Carbon tax program sputters again

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

When California launched its cap-and-trade program four years ago, the unspoken fear was that the price of carbon emissions credits would soar out of sight and bankrupt manufacturers and other industries forced to buy them.

Now cap and trade, a crucial piece in California’s war on climate change, finds itself with exactly the opposite problem: an excess of credits and insufficient demand. The result is a program that’s stumbling badly and facing an increasingly hazy future in the Legislature.

The cap-and-trade market had another bad day Tuesday, with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of unsold carbon credits left over following the latest state-run auction. Only about 30.8 million credits were sold, each one representing a ton of carbon emissions, out of approximately 96 million credits that went on sale. The auction was held last week, but results weren’t released until Tuesday by the California Air Resources Board.

It was the second straight quarterly auction in which scores of carbon credits failed to attract buyers, although there was higher demand this time around. Last spring’s auction ended with roughly 90 percent of the credits unsold. …

Click here to read the full story

Let’s Pump the Brakes on Cap-and-Trade

cap-and-trade-mindscanner-sstockIn 2006, elected officials gave the California Air Resources Board virtually unchecked authority to implement AB32, which aims to reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. The legislation, including the controversial cap-and-trade program, expires in four years.

Some lawmakers have already introduced legislation, such as SB32, to extend CARB’s authority. However, instead of rushing to renew this controversial and expensive program, we should slow down and come up with a more affordable solution that benefits all of California.

Cap-and-trade limits carbon emissions by energy producers and raises money through the sale of carbon credits. It’s supposed to fight global warming by making it more expensive to use carbon-based fuels. But that’s not the only thing it does.

It turns out the program has made life more expensive for Californians as well.

Since being given the authority, CARB has implemented a steady stream of costly regulations, such as the “hidden gas tax.” Experts agree that this hidden tax costs California drivers at least 10 cents more in added cost per gallon of gasoline. They also acknowledge CARB’s “low-carbon fuel standard” could add another 13 cents per gallon by 2020.

Motorists might be open to paying these costs if the money actually went towards repairing our crumbling roads. Instead it seems the cap-and-trade program has become a multi-billion dollar slush fund for politicians’ pet projects.

Perhaps intentionally, CARB still hasn’t come up with a systematic way to determine if cap-and-trade dollars are really doing anything to help lower emissions levels.

There is little consensus on what constitutes a “green project.” When pushed for answers, CARB officials deflect. This obscurity allows the governor to direct cap-and-trade funds towards his $71 billion high-speed rail project, which is actually increasing the state’s carbon emissions.

Some cap-and-trade funds were supposed to go towards programs for low-income communities that want to invest in renewable energy. Because CARB is largely free to do as it wishes, there’s no real way of knowing if these grants are reaching their intended targets. That’s a kick in a gut to the less fortunate who supported AB32.

Like you, I want breathable air and clean parks for our children and grandchildren. But do CARB’s unelected bureaucrats really need this much power? Government mandates can be very expensive and inevitably the costs are passed down to consumers. Not everyone can afford a Tesla.

Why can’t we use cap-and-trade funds to solve real problems like emission-causing traffic congestion? Think about it: What pollutes more, a car that reaches its destination quickly or one that’s stuck idling on a freeway for an extra 20 minutes?

A state appeals court has already put the future of cap-and-trade in doubt. And many questions remain, such as how to spend the billions collected and whether or not the program is really an illegal tax. Some doubt CARB has the right to collect the money at all.

There’s also a fierce debate over whether or not regulators can extend the program without the Legislature’s permission. The Legislature’s chief counsel doesn’t think so.

California is already a leader on climate change, and our current law doesn’t expire until 2020. Perhaps we should leave lawmaking to our elected officials, not abdicate power to unelected regulators. Rather than rush an extension, let’s invite the public to join the discussion. Californians deserve clean air, but they also deserve affordable energy—and to know how their dollars are being spent.

George Runner is an elected member of the California State Board of Equalization.

Controversial Carbon Tax Faces Strong Opposition

carbon-tax-1Despite years of success in doing what it was supposed to do — cut emission levels — California’s controversial cap-and-trade system has run up against opposition that could be strong enough to sink it. But with nothing to lose and everything to gain, Gov. Jerry Brown has shifted into political overdrive to save it instead.

