE LINES

The oil industry was front and center in the biggest fight to hit the state Capitol last year: a proposal to cut California’s petroleum consumption in half over the next 15 years to slow the pace of climate change. The industry won its battle when lawmakers stripped the oil provision from Senate Bill 350.

But California’s larger oil war is far from over, and the newest battle lines are beginning to emerge.

Gov. Jerry Brown is plowing ahead with plans to cut vehicle oil use in half through executive orders and regulations like the low carbon fuel standard. The standard requires producers to cut the carbon intensity of their fuels 10 percent by 2020. To reach the standard, refineries will have to make a blend that uses more alternative fuels — like ethanol — and less oil.

The program was adopted in 2009 but was locked in a court battle for years. California regulators prevailed, and took action last year to resume the program. Now producers must start changing the way they formulate their fuel or buy credits if their product is over the limit.

That’s led to higher costs for fuel makers, which they are passing on to consumers at a rate of about 4 cents per gallon, according to the California Energy Commission. But the price is likely to keep increasing, the oil industry warns, as it gets tougher to meet the standard that increases over time.

Which is where Stavins’ argument comes in. It goes like this: the cleaner fuels required by the low carbon fuel standard will emit less greenhouse gas. That will reduce the need for fuel producers to buy permits in the cap and trade system (which makes industry pay for emitting climate-warming pollution) and create additional emissions by allowing other manufacturers to buy the pollution permits.

Less demand will also depress prices on the cap and trade market.

Stavins is the director of Harvard’s Environmental Economics Program and part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a prestigious group of experts who review research for the United Nations.

He’s also an advisor to the Western States Petroleum Association, which paid him to make the trip to Sacramento, where he talked with reporters before a day of meetings with lawmakers and business leaders.

Environmental advocates and California clean air regulators reject his view. They say the fuel standard works in harmony with other carbon-reducing programs and it’s an important piece of California’s effort to achieve its climate change goals.

“One of the major goals of the low carbon fuel standard… is to drive innovation of new and alternative low carbon fuels,” said Stanley Young, spokesman for the California Air Resources Board. “The cap and trade program on its own cannot do that.”

Alternative fuel producers gathered in a ballroom near the Capitol days after Stavins’ visit to Sacramento. During a presentation on the rising price of low carbon fuel credits, Hessler, the biofuels lobbyist, warned that the program is coming under “political attack.”

He defended the fuel standard by saying the regulation limits the price of the credits, and the cost to consumers will be kept down as some fuel producers make money by selling credits to others. He urged conference participants to share his information with California policymakers to counter opposition to the low carbon fuel standard.

“We’ve got to be ready for this,” Hessler said.

HOW THINGS COULD GO DOWN

A fight last year over a low carbon fuel standard in the state of Washington may provide some clues about how things could go down here.

There, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee proposed a low carbon fuel standard but failed to earn enough support for it in the Legislature. The fuel standard became a bargaining chip for Republicans in negotiations about funding for transportation infrastructure.

Here in California, lawmakers and Gov. Brown are also negotiating a plan to pay for a backlog of repairs to state roads and highways. Brown has pitched spending $36 billion over the next decade with a mix of taxes and other revenue sources.

Republican votes are necessary to reach the two-thirds threshold for approving new taxes. So far, Republicans have balked at the plan, with some suggesting that the fuel standard should be included in the negotiations.

“As we’re having the discussions about transportation funding in general in California, and transportation taxes in particular, this ought to be part of the discussion,” said Assemblyman Jay Obernolte, R-Hesperia.

It’s a message echoed by the president of the Western States Petroleum Association, which advocated against the low carbon fuel standard in Washington.

Catherine Reheis-Boyd said she wants California lawmakers to “take a very hard look” at the low carbon fuel standard as they consider the future of climate change policies and the desire to repair the state’s roads.

“All those things interplay,” Reheis-Boyd said. “That’s a big conversation. I think people across the state are willing to have it, and I think we’re at a pivotal point to have it this year.”

CALmatters is a nonprofit journalism venture dedicated to explaining state policies and politics. For more news analysis by Laurel Rosenhall go to https://calmatters.org/newsanalysis/.
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