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State-of-State: California Governor Zeros In on Climate Change

While making little mention of energy, except for renewables, and totally ignoring hydraulic fracturing (fracking), California Gov. Jerry Brown left no doubt in his state-of-the-state speech Monday that climate change will continue to dominate in his unprecedented fourth four-year term as governor. He called for dramatic increases in renewable energy use.

Lauding the nation's most populous state for the "most far-reaching environmental laws," Brown acknowledged that removing significant amounts of carbon without harming the state's now-recovering economy won't be easy. But trying to balance the economic and environmental benefits is "exactly the sort of challenge at which California excels," he said.

Brown said the state is well on its way to achieving it goals in the 2006 state climate change law (AB 32), including removing 431 tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and achieving a 33% renewable energy use for power supplies by 2020. His remarks point to 2030, setting new, challenging goals:

  • Making half of the state's electricity come from renewable sources;
  • Cutting petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50%; and
  • Doubling the efficiency of existing buildings and using cleaner heating fuels.

"We must also reduce the relentless release of methane, black carbon and other potent [GHG] pollutants across industries," Brown said, adding that this includes farm and rangelands, forests and wetlands, so they can become bigger carbon storage sources. "It means we continue to transform our electrical grid, our transportation system and even our communities."

With no details or budget estimates, Brown laid out a broad vision, ranging from distributed generation and rooftop solar installations to electric and low-carbon vehicles. He said, however, that how the state pursues these goals will require "great thought and imagination mixed with pragmatic caution; it will require enormous innovation, research and investment."

Brown called his futuristic roadmap "bold and absolutely necessary if we are to have any chance of stopping potentially catastrophic changes in our climate system."

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