Big plans

Through the California Air Resources Board, Brown’s administration has tried to restore confidence among big California businesses that the state’s carbon-trading regime is here to stay. Amendments to the cap-and-trade rules proposed by CARB “envision a carbon market through 2050 with increasing allowance prices,” according to Scientific American. But legal uncertainty has clouded CARB’s ability to promulgate such regulations beyond the year 2020, “thanks to a combination of potentially limiting language in the original climate law, AB32, and a lawsuit challenging the legality of cap-and-trade auctions under a law requiring a two-thirds legislative majority to approve taxes,” the magazine added.

“The amendments released [last month] would establish decreasing emissions caps for covered entities through 2031, to reach 40 percent below 1990 levels, and would include preliminary caps through 2050 ‘to signal the long-term trajectory of the program to inform investment decisions.’ Other proposed amendments would provide for compliance with U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan for existing power plants, allocate allowances to businesses in order to prevent emissions from escaping state borders, and streamline how emitters register and participate in auctions.”

Backrooms to ballots

Despite broad support for an extended cap-and-trade system among influential Democrats, whose grip on Sacramento is virtually unchallenged, California’s legislative counsel has sided against CARB on the extension plan. “Meanwhile, a lawsuit from the California Chamber of Commerce charges that the permit fees are a tax and should have required a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to take effect,” as the San Francisco Chronicle reported. “Although the suit has dragged on for nearly four years, questions raised by an appeals court judge in April suggested that he might side with the chamber.”

The ordeal has presented Gov. Jerry Brown with a potentially devastating threat to one of his keystone policies. Although the governor “has been trying to muster support from at least two-thirds of the Legislature, in case the Chamber of Commerce wins its suit, […] convincing Republicans and business-friendly Democrats hasn’t been easy,” the paper added. “And the current legislative session ends Aug. 31.” Beyond the obvious challenge of securing Republican support, Brown must contend with members of his own party, who have split awkwardly on cap-and-trade since before its inception.

“When the law enabling cap and trade was being argued over, the whole progressive left-of-the-left were pretty suspicious of carbon trading,” as Stanford Law energy expert Michael Wara told Wired. “So the law’s authors offered a compromise: the state Legislature would re-evaluate cap and trade in 2020,” the magazine noted. “It didn’t seem like a big gamble at the time.” But Brown’s determination to use revenues from the program to fund his cherished high-speed rail project — according to environmentalists, not the greenest expenditure to choose from — added another political wrinkle.

Now, the prospect of a drawn-out loss in the Legislature has raised speculation that Brown will respond, in a manner somewhat reminiscent of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, by taking his plans directly to the voters. Preparing for a showdown, Brown has launched — perhaps for the last time as governor — back into campaign mode. “Mr. Brown last week created a PAC, Californians for a Clean Environment, signaling he may turn to voters for support to extend cap and trade and the state’s emissions-reduction goals through a ballot initiative,” the Wall Street Journal recalled. “The program is particularly important to Mr. Brown, as profits help fund the state’s planned bullet train, among other goals by the state’s Democrats.”

Within the Brown camp, however, the official line has remained more optimistic than the ballot preparations might suggest. “There is no state or nation in the Western Hemisphere doing more to curb carbon pollution and our dangerous addiction to oil than California,” said Brown’s executive secretary, Nancy McFadden, in a statement noted by the Journal. “The governor will continue working with the legislature to get this done this year, next year or on the ballot in 2018.”

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

CA Cap-and-Trade Credits Extend to Brazil

carbon-tax-1In late 2012, as officials with the California Air Resources Board were refining rules for the state’s nascent cap-and-trade pollution rights program, a huge scandal was unfolding in the European Union. Five Deutsche Bank AG officials were arrested for their role in a complex scam involving using the sale of carbon-emission certificates to avoid paying taxes. Earlier that year, six cap-and-traders involved with the bank had been arrested as well.

