Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Thursday, October 27, 2016

Despite the success of California’s historic Global Warming Solutions Act (also known as AB 32), this summer saw an interesting turn of events in the form of AB 69, an attempt by Central Valley assemblyman Henry Perea to suspend the next phase of the Act’s implementation. This controversial next phase extends carbon pollution caps to the transportation sector.

Thankfully, AB 69 died in the legislature last week thanks to Senate president pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s decision to delay hearing it before the end of the session. His letter to Perea articulating the health and environmental impacts of stalling AB 32 caused environmentalists, public health advocates, and clean tech companies to rejoice. “If we are serious about reducing fuel costs and righting the public health and economic wrongs facing our constituents,” he wrote, “we must wean ourselves off fossil fuels and invest in cleaner transportation alternatives.”

As someone who does not typically follow the ins and outs of a piece of bill as it winds its way through the legislature — much less in state government — I found myself on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen with AB 69. Californians drive almost 14,000 miles a year, over one and a half times more than the national average. And we don’t just drive more miles; we even own more cars than we have drivers! In a state that drives so much, how much of an impact could ads featuring little kids at the gas station complaining about fuel prices have on the Californian psyche? It turns out, not much.

That’s likely because Californians need AB 32 to succeed. 12 million of us breathe air deemed excessively polluted by lax federal standards. Despite the number of cars we have, more Californians die from the health impacts of pollution than die from motor vehicle accidents, and 80 percent of the state is experiencing extreme or exceptional drought, the economic impacts of which are yet to be seen. In a July 2014 poll, 62 percent of Californians said that global warming was already having an impact, citing droughts, wildfires and rising sea levels as concerns.

As the Truman National Security Project’s Michael Wu and I wrote last week, our dependence on fossil fuels is a national security liability as well. Our reliance on fossil fuels puts our men and women in uniform at risk while funding unstable regimes and terrorist groups like ISIS. We simply must move away from fossil fuels, for our health and our security.

But despite its obvious necessity, this isn’t the first time that the big-oil lobby or its lackeys have tried to dismantle California’s historic legislation to combat climate change. Back in 2010, millions of dollars were spent by oil companies including Valero on the failed Proposition 23, which threatened to suspend AB 32 altogether. And AB 32 continues to be challenged in court as well. As recently as November 2013, a California superior court rejected the California Chamber of Commerce’s claim that the proceeds from the carbon auction amount to the equivalent of an unconstitutional tax.

Thankfully, cooler heads do prevail. The truth is that it’s far too late to undo AB 32 now. Even the most skeptical supporters acknowledge the good that has come from the legislation already. Between 2002 and 2012, jobs in the clean tech industry grew by 20 percent. Since 1990, per capita greenhouse gas emissions have dropped by 17 percent. Zero emission vehicle registration grew over 60 percent between 2011 and 2012, and the rate of hybrid electric vehicle adoption has never been higher.

In short, it looks like Californians are more ready than ever to make the shift to a low-carbon economy. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Andrea Marr is a member of the Truman Project’s Defense Council, an energy efficiency engineer, and a former officer in the U.S. Navy.

Photo: Ben Amstutz via Flickr

Want more environmental news and analysis? Sign up for our daily email newsletter!

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2014 The National Memo
  • LeeDorsey

    Thanks for piece,..Hope you don’t mind I blogged it on Daily Kos…Here

    Californians are Ready for A Greener Economy ..and Bluer Sky

  • howa4x

    The country is splitting in two and not by civil war. blue states are taking action on environmental issues while red states court polluters with tax breaks. Texas touts it’s economic miracle while hiding information about the toxic chemicals in plants from fire fighters. It is also experiencing drought but thinks its cause is our immorality. One bright spot is Kansas who rejected a Koch bros plan to take away the incentives given to wind energy and go back to Oil. Even staunch republicans couldn’t buy that one and reject the Koch plan. NJ despite a governor who is trying to undo environmental protections is 2nd in the country in solar installations because business here has seen the benefits in spite of the politics. This is happening while southern red states cling to a coal economy that is covering the ground there with mercury and other toxins. Soon environmental problems will become so noticeable that even the most anti science republican won’t be able to explain it by calling climate change a hoax. Fracking caused earthquakes are up 10 fold in Oklahoma, and Ohio won’t except waste for a similar reason. One day soon national congressional elections won’t matter because the states will take the action they needed to protect their residents.

    • Independent1

      Rick Perry may want to taut how great the Texas economy is but his grand scheme is definitely faltering; since Brown raised taxes and paid off a bunch of California’s debt, the California economy, including job creation is greatly outpacing Texas and every other state in the nation. And as you pointed out, what Perry has allowed to happen to Texas is A SIN; in addition to having the most polluted environment in America, Texas ranks in the bottom 5 of more than 90% of 23 socio-economic comparisons between it and other states in America.

      What American states need to do, is to focus on recreating what many European countries are doing – moving toward solar, wind and hydro electric power generation for their energy – using fossil fuels only as a back up. On a Sunday within the past few weeks, Germany actually reached the point where more than 75% of its energy generation came from non-fossils. One of the reasons why moving away from fossils in the U.S. is not going faster, is because the fossil fuel industry with the help of organizations like ALEC keep implementing state and local regulations that make moving toward wind and solar difficult for many individual homeowners – whereas in Europe, governments there encourage all homeowners to move away from fossil fuels.

      See the graph below on how the Texas economy and job creation have fallen to #8 in the nation:

  • Lovefacts

    Nothing like a drought and having your ground water/aquifer decrease from 80% to 40% in three years to get people worried. Looks like CA will be following in Singapore’s example of recycling waste water into drinking water.

