Hold Climate Change Policy-Makers Accountable for Economic Consequences

Global WarmingIn reaction to the election of Donald Trump, California’s governor, state Legislature and Air Resources Board have made clear their intention to double down on our state’s already strictest-in-the-nation climate change policies.

Making such claims is easy when ignoring the current cost burden of the state’s climate policies on consumers and businesses, and how much more the costs will skyrocket under increasingly high greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Unelected bureaucrats at the California Air Resources Board have resisted any legitimate attempt at conducting a comprehensive economic analysis of AB 32, the state’s landmark 1996 global warming law– either during the rulemaking process or once the regulations took effect. CARB is attempting more of the same with the newly established 2030 40 percent emissions reduction target.

The significant consequences of this one-sided approach are being ignored as part of the policy and regulation development process. These rules will have real-life cost impacts on every major industry in California and every resident, who will see higher prices for food, electricity, gasoline, housing and just about all the necessities of life.

Higher costs, in addition to increasing consumer prices across the board, make California businesses less competitive with out-of-state companies. These have already resulted in a sharp decline in jobs, notably well-paying blue-collar jobs in the manufacturing, oil and gas and construction sectors, and a concurrent loss of tax revenues that support education, public safety, and social service programs.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  Sacramento lawmakers should demand that state agencies like CARB conduct objective economic analyses in order to craft balanced climate change regulations that will not exponentially increase costs on California’s businesses and families — especially those in lower income communities, which pay a larger share of their income in energy and transportation costs. Any increases created by new regulations will disproportionately impact those families who can least afford it.

Independent studies and subject matter experts have waved a warning flag about the economic impact and its burden on families and businesses. A recent study has shown that our climate change agenda will increase costs by $3,000 per year for every family in California. The Director of Stanford University’s Precourt Energy Efficiency Center has cautioned that achieving the new 2030 goal would likely entail “large economic costs,” and lead to a “less diversified and more fragile state economy.”

CARB has initially estimated that its new regulations could cost 100,000 jobs and result in the loss of up to $14 billion in gross economic output, which the agency brushes off as relatively immaterial in the context of the state’s overall economy.

Among regulatory initiatives being considered in CARB’s recently updated AB 32 Scoping Plan are: forcing higher density of commercial and residential developments; developing “pricing mechanisms” such as road user/vehicle miles traveled-based pricing, congestion prices and parking pricing strategies; creating expensive multiple “incentives” to make electric vehicles artificially more affordable than conventional vehicles and imposing arbitrary and unrealistic quotas for market penetration; and forcing decreases in the use of affordable, widely available fossil natural gas. These and other proposed mandates will significantly increase the cost and availability of housing, electricity, gasoline and diesel fuel and the cost of manufacturing and transporting goods produced in California with a chilling effect on jobs and revenues.

California can do better. Sacramento legislators have an opportunity to provide essential oversight over a regulatory body to ensure their constituents and the businesses they represent are not unduly burdened. It’s important to note that because California generates less than one percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, which know no boundaries, the hardships our state’s climate policies impose on its people and economy have little more than symbolic value.  This is why CARB must conduct a comprehensive economic analysis now, to weigh how aggressively we should get ahead of other states or nations with regard to climate policies.

Executive Director of the Industrial Association of Contra Costa County

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Jerry Brown: California to Bypass Trump on Climate Change

Photo courtesy Steve Rhodes, flickr

Photo courtesy Steve Rhodes, flickr

California Gov. Jerry Brown has suggested that the state of California could bypass the administration of President Donald J. Trump and work directly with foreign governments in advancing the cause of climate change, the New York Times reports.

Last May, Gov. Brown signed a climate change deal between 12 regional and provincial governments in seven countries, committing to reduce the “greenhouse gases” that trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere and are thought to drive global warming. The aim was to show that California was committed to tackling the issue, even if Congress and the courts were not prepared to rubber-stamp President Barack Obama’s aggressive climate change agenda. He also played a prominent role at the Paris climate change talks last December (prompting speculation as to whether he was still clinging to presidential ambitions).