Cap-and-trade critics had always warned that as soon as programs were introduced, there would be aggressive efforts to game and/or cheat the rules to make money. With these warnings reinforced by the EU scandal, California officials in early 2013 said they’d learned their lesson. Greenbiz.com reported that …

California, with the advantage of advanced warning, has taken the EU market’s lessons to heart. It has recognized the crucial need to tightly control — and extensively oversee — who can participate in the carbon market and how. With the help of the state Attorney General’s office, California has adopted more stringent rules than the EU ETS [Emissions Trading Scheme].

State tax credits for payments to indigenous communities?

Now, however, the Brown administration is pondering relaxing these rules by allowing companies to get pollution credits by paying for preservation of forest lands in Brazil.

The idea has been discussed for years but has picked up momentum of late. According to recent reports, state regulators are closer than ever to formally expanding the cap-and-trade program by allowing polluting industries to offset their carbon emissions by paying indigenous communities in the Amazon to preserve the rain forests in their region.

This idea has won praise from environmental groups, who have long depicted preservation of the rain forests in the Amazon delta as a global priority. They call it a great way for Brown to burnish his environmental legacy.

The Western States Petroleum Association has also been supportive, saying industries need options to meet their commitments under AB32 and related laws.

Brazil’s huge corruption scandal bodes poorly for CA program

But the initial coverage of Brown’s trial balloon omitted mention of two key issues: Gaming and cheating of cap-and-trade programs remains a huge problem around the world, and Brazil has both a long history of corruption and a lack of transparency.

In early 2015, Foreign Policy magazine reported how the European Union’s program had become a “playground for gangsters, international crime syndicates, and even two-bit crooks — who stole hundreds of millions of dollars in pollution credits.”

In October, Forbes magazine reported on a slew of new scandals, starting with schemers in Russia and Ukraine being accused of using the EU cap-and-trade market to sells counterfeit credits for 600 million tons worth of carbon dioxide emissions. The account noted that the less sophisticated a nation’s law-enforcement system, the more likely cap-and-trade scams were to be — and that some of the world’s richest people and companies were taking advantage.

“The cap-and-trade system of emissions trading is very difficult to control and its effects are diluted. … It is precisely because I am a market practitioner that I know the flaws in the system,” Forbes quoted financier-investor George Soros as saying.

Meanwhile, in January, Transparency International reported that over the previous year, Brazil’s corruption problems were growing worse at a faster rate than in any nation on the planet. Agence France Presse reported last week that a scandal involving billions of dollars of missing revenue from state oil giant Petrobras continued to grow, with dozens of government and business leaders implicated.

Efforts to remove President Dilma Rousseff from office have been complicated by the fact it is hard to find many credible critics of Rousseff within the Brazilian government, given how many prominent Brazilian politicians are either directly tied to the scandal or indirectly tied through close political alliances.

According to CalMatters, state air board officials said they would look to avoid problems caused by Western nations’ cap-and-trade programs in another tropical nation: Nigeria. But the issues there involved indigenous communities being denied use of forest lands they relied on because of restrictions under new conservation agreements — not necessarily the problems that California could risk if it counts on Brazil as a partner in a cap-and-trade pact.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

CARB’s Ironic Quest to Save the Rainforest

RainforestThe California Air Resources Board recently announced plans to dedicate a portion of its hidden gas tax to saving the tropical rainforest. This is ironic because CARB’s own policies actually contribute to rainforest deforestation.

The agency is a strong advocate of a “low carbon fuel standard,” or LCFS. The LCFS is a food-for-fuel program that, along with similar mandates in the European Union and the United Kingdom, is wreaking havoc in the rainforest.

Unlike the national ethanol mandate, which relies heavily on domestically-produced corn-based ethanol, CARB’s LCFS places a much greater emphasis on sugar and soybean-based fuels – crops often produced in tropical nations where rainforests are endangered.

When CARB initially considered adoption of the LCFS in 2008, 27 scientists and researchers submitted a letter indicating the policy could have serious unintended consequences on land use.

Holly Gibbs, a researcher at Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environmentstated: “If we run our cars on biofuels produced in the tropics, chances will be good that we are effectively burning rainforests in our gas tanks.”

Noted primatologist Jane Goodall has also spoken out, stating: “We’re cutting down forests now to grow sugarcane and palm oil for biofuels and our forests are being hacked into by so many interests that it makes them more and more important to save now.”

