CA Dems push ambitious energy bill

wind energy turbineA bold and controversial new bill, introduced by Senate President Pro Tempore and leading Democrat Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, advanced through the Assembly on the strength of Gov. Jerry Brown’s vociferous rhetoric on climate change.

As CBS Los Angeles reported, Brown tied his support for the legislation to his broader climate agenda, which has seen him praise Pope Francis’ recent encyclical on environmental matters and earn a trip to Vatican City to push for global change.

“‘We’ve got a serious problem here,’ he told KCAL9 Political Reporter Dave Bryan via satellite. ‘Burning oil and gas and coal and diesel is a big part of the problem. We’ve got to find new bio-fuels. We have to be more efficient. We’ve got a lot to do. And by the way, if we do nothing, the cost is unimaginable.’”

Brown has done his best to use his final term in office to amplify that message whenever possible. His trip to the Vatican, Sci-Tech Today noted, will be just “the latest of several international trips the governor has taken to urge others to do more to curb global warming. He’s also been rallying states and provinces to sign an agreement to match California’s target for reducing emissions by 2050.”

Stricter standards

While Brown has pushed the message, Democrat allies in Sacramento have crafted the content of regulations to match. De Leon’s bill, SB350, “imposes three significant clean-energy goals by 2030,” U-T San Diego’s Steven Greenhut observed: “Reducing the use of petroleum products in automobiles by 50 percent; increasing to 50 percent (from a current 33-percent goal) the amount of energy that uses renewable sources such as solar and wind power; and doubling energy-efficiency in current buildings.”

In fact, the legislation was crafted around achieving the outsized goals Brown set for ratcheting down California’s statewide emissions levels. As an interim step, the governor has proposed that the state “cut emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. It’s an ambitious target that members of his administration insist is achievable,” according to Sci-Tech Today.

De Leon himself has not shied away from using aggressive language to characterize the bill’s sweep and ostensible urgency, as Greenhut noted. “We need to break the stranglehold the profit-driven oil companies have on our economy and give consumers better options to power their homes and cars in cleaner, healthier and more sustainable ways,” de Leon said in remarks posted to his website.

Brown, for his part, has openly acknowledged the level of industry outrage the bill guarantees. “Well, of course, the people who are gonna sell 50 percent less petroleum are not only gonna have questions, they’re gonna have a fierce, unrelenting opposition,” he told KCAL-9.

But the coming regulatory shakeup has made for some strange industry bedfellows. “One of the issues both utilities and solar installers have raised,” according to GreenTech Solar, “is that distributed solar should not be treated any differently than utility-scale solar as the state crafts the rules around meeting the new 50 percent target.

A legislative scramble

Part of the urgency behind SB350 has been driven by environmental regulations voted into law years ago. AB32, the big climate bill passed in 2006, “established a goal of cutting the state’s greenhouse gas emission to 1990 levels by 2020. To meet that goal, emissions need to fall by six percent between 2013 (the latest year for which figures are available) and 2020,” CalMatters reported. “Brown and other political leaders expect that to happen,” according to SCPR, although, to date, “emissions have fallen only slightly since 2009, when the recession ended.”

The minor dip has been attributed to the difficulty involved in pushing California’s energy usage much lower than it is already. “Greenhouse gas emissions in California dropped by 7 percent from their peak in 2004 to 2013, compared to 9 percent nationwide over the same period,” according to CalMatters. “Reducing emissions is harder here because the state’s economy is already relatively energy-frugal.”