Brown had also been outspoken throughout the presidential campaign against the climate change positions of several Republican candidates. Last September, for instance, he sent Dr. Ben Carson a flash drive containing the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Earlier this month, Brown attacked President-elect Trump’s views on climate change and also attacked Breitbart News for describing methane regulations (accurately, if crudely) as rules on “cow farts.”

In an interview with the Times, Brown said: “California can make a significant contribution to advancing the cause of dealing with climate change, irrespective of what goes on in Washington. … I wouldn’t underestimate California’s resolve if everything moves in this extreme climate denial direction. Yes, we will take action.” The Times speculates that foreign governments might devote more effort to lobbying Sacramento than lobbying Washington under the Trump administration.

The Times adds that California Democrats are committed to their climate change agenda, even if the state loses in economic competition with other states as the Trump administration rolls back existing regulations.

Brown will serve two more years as governor.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Controversial Climate Change Legislation Signed by Gov. Jerry Brown

Photo courtesy Steve Rhodes, flickr

Photo courtesy Steve Rhodes, flickr

Over staunch opposition on his right, Gov. Jerry Brown signed several new climate bills into law, aiming to keep California on the regulatory trajectory first set during former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration.

That suite of laws, “in which polluters pay to offset emissions under a declining cap, is on tenuous footing amid litigation and uncertainty in the Legislature,” the Sacramento Bee noted. The idea of a new set of rules, “negotiated by Brown and legislative leaders last month, was significant to many moderate Democrats who viewed spending in their districts as critical to buttress a state climate program that has faced heavy resistance from industry,” the paper added.

Complex divisions

Some Democrats with that stance have worried that national and statewide populist sentiment could pose an especially sharp threat to their political fortunes this election year. Complicating the ideological picture still further, “many lawmakers representing low-income communities of color made themselves a force in the state’s climate change debate after complaints that existing policies weren’t doing enough to benefit the districts they represent,” as the Los Angeles Times noted.

But Democrats further to the left did not want to back down, or be seen as backing down, to industry interests. At the same time, however, their own interests have not shifted measurably closer to Gov. Brown’s, which have wound up at loggerheads with party members to his left over allocations to projects such as the state’s bullet train. With talks moving slowly, “Brown negotiated the spending plan with top Democratic legislative leaders Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon of Paramount and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles,” according to KPBS. “It was approved on the last day of the legislative session, Aug. 31.”

Big ticket

Environmental activists and policymakers embracing their cause had to scramble to craft the fresh scheme in a way that seemed to ensure it could survive a spirited fight during the legislative process. “The new plan, outlined in SB32, involves increasing renewable energy use, putting more electric cars on the road, improving energy efficiency, and curbing emissions from key industries,” NPR reported. “Brown signed another bill, AB197, that gives lawmakers more oversight of regulators and provides aid to low-income or minority communities located near polluting facilities such as oil refineries and factories.” All told, the package amounted to some $900 million in outlays sourced from the state’s cap-and-trade revenues. “The money represents two-thirds of the available funding from California’s carbon-emission fee,” noted KPBS.

On hand for Brown’s signing ceremony in Fresno, Republican Mayor Ashley Swearengin touted the prospect of statewide infrastructure construction associated with Brown’s environmental agenda, which would include the long-simmering high-speed rail effort. With success, “Swearengin added, the Valley will see a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over the next 20 years,” the Business Journal noted.

Lingering resistance

But business, energy and conservative groups, which had struggled to turn the tide against the bills, quickly vented their frustration. “Taken together, SB32 and AB197 impose severe caps on the emission of greenhouse gases in California, without requiring the regulatory agencies to give any consideration to the impacts on our economy, disruptions in everyone’s daily lives or the fact that California’s population will grow almost 50 percent between 1990 and 2030,” said Allan Zaremberg, California Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, in a statement.