    • joe schmo

      Yes, and if California would focus more on desalination then it wouldn’t have to worry about taking all of Nevada’s water out of Lake Mead making it harder for inhabitants of Las Vegas. This is so ridiculous. The more people we have to sustain in this State the more water is needed, The more building the more water.

      You would think that this uber Liberal state would come to some ‘green’ solution for the dilemma. Well, it hasn’t and so we all have to suffer the consequences. If you ask me, beautiful state but the politics suck! Worst in the Union next to New ‘Yok.’

      • Lovefacts

        Desalination is requires a great deal of energy and because of that, it’ll cost more than the average citizen can afford. In truth, desalination is only cost effective in places like Saudi Arabia.

        • Whatmeworry

          Nonsense…I live in VA and we have desal plants they work just fine. Time for CA to start paying the piper rather than paying illegals

          • Will


          • joe schmo

            Wouldn’t that be nice. I think all 21.2 million of them ,here in California, are taking up too much of our energy and need to go home….LOL

        • Will

          Do you have a better option? There isn’t going to be much of a choice here in California, will there? If we don’t get the water situation straightened around in this state, you will the demise of the world’s 5th economy and the agriculture it produces.

          It is absolutely incredible to me that desal plants have not been built before now.

          • joe schmo

            Dude where have you been…. Don’t you know they want to eliminate all fuel plants in this state. Now they are after crude extraction too. China just bought up some of the oil plants in our area (phewy on China), but they don’t know this area very well. They made a big mistake because the ‘greenies’ in our area are already on the peck to get rid of the Chinese plans to tap new oil reserves ( The greenies usually get their way). Oil just leaks out of the ground here. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Before the off shore rigs oil floated onto the beaches too. The board of supervisors already approved Chinese extraction. I guees they found out that agriculture and Wine grapes were not bringing in enough money for their social programs in the area, so their greedy hands can’t wait to profit from those wells.

            Just like what Harry Reid tried to do in Overton on the Bundy Lease. China had already bought a vested interest in the land to put solar plants there while in California they are buying up our oil fields. Trust me there is enough desert in Nevada for everyone. Why Overton. It’s a beautiful area where they wanted to put that eyesore.

            The Chinese just don’t know American culture. Kind of stupid for them to try to go up against a brick wall. Not exactly too unhappy that the Chinese will not be getting their way but I believe this would also happen to an American owned company.

            Fat chance on diesel plants in California…..

          • Will

            I whole-heartedly agree with you concerning the “greenies” in this state, Joe. I know how ridiculous they have made things. However, that wasn’t original statement/argument. I was talking about desalination plants for water…not diesel plants!!

          • joe schmo

            Well, at least you have the sense to realize when too much is way over the top. There is cleaning up the environment and overdoing it too. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I am all for a clean environment but there are times when these people have pushed it too far and frankly, I’m tired of it. They will not allow agriculture to work within what they think is a vernal pool and restrict a certain amount of acreage around it, but when it comes to developers, those idiots can just come in and build developments. Doesn’t make much sense to me. Conservators of the land and wasteful land use. Please…… Did they forget which side their bread was buttered on?

            O.K. I get it…..desal plants:)

        • joe schmo

          Yes, ….and I think we can most likely learn a thing or two from them:)

      • Independent1

        Here’s just one of several new technologies for desalinization that may work in Califrornia (its just a matter of time before companies realize that there’s money to be made in providing potable water from the sea in CA):


        US AquaSonics Corporation has developed a process that enables a substantial cost reduction in desalination. Its patented technology, Rapid Spray Evaporation (RSE™), has achieved water recovery efficiencies of 95% versus approximately 40% for other seawater desalination technologies. When coupled to suitable low-cost or waste heat, the cost for RSE™ is expected to be less than $2 per 1,000 gallons. The heat required for RSE could be generated from geothermal, gas-turbine, heat pump, electrical heating element or electrical power generation, solar methods such as salt ponds or a combination of these and other technologies. RSE™ technology is capable of cost-effective separation of solids from various types of waters, including wastewaters having up to 25% dissolved solids.


        The RSE™ technology is based on a patented method of producing very small droplets of saltwater that are rapidly evaporated in a heated air stream. The evaporation results in water vapor and precipitated salt particles. The salt particles are collected in a slurry or dried form; and the water vapor is condensed, resulting in potable water. The process is environmentally friendly, in that it returns no concentrated brine to the saltwater source. Also, unlike reverse osmosis, RSE™ does not use membrane technology, which requires expensive periodic maintenance.

        When sufficient waste heat is available, no other technology equals the advantages of RSE™ in terms of operating and capital costs, potable water volume recovery, and recovery of solids, based on published literature and test demonstration results. The technological and economical features of the RSE method make it attractive for a variety of applications. For example, certain wastewater applications, especially those having high concentrations of dissolved solids, may be uniquely treated by RSE.

        • joe schmo

          I love this! Thank you for uploading the information. I’m just hoping that the greedy state will not think that it is so cheap to produce ($2 per 1000 gallons) that they will not even give it a go because they cannot over charge the customer for the process.

          We have to pay through the nose for everything here. Absolutely fantastic! Hope this comes to us soon. This is truly a solution to our drought issues:)

          I’m wondering if the State knows about this or has it in the works for the future?

  • charles king

    Its called (Critical Thinking) this is What Democracy is all about, solving man made problems, MONIES don’t mean a thing When? you have your thinking cap on and the VOTE in your back-pocket. Keep up the good work People cause their is nothing that an human being can’t do. Thnk You are the magic words in my book. I Love Ya All. Mr. C. E. KING