Just a few days ago CARB collected hundreds of millions in hidden gas taxes in an opaque carbon credit auction. However, instead of raising gas prices to save the rainforest CARB could do much more by reevaluating its LCFS program instead.

Eric Eisenhammer is the founder of the Coalition of Energy Users, a nonprofit grassroots organization for access to affordable energy and quality jobs.

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Cost of Regulations Will Take Your Breath Away

HOMESTEAD AIR RESERVE BASE, Fla. (AFPN) -- Trucks began arriving here to pre-position water, military rations, ice and tarps for the post-hurricane relief effort. The trucks, which began arriving Oct. 20, have delivered supplies from Key West to northern Miami-Dade County since the storm passed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lisa M. Macias).

In 2008, the California Air Resources Board banned diesel truck engines manufactured before 2010. Over a million trucks operating in California, including 625,000 that were registered out-of-state, were suddenly illegal.

Existing diesel engines could only be operated in California if they were retrofitted with a filter that could cost as much as $15,000.

The regulation, known as the Statewide Truck and Bus Rule, carried an estimated price tag of $10 billion. If you were wondering why everything moved by truck in California is more expensive, it’s because you’re paying that bill. A little of the cost is passed along in the price of everything from furniture to strawberries.

It’s a basic principle of freedom that the government cannot pass a law that applies retroactively, criminalizing something that was legal at the time it originally happened. The U.S. Constitution says no “ex post facto Law shall be passed” by the federal government or by the states. “Ex post facto” is Latin meaning “from a thing done afterward.”

It’s another basic principle of freedom that the government exists by consent of the governed, meaning government officials are accountable to the people, not the other way around.

Alas, in California, these principles have been kicked to the curb. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say they’ve been kicked to the CARB.

The California Air Resources Board is accountable to no one, something that troubled lawmakers in both political parties during the recent debate over climate legislation. When the governor would not agree to amendments giving the Legislature more oversight over the agency, lawmakers dropped a proposal for a 50 percent cut in petroleum use for transportation that CARB was set to enforce.

CARB claims an urgent need for the Truck and Bus Rule. But there are serious questions about whether this is true.

In the fall of 2008, a CARB staff report concluded that reducing “fine particulate” air pollution from diesel engines would prevent 9,400 premature deaths in California between 2011 and 2025. The report was presented to the CARB board members, who quickly voted to approve the new regulation requiring filters or new diesel engines.

But the lead staffer responsible for that report, Hien Tran, was later revealed to have lied about his academic credentials — he purchased his Ph.D. from a diploma mill for $1,000 — and although CARB chair Mary Nichols knew about the deception, she withheld that information from board members until months after they voted to pass the new rule.

The problems with the report were not limited to credentials. Extensive studies of the health effects of fine particulate air pollution, including one by CARB-funded scientist Michael Jerrett of the University of California at Berkeley, showed that it is not causing any premature deaths in California.

That’s all ignored by officials who are now throwing the book at companies that have failed to comply with the rule.

On Oct. 8, CARB and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that trucking firm Estes Express Lines will pay a $100,000 fine and another $290,000 for pollution-reduction education programs for operating 73 trucks in California between 2012 and 2014 without the required filters. In addition, Virginia-based Estes “voluntarily” replaced its trucks with new models to comply with California’s regulations.

In announcing the penalties, Jared Blumenfeld of the EPA stated that the Truck and Bus Rule will prevent 3,500 premature deaths in California between 2010 and 2025. The precise origin of this number, which used to be 9,400, is a little murky. The real number appears to be zero.

Meanwhile, billions of dollars are being spent to replace or retrofit diesel engines that already meet the clean-diesel engine standards established in 2001. It’s one more reason for businesses to take their jobs and leave the state.

California regulators can create any kind of rule, apply it retroactively, and declare illegal the equipment that five minutes earlier was in full compliance with the law. And the EPA is helping CARB enforce its rules on out-of-state companies that are beyond the jurisdiction of California authorities.

Why is this even legal?

It may not be. The California Construction Trucking Association, now renamed the Western States Trucking Association, has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider whether federal courts have jurisdiction to review the matter.