Under Zaremberg’s leadership, the organization has spearheaded litigation targeting the current cap-and-trade regime. “A state appellate court is considering a challenge by the California Chamber of Commerce, which argues the fee is a tax that needed support from two-thirds of the Assembly and Senate in order to be valid,” KPBS recalled. “Republicans have in the past said it’s irresponsible to spend money generated from a fee being challenged in court.”

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Gov. Jerry Brown Signs New Climate Change Laws

As reported by NPR:

California is already on track to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

Now under legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, the state will ratchet up its fight against climate change by launching an ambitious campaign to scale back emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

“This is big, and I hope it sends a message across the country,” Brown said.

California reduced emissions by imposing limits on the carbon content of gasoline and diesel fuel, promoting zero-emission electric vehicles, and introducing a cap-and-trade system for polluters.

The new plan, outlined in SB32, involves increasing renewable energy use, putting more electric cars on the road, improving energy efficiency, and curbing emissions from key industries. …

Click here to read the full article

How Do Voters Really Feel About Climate Change Legislation?

VotedWhen the greenhouse gases extension bill seemed to be stalled in the legislature, Gov. Jerry Brown’s Executive Secretary, Nancy McFadden, said that the administration would get its way on the climate change: Either the bill would pass the legislature or the governor would take his agenda to the ballot. He filed papers for a ballot measure committee as a first step.

Now the bill has jumped a difficult hurdle by passing the Assembly. However, new polling by the California Business Roundtable indicates that the voters might not be so supportive of new regulations if they heard a complete explanation of the law’s effects.

Maybe the climate change debate should go to voters.

The greenhouse gases extension bill, SB 32, which would require greenhouse gas levels to be reduced 40% of 1990 levels by 2030, made it out of the Assembly to face fairly clear sailing in the Senate. Expect it to land on the governor’s desk.

There could be a complication because SB 32 is joined to AB 197, which would give more power to the legislature to oversee the California Air Resources Board. An argument is made that AB 197 could undermine the cap-and-trade law, something the governor wants, especially to help fund his financially struggling bullet train.

The Assembly vote came on a day when the latest cap-and-trade auction results were announced and they continue to show poor results. Hanging over the head of the cap-and-trade law is a question of legitimacy. A lawsuit filed by the California Chamber of Commerce and other business interests presently sits with appellate court judges to determine if the cap-and-trade revenue is a tax. If so, the law requires a two-thirds vote, a standard that was not achieved in the legislature.

Business is particularly concerned with the costs to the economy and to workers if the climate change legislation passes. Tom Scott, president of the small business organization, National Federation of Independent Business/California, said after SB 32 passed the Assembly, “SB 32 will make California even more hostile to small businesses, increasing costs and making them less competitive, discouraging growth and expansion across the state.”

The California Business Roundtable poll showed strong support for the first greenhouse gases (GHG) law. By 66% to 18% the 1200 voters surveyed agreed with the goal of reducing GHG by 2020. The extension to 2030 also received strong support, 63% to 21%.

But when asked if voters knew that state regulations to combat global warming would increase the price of gasoline, electricity and groceries, support collapsed to 47%; opposition rose to 46%.

Opposition skied when the question of lost manufacturing jobs was tested. The potential loss of thousands of middle class jobs garnered only 24% support for the climate change regulations, 66% opposed.

Such arguments would be part of a campaign if the issue comes before voters.

The Business Roundtable poll asked who should enact tougher environmental regulations, the legislators or un-elected state bureaucrats. The legislators prevailed 42% to 28%. But the question seems incomplete. Given the poll results, it probably should have included the voters.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Fossil Fuels Witchhunt is a Quest for Cash

natural gas1The oil and gas industry was born in Pennsylvania on Aug. 27, 1859, when Edwin L. Drake drilled the world’s first commercial oil well. A critic said Drake should leave the oil underground because it was needed to fuel the fires of hell, and to pump it out would protect the wicked from their eternal punishment.

That’s how long some people have believed oil companies are in league with the devil.

