Tonight was the AB32 presentation at City Hall by California Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols. It was informative, well attended, well-run and civil. Kudos to organizers Judy Kildow and Robert Bergman and speaker Nichols for the format, which limited the presentation to AB32 and called for questions to be written on an index card and passed to the aisle.
Practically everyone who was anyone was there.
(And if you missed it, some extremely welcome news - there are plans to bring other science and science-aligned policy experts to our community, to speak on issues like climate change and ocean acidification.)
Nichols spoke for about half an hour on AB32's aims and implementation, then answered audience questions. She stressed that she represented all of us and was not expected or permitted to advocate for or against the stop-AB32 initiative, Prop. 23.
She pointed out we're victims of Bay Area and Sacto-area emissions - our air quality is worse than any rural region in the country, and worse than any region outside of California. And global warming makes air pollution worse - for the same amount of pollution emitted, you get more ground-level ozone. Their study projected that in 40 years, with global warming we'll have an extra 30 "bad ozone" days a year.
"People don't want air that shortens their lives and makes their children sick."What AB32 does -
Its goal is to get us off petroleum in 40 years, to increase efficiency & shift to more reliable & cleaner energy. It's "cost effective, common sense measures to ratchet down smog and greenhouse gases too."
CARB aims to manage the transition, to make it as seamless, painless and equitable as possible.
* Basically, AB32 reduces emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 - a 15% cut from today - and already we have in place over half the emission reductions needed to meet that goal, mostly via the Pavley bill (AB 1493?)
* By 2020, 1/3 of electricity generated in CA must be from renewables (this would be suspended under Prop 23)
* A low carbon fuel standard - oil cos. will have a choice on how to meet it, e.g. compressed natural gas, electric fueling stations... - for a 20% drop in oil consumption
* Reduce car usage, via land use and transportation planning - it'd be voluntary for communities, with the carrots being CEQA-free infill development and (presumably state) transportation funding.
* Cap & trade, a mechanism originally promoted by the business community - put a price on carbon, so people can choose to make money by cleaning it up. The cap steps down gradually.
There were a couple of good questions asking what to do when an AB32 regulation proves unworkable - e.g. diesel particulate filters on trucks causing them to run poorly and get worse mileage - she answered saying that yes, they do revisit such regulations - you contact their ombudsman, who's their small business point person, and they look at the situation and sometimes lift restrictions or temporarily stop enforcement until they can figure it out & come up with a fix.
Another question was about an L.A. study projecting a huge increase in electricity costs; Nichols responded saying that electricity rates are projected to increase considerably in future, AB32 or no AB32, and that one of the things AB32 will do is protect us from price increases, since - via renewables - it'll reduce our vulnerability to price spikes via outside interests; though she didn't explicitly mention our Enron summer.
For a historical analogy of an earlier transition, she used the example of vapor-retrieval gas nozzles at gas stations, reminding us how stinky refueling your car used to be, and how gas station owners were not happy about installing the new equipment; yet now we take it for granted.
She freely admitted that California wasn't going to stop global warming, since we produce just 2% of global emissions; but said the goal is for us to pioneer solutions, to let us demonstrate techniques & technologies for others to buy; and to reap the benefits of being early adopters.