Truckers will never get their billions back. But it’s not too late to save everybody else’s jobs from being retroactively criminalized by reckless regulators.

Brown Admits Nobody Knows How To Solve Climate Change

Global WarmingGov. Jerry Brown warned at a recent climate change workshop that trillions of dollars, the transformation of our way of life and a worldwide mobilization on the scale of war will be required to stave off climate change’s “existential threat” to mankind.

Brown also said the problem is so complex that it’s likely no one knows how to solve it.

Emissions Targeted

The governor conveyed his warning at the California Air Resources Board’s Oct. 1 workshop, “California Climate Change Scoping Plan: 2030 Target.”

The 2030 target reduces California’s greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels in the next 15 years. Brown also designated a 2050 target: emission reduction to 80 percent below the 1990 level.

The 2030 target is “the most aggressive benchmark enacted by any government in North America to reduce dangerous carbon emissions over the next decade and a half,” said Brown in an April 29 statement.

The governor began his remarks at the workshop with an admission of ignorance on climate change science.

“I come today because this is a topic that is not easy to grasp,” he said. “It’s complicated. The more you dig into controlling air pollution or measuring greenhouse gas emissions or attempting to understand the [climate] models that examine and attempt to predict how world climate patterns will change over time, it definitely is a very complicated science that we mere lay people just get little glimpses of.”

That complexity makes it easy for climate change skeptics to disseminate misinformation, according to Brown.

“It allows people who have bad motives or soft minds to then raise doubts that are not based on science or facts, but are able to be communicated without people reacting with total ridicule,” he said. “And it takes enough knowledge that it’s hard to be in this conversation at any level of depth.

Relying on Climate Scientists

Brown said we should rely on climate change scientists who “have clearly stated that human beings and the industrial activity of our modern lives is affecting climate by building up heat-trapping gases, and that the effects over time will be catastrophic.”

“When and how all of that unfolds is something that cannot be said on a precise date,” he continued. “But we know with a high degree of confidence that we are facing an existential threat to our well being and the well being of the generations that come afterwards.”

Brown acknowledged that the public has thus far been largely indifferent to the climate change issue, ranking it well below crime and jobs among issues they are most concerned about. That indifference or ambivalence may be due to the omnipresence of fossil fuels in the quality of our lives.

“What we are looking at is making a shift in the way life shows up,” Brown said. “We are who we are because of oil, coal and natural gas. Fossil fuels is what makes it. I assume that most of the people here are here because fossil fuels got you here, clothed you, medicated or whatever way you are functioning as a modern person, you are dependent on fossil fuels.

“So when we say we are going to reduce [emissions by] 10 percent, 20 percent, 40 percent, we are setting forth a hugechallenge that is very easy to state. But anybody who has any understanding of what is implied by what is being called for, realizes this cannot be done lightly or without a mobilization globally that we have never seen before outside of time of war.”

Potential Economic Meltdown

Brown, citing a Sept. 29 speech by the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney, warned there is a potential for a global economic meltdown when energy companies are forbidden from using up to a third of their fossil fuel resources.

“Once it becomes conventional wisdom, once we get it that climate change is going to be catastrophic and that becomes clear and vast majorities of people at all levels of society agree with that, it may be too late because we’ll be too far down the road,” he said.

“If the oil and gas companies are undermined, the financial system itself can be undermined. We can’t wait until everybody gets it. We have to start now.”

Brown said the state’s current annual output of 460 million tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions must be reduced to 431 million tons by 2020 and down to 260 million tons by 2030.

“To go from 460 where we are to 260, that takes heroic effort, scientific breakthroughs, massive investments, a lot of cooperation and a political understanding that does not exist today,” he said. “So this is not stuff for amateurs. This is quite challenging.”

“It’s a political problem,” Brown continued, “but also it’s a technical problem. And it’s going to require a lot of breakthrough, a lot of research and billions, tens of billions of dollars, invested by many, many different sources.”

It will also require Californians driving a lot less, he said, by living closer to where they work and telecommuting. “Californians drive over 330 billion miles a year – 32 million vehicles of various kinds moving around on almost entirely fossil fuel,” he said. “We’re going to reduce and take fossil fuels out of our lives and out of the economy.