Today’s anti-petroleum alarmists warn of the hellish climate that someday will result from civilization’s reliance on fossil fuels. Fortunately they’ve hit on a solution: cash payments. 

The strategy was hatched in 2012 at a two-day meeting in La Jolla organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Climate Accountability Institute. It brought together 23 experts on law, science and public opinion for a workshop titled, “Establishing Accountability for Climate Change Damages.”

The idea was to compare “public attitudes and legal strategies related to tobacco control” to those related to climate change, according to a report of the meeting.

The group found a few problems with the comparison to tobacco. For one thing, they couldn’t identify a specific harm from climate change that had damaged anybody.

“What is the ‘cancer’ of climate change that we need to focus on?” asked one attendee.

And there was a bigger problem. “The fact is, we do need some form of energy,” one participant said. Another lamented, “The activities that contribute to climate change are highly beneficial to us.”

Oh, that.

Originally published in the Los Angeles Daily News. For the remainder of the column please go here.

Anti-petroleum alarmists’ plans to soak oil companies

The oil and gas industry was born in Pennsylvania on Aug. 27, 1859, when Edwin L. Drake drilled the world’s first commercial oil well. A critic said Drake should leave the oil underground because it was needed to fuel the fires of hell, and to pump it out would protect the wicked from their eternal punishment.

That’s how long some people have believed oil companies are in league with the devil.

Today’s anti-petroleum alarmists warn of the hellish climate that someday will result from civilization’s reliance on fossil fuels. Fortunately they’ve hit on a solution: cash payments.

Global WarmingThe strategy was hatched in 2012 at a two-day meeting in La Jolla organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Climate Accountability Institute. It brought together 23 experts on law, science and public opinion for a workshop titled, “Establishing Accountability for Climate Change Damages.”

The idea was to compare “public attitudes and legal strategies related to tobacco control” to those related to climate change, according to a report of the meeting.

The group found a few problems with the comparison to tobacco. For one thing, they couldn’t identify a specific harm from climate change that had damaged anybody.

“What is the ‘cancer’ of climate change that we need to focus on?” asked one attendee.

And there was a bigger problem. “The fact is, we do need some form of energy,” one participant said. Another lamented, “The activities that contribute to climate change are highly beneficial to us.”

Oh, that.

Before fossil fuels, people cut trees to heat their homes, slaughtered whales to make lamp oil and bothered horses when they needed to go someplace. …

Click here to read the full story.

This piece was originally published by the Orange County Register. 

State Senate Looks to End Climate Change Debate

With only 232 days left until Barack Obama leaves the White House we discussed three issues on the Brian Sussman Show this morning (KSFO 560–San Fran).
Global Warming1.  Senate bill 1161 by Sens. Hannah-Beth Jackson and Mark Leno would put Sussman in legal jeopardy: “Section 2(b) of the bill declares it the California Legislature’s policy to promote ‘redress for unfair competition practices committed by entities that have deceived, confused, or misled the public on the risks of climate change or financially supported activities that have deceived.”  Sussman has written a book and talks on his show about climate change and facts that show it is not all caused by humans and may not be as bad as Al Gore claims.
2.  Santa Monica College has a professor that “marries” students to the ocean and then has them put their toes in the water to consummate the marriage — the same professor asks trees “permission” before she hugs them.
3.  The students at UCI have had a rash of pro-Palestinian protesters break up speeches and meetings on campus, making the Jewish students fearful.  The chancellor has done nothing and will not suspend or expel the students promoting violence and the end of Free Speech on campus.

Gov. Brown’s Greenhouse-Gas Cuts Scrutinized

As reported by the Associated Press:

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The top lawyer for the California Legislature says Gov. Jerry Brown exceeded his authority when he issued an executive order imposing what he called the most aggressive carbon-emission reductions in North America, aligning California with the European Union’s aggressive climate change standards.

The opinion by Legislative Counsel Diane Boyer-Vine does not curtail Brown’s authority to continue implementing the greenhouse gas reduction plan, but it suggests a lawsuit challenging them could be successful.

