Even the once skeptical White House has come to agree that nationally and internationally “climate change must be one of the drivers of energy policy at every level,” California’s chief regulator, Michael Peevey, told a receptive audience Oct. 10 in San Francisco before the Business Council for Sustainable Energy’s 2007 conference.
Peevey, president of the California Public Utilities Commission, quoted President Bush from a speech he gave the end of last month as putting climate change and energy security on the same page. The president said the United States should “leave debates of the past behind and reach a consensus” as part of an international meeting among the major economies of the world, according to Peevey.
“I find this now to be the mindset in more and more state capitals across the country,” Peevey said. “When I relate the California experience and perspective that climate change is energy policy at events like this, I seem to be preaching to a rapidly growing ‘choir’ of policy and business leaders in the same space.”
A few days after Peevey’s remarks, clean fuel advocates in the utility and merchant energy sectors last Tuesday lauded the state regulatory chief’s boss, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, for signing a new law to help implement the state’s low-carbon fuel standard (AB 118), authored by his political ally in the state legislature, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez.
Meanwhile, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) helped honor the Mineta San Jose (CA) International Airport for its four-year effort to save more than $2.6 million and reduce vehicle emissions at the airport by more than 70 tons annually through the use of compressed natural gas (CNG) shuttle buses.
Peevey said market-based solutions will “play an important — but not exclusive — role” underpinning California’s three drivers on climate change. Most importantly, they all will help assure “least-cost” approaches to the implementation, which is enormously time-consuming and complex. In California and other states, the three fundamentals as Peevey described them are:
Peevey said California policymakers do not see the state’s economy as “threatened” by potential climate change responses. To the contrary, many of them are viewed as economic drivers.
While repeating the state’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emission levels to 2000 levels by 2010, to 1990 levels by 2020, and to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, Peevey said California’s new laws (principally AB 32) assume that the state will have a head start on cutting GHG emissions through aggressive energy efficiency and renewable energy program goals that are the most ambitious in the nation.
Rather than waiting for the eventual implementation of a statewide GHG emission limit and impending national legislation, through the existing programs California can “immediately enjoy the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy,” Peevey said.
With an audience of business, government and energy-sector representatives from throughout the West, Peevey ended his remarks with more quotes from Bush, who he said had been a “laggard” on the global climate change issue, but now “has it right.” He also warned that society doesn’t have a lot of time at this point to “get it right.”
“Massive, multi-sector action is urgently needed — here in California, and everywhere.”
Another bill recently signed by Schwarzenegger, AB 118, will provide an estimated $210 million annually in new energy subsidies and clean air programs to “research, develop and deploy” innovative technologies and alternative fuels to improve the state’s air quality. The program is slated to start next year, according to one of the potential beneficiaries, Clean Energy, a Seal Beach, CA-based provider of CNG and liquefied natural gas (LNG) for transportation.
Clean Energy CEO Andrew Littlefair said the new law should enable California “to move rapidly to meet its new lower greenhouse gas emissions objectives.” Ultimately, the state’s work should benefit the nation as a whole, Littlefair said. “Clean Energy will work to support these goals within the important vehicle markets it serves in the transit, refuse, airport and port sectors.”
Littlefair noted that natural gas (CNG or LNG) used in transportation already exceeds the state’s low-carbon standard goals.
PG&E said the National Natural Gas Vehicle Achievement Award from the Clean Vehicle Education Foundation and NGV America was given to the San Jose airport for its efforts to “significantly improve air quality and reduce fuel costs” in its ground transportation operations, providing environmental benefits that will help the City of San Jose overall achieve what it calls its Green Vision.
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