“And we’re going to creep our prosperity and ability to keep inventing and improving the quality of everybody’s life. And not only here, but we’re going to do it all over the world. And we’re going to add a couple billion people besides and probably another billion cars.”

Changing Lifestyles

The governor admitted, “How the hell we do that, probably nobody knows. But the people who have the best understanding and the best capability to do things [are] right here.”

Brown acknowledged that it will be a big challenge convincing people to change their lifestyles. He also admitted that even getting the conversation started is tough:

In my world of politics this is … a dark reality that you just can’t even talk about. Because it’s too obscure, too complicated, it’s not high in the polls, “don’t bother me now.” But if that mood persists … it will be too late then, and there will be a real catastrophe.

People don’t like to think that something horrible could happen. We all like our happy time news in the morning. But you got to see it, and then we have to take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen.

This is about taking the steps to deal with fuels, the investment in biofuels, [energy] efficiency in appliances and buildings, across the whole range of how our modern civilization works, within the limited reach that the Air Resources Board has confidence and the legal authority to do, which is quite a lot. Everything that can be done will be done. California will do what it has to do.

Leading the Way

Brown believes California is setting an example other states and countries will follow.

“People know about California, people are watching what’s going on, and there’s a lot of goodwill to get us to the goal,” he said. “Of course, it’s going to take a lot more than goodwill. It’s going to take billions, trillions of dollars. And it’s going to take commitment all over the world.”

Brown’s pep talk received a standing ovation. After the applause died down, CARB Chairwoman Mary Nichols said, “You can see why I get up raring to go to work every morning.”

Facing Opposition

No one at the workshop questioned whether California’s efforts will do much to prevent the planet’s climate from changing, and whether the cost will be worth it.

But state Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, issued a statement on Oct. 7 in opposition to Brown signing into law Senate Bill 350, which mandates an increase in renewable energy among other emission reduction actions:

The district I represent is still reeling from the Great Recession and the devastating years-long drought. Too many people in rural and inland communities are impoverished; standing in food lines because they can’t find work to make ends meet.

Senate Bill 350 is a devastating measure that will force already-struggling families deeper into poverty by drastically increasing energy costs that are already some of the highest in the nation.

It’s wrong when parents have to choose between the necessities of keeping the lights on and feeding their children. The governor’s signature on SB350 kicks folks while they are down. It is a selfish gesture designed to fluff up his “legacy” and pander to coastal elites’ “environmental” self-righteousness.”

The impact on most Californians from the state’s climate change regulations has been minimal thus far. The state has been averaging a 1 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions annually. That pace is projected to continue through 2020, and is enough to meet the 2020 reduction goal.

But residents and businesses will be hit harder after that. Emissions will need to be reduced by at least 5.2 percent annually from 2020 to 2030 in order to meet the 2030 target.

“This gives an indication of the challenge of the work that we have ahead of us in the scoping plan to develop an approach, to develop a set of measures that can contribute to and achieve this ambitious greenhouse gas reduction level for 2030,” said ARB Assistant Executive Officer Michael Gibbs.

An analysis of the economic impacts of the climate change regulations will be conducted as a part of the scoping plan. No cost estimates were provided at the workshop, but several officials in addition to Brown said that billions of dollars in increased funding will be required.

“Investment in [energy] efficiency [in buildings] will need to be quadrupled or quintupled from today’s levels in order to reach the scale necessary to meet the 2030 and 2050 goals,” said Patrick Saxton, representing the California Energy Commission. “Clearly this is much more than ratepayers and taxpayers can fund on their own.”

Regional workshops on the scoping plan will be held this fall; the Air Resources Board will receive an update on Nov. 19. The draft plan is scheduled to be released in spring 2016. The final plan is expected to be approved in fall 2016.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

New Carbon Rules Press Aggressive Environmental Agenda

car exhaust1In the wake of a big legislative setback, Gov. Jerry Brown’s wish to use regulations to cut fuel emissions is swiftly coming true.