The Democratic governor issued the executive order last year setting a new target for cutting carbon emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. …

Click here to read the full story

Gov. Brown’s War on Climate Only Making Things Worse

Global WarmingIn his quest to improve air quality locally, Gov. Jerry Brown actually risks pushing more greenhouse gasses into skies globally.

Last July, Brown issued an executive order commanding state agencies to develop “an integrated action plan by July 2016 that establishes clear targets to improve freight efficiency, transition to zero-emission technologies, and increase competitiveness of California’s freight system.”

The executive order is widely seen by industry as a prelude to the announcement later this year of more stringent air quality mandates that will pose costly new burdens on the state’s goods movement sector. 

The movement of freight is integral to the state’s economy. As the executive order acknowledged: “California’s complex freight transportation system is responsible for one-third of the State’s economy and jobs, with freight-dependent industries accounting for over $700 billion in revenue and over 5 million jobs in 2013.”

The state’s freight transportation system is also exceedingly complex, as multilayered as it is multifaceted. It involves activities as diverse of home pizza deliveries to the hauling of freshly-harvested produce in the Central Valley to the air cargo operations at LAX and SFO.

Perhaps because of its complexity, state policymakers have tended to fixate on the freight traffic associated with the state’s seaports, especially the three huge container ports at Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Oakland.  (The cover of the California Freight Mobility Plan is tellingly dominated by a full-color photo of a large container ship.)

Maritime officials expect to see the California Air Quality Board impose new regulations that can be met only by investing tens of billions of dollars (according to new study by Moffat & Nichol, a leading infrastructure advisory firm) on new equipment and infrastructure.

The rub is how to finance compliance with these stiffer environmental mandates without driving a substantial volume of business away from California ports.

Terminal operators at ports here and around the world are financially stressed, as a new report from London-based Drewry Shipping Consultants attests. Only weeks ago, one major terminal operator unilaterally cancelled its lease at the Port of Oakland in order to focus its limited financial resources elsewhere.

Inevitably, new business costs get passed on. Saddled with huge new expenses, terminal operators at California ports will be obliged to charge higher fees. But the shipping lines and cargo owners they serve have choices, especially when the great majority of the cargoes passing through the Ports fof Los Angeles and Long Beach ports originate in or are destined for other regions of the U.S.

Even in the absence of costly new California-only air quality mandates, the state’s ports are already at risk of seeing an important share of the transpacific trade diverted to East or Gulf Coast ports through the expanded set of locks at the Panama Canal.

That’s good, you say. Fewer ships calling at California ports should mean cleaner air for California residents.

Perhaps, but there is a perversely ironic trade-off in diverting shipments away from some of the nation’s greenest ports and sending them off to ports on the East and Gulf coasts.

The fact is that diverting containers from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach would add immeasurably to the CO2emissions from steamships carrying imported goods for American consumers and industry.

Consider that the sailing distance from Shanghai, Asia’s largest container port, to the Port of Los Angeles is about 5,810 nautical miles. A ship sailing from Shanghai to the Port of New York-New Jersey via the Panama Canal would cover approximately 10,600 nautical miles, a journey some 85% longer.

While in U.S. territorial waters, ships are obligated to burn low-sulfur fuels. On the high seas, however, they typically switch to a cheaper but infinitely more noxious bunker fuel, a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.

To compound the irony, cargoes diverted through the Panama Canal cargo often wind up at ports in states where the responsible parties are decidedly more cavalier about climate change.

In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott has reportedly banned state officials from referring to global warming or climate change or rising sea levels. The head of the South Carolina Port Authority recently disputed the need for ships to turn off their massive diesel engines while in port. The Port of New York/New Jersey lately rescinded a regulation calling for cleaner trucks to move containers.

So there you have it: The law of unintended consequences strikes again.

Sacramento-based international trade economist who specializes in the logistics of foreign trade.

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily