Yesterday's adoption by the California Air Resources Board of a comprehensive plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is really worthy of praise. Ignoring the bleatings of neo-Hooverists and apologists for polluters who insist that concern for the environment is a "job-killer," the board, led by Mary Nichols, put forward 31 rules designed to cut carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. This will force innovation and provide a boost to the economy and the burgeoning industry of green technology, as the Governor noted in his remarks.
• Impose an emissions cap on utilities, refineries and other large industrial sources of greenhouse gases.
• Allow those large polluters to gradually lower emissions by participating in a cap-and-trade market.
• Put into effect a 2002 California law requiring automakes to produce cleaner vehicles. The Bush administration has blocked the law, but state regulators expect President-elect Barack Obama's administration will back it.
• Require fuel companies to reformulate fuels so they are a combined 10 percent less carbon-intensive by 2020.
• Give local governments incentives to curb urban sprawl and reduce how far people drive to work or school.
• Require cargo and cruise ships to turn off their engines while docked.
• Require utilities to generate one-third of their electricity from renewable sources such as wind, solar and geothermal by 2020.
• Strengthen energy-efficiency standards for appliances, as well as for existing and new buildings.
The fact that a renewable standard, cap and trade, green building, smart growth and development, energy efficiency and clean fuels are all combined into this large agreement is very hopeful. While the political sector is a mess, this is truly one area where California can become a model for the nation. And while there will be up-front costs, those can be mitigated by expected federal attention to renewable energy and green jobs, which could allow consumers to be eligible for federal tax incentives to implement these ideas. What's more, as Nichols argued, this is a big-picture savings over the long term.
But Air Resource Board chairwoman Mary Nichols said California's plan would save its residents and businesses money in the long run.
"We believe that California, again and again, has pushed for higher levels of efficiency in our electric sector, our buildings and appliances, and time after time it turns out efficiency measures have not only saved us money but leaped our economy ahead," Nichols said after the vote.
A board report found that the average household would save $400 a year by driving more fuel-efficient vehicles and living in more energy-efficient homes. And already, private investors have given more than $2.5 billion this year to new companies that have sprung up in California, in part to respond to the state's environmental goals, said Bob Epstein, co-founder of Environmental Entrepreneurs.
"Our president-elect has called for stimulating our economy," said Bill Mcgavern, director of California's Sierra Club. "I think he and the Congress will be looking to the state of California, and these measures can serve as a model for the rest of the country."
This is one area where we can be proud to be Californians. The SacBee has more.