This month, Democratic lawmakers couldn’t muster enough votes to slash gasoline use by half within 15 years. Now, the state Air Resources Board has taken action widely seen as compensatory. “The action, coming two weeks after a stinging defeat for Gov. Jerry Brown’s planned 50 percent cut in petroleum use by 2030, signaled his administration’s determination to press forward with an aggressive environmental agenda through the regulatory process rather than by legislation,” noted the New York Times.

Resurgent regulations

In a unanimous, 9-0 vote, the board chose to reactivate California’s standards on low-carbon fuel, created years ago but recently held in legal limbo. The regime constituted “the first regulation of its kind in the U.S. when it was established in a 2007 executive order by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger,” as the Wall Street Journal reported. “It had been frozen since 2013, as the state made revisions to the law following a court challenge.”

“The California regulation further tightens the state’s emissions regulations, already the most stringent in the U.S. It requires fuel makers to reduce emissions by developing cleaner fuels or adopting greater use of biofuels. It also requires fuel producers to take into account all emissions for delivering gasoline, diesel or biofuels to California customers.”

Tweaks to the rules made in the wake of the court challenge included “streamlining the application process for alternative fuel producers seeking a carbon intensity score,” according to Ethanol Producer Magazine.

The interventions quickly drew howls from the oil and gas industry, which views the rules’ requirements as unattainable. Tiffany Roberts, director for fuels and climate policy at the Western States Petroleum Association, told the Sacramento Business Journal they weren’t feasible, suggesting that “even if oil businesses are able to incorporate those pollution-cutting methods, they still cannot meet the program’s aggressive standards.” Defenders of the plan, meanwhile, focused on its perceived benefits. “It will drive new technologies, not only in transportation fuel but in hybrid cars, electric cars and other means of transportation,” Pacific Ethanol spokesman Paul Koehler told the Business Journal.

Political heat

Industry interests haven’t fueled the only criticism of Brown’s regulatory approach, however. Earlier this month, the administration heard out the complaints of a gaggle of state lawmakers — including Democrats — frustrated by the activism and assertiveness of the Air Resources Board. Their debate with Brown “turns on questions of how the state can meet its environmental goals with the right balance between the executive branch, which prizes the ability to act independently, and state lawmakers, who want their own stamp on government programs,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

That disagreement came to a head amid the collapse of the Senate’s planned 50 percent cut in statewide petroleum use. “If the board made decisions adversely impacting constituents, many of whom have already been struggling economically, the consequences could be dire,” uneasy Democrats feared, as CalWatchdog previously noted. “What’s more, angry voters would have little way to respond but at the ballot box.”

While state Senate pro Tem Kevin de Leon portrayed the cut’s failure as the consequence of a massive industry campaign, Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Glendale, instead focused on the Air Resources Board’s “tremendous arrogance,” the Times reported, “noting that he’s never taken campaign money from the oil industry but remains skeptical about the measure.”

But the board’s recent successes at advancing its agenda suggested its influence was set to grow. Tipped by concerned scientists, it launched the investigation into the Volkswagen Group of America that revealed the auto company’s secret years-long use of “a defeat device to circumvent CARB and […] EPA emission test procedures,” as emissions compliance chief Annette Hebert revealed.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

50% Petroleum Cut Dropped From SB350

Gas-Pump-blue-generic+flippedAfter the governor and legislative leaders announced pulling the 50-percent petroleum cut mandate from Senate Bill 350, the controversial climate change bill, fallout whirled about the capitol from finger pointing to relative silence from a main supporter to a defiant stand from the state’s chief executive.

As argued here previously, the economic consequences of passing the measure in tact would certainly affect lower income and middle class Californians. It was an argument that moved some Democrats who stood up for their constituents against pressure brought by legislative leaders and even movie stars.

Still, Senator Kevin de León yesterday was dismissing the argument that electric costs would increase when a Univision reporter asked him on camera about costs. De León’s answer was to suggest the information was a mistake put out by oil companies. However, a study issued by the Manhattan Institute reports that California’s green energy policies have driven up energy costs.

Meanwhile, one of the most noticeable proponents of SB350, billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer, was mostly invisible after the measure was amended. Steyer, who stood with Sen. de Leon when the bill was introduced seven months ago, simply put out a short release praising the pieces of the measure that remained in SB 350 and said more work must be done.

