Repost from the San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday Editorial
California should lead way, again, on climateSan Francisco Chronicle, August 28, 2015 5:53pm
By any clean-and-green measure, California zooms past the rest of the nation, requiring cleaner fuels, more alternative energy and cars that use less gas. As these policies have taken root, the state economy has strengthened, creating more jobs in a forward-looking marketplace.
The connection should be clear. California is not only plotting a new energy course, but it’s also prospering. The state law that set emission goals nearly a decade ago hasn’t harmed livelihoods or sent business fleeing.
This experience should teach Sacramento an important lesson as lawmakers face a decision on doing more about climate change. The state Legislature is on the verge of approving a sweeping measure, SB350, that would cut gas and diesel use by half, boost renewable sources of electricity from a third to 50 percent, and double energy efficiency in buildings, all within 15 years. A second measure, SB32, would widen a state cap-and-trade program that cuts other sources of emissions blamed for rising global temperatures.
These targets will put California far beyond President Obama’s plans to curb pollution from power plants and boost solar, wind and biofuels in the nation’s mix of energy sources. But SB350, which has passed the state Senate, could falter in the Assembly where more moderate, business-friendly Democrats hold power.
The forces are building to block the bill, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, a Los Angeles Democrat. The oil industry, a steady source of campaign funds, is putting pressure on Assembly Democrats to stop the bill or water it down. These foes predict gas rationing, extra fees and arbitrary directives from state bureaucrats if the law kicks in.
Walking away from the bill would be a mistake, a step backward that will deny California cleaner air, greener energy and an opportunity to lead a timid nation on an essential issue. Wavering lawmakers should consider a recent poll showing that two-thirds of the state believes a deepening drought is linked to climate change and supports Gov. Jerry Brown’s directives that match up with SB350.
Along with California’s welcoming politics on the topic, there is direct experience to consider. Tech breakthroughs ranging from cleaner-burning engines to cheaper solar panels are helping this state move forward. Growing numbers of high-mileage cars, including electric and hybrid models, are expected to provide nearly half of the gas savings needed to hit the 50 percent drop by 2030.
There are reasons to be cautious. Energy improvements often come with steep startup costs such as solar panels on the roof or the purchase of a gas-thrifty car. Low-income residents will need a break in tapping technology available only to well-off consumers. State regulators should be flexible in designing new programs to advance conservation.
But California has shown it can adapt and thrive as it heads in this direction. Climate change is a provable and genuine threat to the state’s future. It’s time to adopt genuine changes that guide the state in the right direction and serve as a model for the rest of the country.