On this site yesterday, Loren Kaye, president of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education associated with the state Chamber of Commerce urged legislators to wait and see if what has already been passed to confront climate change works before rushing ahead with new plans that could put the economy at risk.

But perhaps the most significant message delivered in the aftermath of the intense battle over this one bill came from a frustrated Governor Jerry Brown. He told a press conference that; “I am more determined than ever to make our regulatory regime work for the people of California.” He added, “We don’t have a declaration in statue but we have absolutely the same authority. We’re going forward.”

This Admiral Farragut declaration (“Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”) hints at bypassing the people’s representatives and making changes through executive regulatory action, this time through the authority of the California Air Resources Board.

CARB’s authority to implement the provisions of SB 350 with no legislative oversight was a major sticking point in discussions about the legislation. The governor declared he would not diminish CARB’s power. From his statement, it appears he intends to use it.

Yet, a full-blown public debate over an important issue affecting all Californians should not be disregarded because it did not come out the way proponents wished. Any major change on climate legislation should be accomplished only after the people’s representatives or the people themselves vote.

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Check Under the Hood Before Letting California Pass New Fuel Rules

Gas-Pump-blue-generic+flippedDuring World War II, Americans endured rationing of food and gasoline. The federal government issued ration books and enforced tight limits on purchases.

When the war ended, nothing better symbolized the triumph of freedom than the return of gleaming new cars to the showrooms. “Just step on the gas and go,” enthused the announcer in an ad for the “futuramic” 1948 Oldsmobile.

Today, some California lawmakers want to hit the brakes. Senate Bill 350 — no relation to the 350 engine — would force a 50 percent reduction in the use of petroleum for California vehicles by 2030.

You’d think elected officials proposing such a drastic measure would have a clear idea of how they plan to achieve it and a very good reason why it’s necessary.

You’d be wrong.

Their plan is to turn the whole project over to the California Air Resources Board, an unaccountable panel of appointees that write and enforce the state’s regulations on climate change and air pollution. Would CARB impose gas rationing to meet the 50 percent reduction target?

An aide to Gov. Jerry Brown recently laughed that off as “ridiculous,” but SB350’s author, Sen. Kevin de León, said Tuesday he’s working on amendments, which could include a ban on gas rationing. He also said he plans to increase oversight of CARB, though he didn’t say how.

CARB chair Mary Nichols may have the clout to resist any changes. Over the years she has personally donated more than $75,000 to state legislative campaigns and to the governor.

CARB enforces the 2006 law known as AB32, which forced utilities to buy a greater percentage of expensive renewable energy and imposed a cap-and-trade system to penalize greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, California now has some of the highest electricity rates and fuel prices in the nation. SB350 and its companion, SB32, would mandate even higher, costlier targets for greenhouse gas reduction, renewable fuel use and energy efficiency in addition to the 50 percent petroleum cutback.

To enforce the limits, CARB could use data from your car’s onboard computer, downloaded at smog checks, to collect a road-usage tax or a fine for excessive “vehicle miles traveled.” Maybe new regulations will simply make gasoline more expensive until people stop driving, or stop eating.

It remains a stubborn fact that limiting greenhouse gas emissions in California will have absolutely no effect on the climate, now or in the future.

SB350’s proponents say California must lead the world, at your expense. But no other state has followed our lead to establish the type of cap-and-trade system that has left Californians paying higher prices for everything that’s produced or transported in the state. Nobody wants our higher cost of living, or our poverty rate of nearly 25 percent.

Assemblyman David Hadley, R-Torrance, said he doesn’t discount concerns about climate change but worries that the carbon reduction mandates in SB350 will be met “by impoverishing entire regions of California and bankrupting entire industries.” Since California accounts for only about 1 percent of the carbon emissions of the planet, Hadley said, “We could return our standard of living to the Stone Age and we would not move the needle on carbon emissions.”

Those Flintstone cars are going to look pretty silly in the showrooms, and they’re really going to slow down the carpool lane.

There’s no rational reason for Californians to pay ever higher prices for energy in order to achieve absolutely nothing. We should not tie a tourniquet around our own necks. SB350 and SB32 should be killed before they kill us.