Back to Next Generation

The Yin and Yang of Energy: From Sacramento to Damascus

Yesterday was my 8th wedding (actually elopement) anniversary, so I have to start by thanking my husband for putting up with the late nights, early mornings, and weekly blog deadlines. Thanks Gino!

On to the meat of the matter: September 13 is the deadline for the California legislature to pass its final bills, and Sacramento is hopping. I’ve talked about some of these in previous posts but here’s a roundup of what’s happening on energy and climate up in River City:

  • Last week, the Assembly Appropriations Committee approved SB 4 (Pavley, D-Agoura Hills) on a 12-5 vote. I’ve written often about this bill, which would establish a framework to regulate fracking, but also acidizing and other oil- and gas-well stimulation techniques. The bill is controversial, with the Sierra Club and the Western States Petroleum Association both lined up against it, and Clean Water Action, Earthworks, and others in support. Because in California, all fracking/acidizing fights come back to the Monterey Shale, I recommend this very good piece in Bay Nature about the basic geology of the Monterey, including why it’s so hard to get at with conventional drilling techniques. And of course Next Generation’s own Monterey Shale series as well!
  • The Senate and Assembly appropriations committees approved AB 8 (Perea, D-Fresno) and SBl 11 (Pavley, D-Agoura Hills) on Friday on 5-2 and 12-4 votes, respectively. This pair of bills would extend funding for existing clean air incentives and renewable vehicle programs through 2023.
  • The Assembly appropriations committee approved SB 43 (Wolk, D-Davis) on Friday on a 13-1 vote. Wolk’s bill would require California’s three largest utilities to buy electricity from small-scale renewable generating facilities and to give their customers the option to purchase that renewable power. Regular readers know I’m somewhat obsessed with small-scale renewables, and in fact I was newly reminded of the importance of distributed generation this weekend when reading in the New York Times about squirrels who take down power lines. So this is a bill to watch.
  • The Senate Appropriations Committee approved AB 327 (Perea, D-Fresno) on a 6-0 vote on Friday. The bill would alter the rate structure of residential electricity, with major implications for the economics of rooftop solar power. There are good folks on both sides of this one as well: here’s a very recent Greenwire piece attempting to explain exactly why what looks like a pro-net metering bill is under steady attack from environmentalists and the solar industry.
  • After a round of amendments, SB 665 is due for a third reading in the California Senate (Wolk, D-Davis). The legislation would tighten regulations that hold oil and gas drillers financially responsible for environmental damage incurred by their operations.
  • SB 605 (Lara, D-Long Beach), which would prioritize disadvantaged communities in allocation of AB 32 auction revenues; expand AB 32 to include air quality and environmental health provisions; and require more carbon offsets purchased under that law to be located in California, is now a two-year bill.

Savvy readers will notice that these bills essentially fall along two lines: bills to hold fossil fuel extractors accountable for the environmental impact of their actions, and bills focused on expanding renewable energy options to smaller and less affluent consumers. In some ways that’s the Tale of Two Californias: we’re either the third or fourth largest oil producing state in the nation (depending on the day and the barrel yield), and we’re also the “runaway leader” in clean tech investment, innovation, and deployment. The biggest question facing the state may be how long we can keep growing California’s economy in both directions simultaneously.

You know my bias: I think we should shift as much as possible away from the oil side and toward the diversified energy side, by making it much easier not to depend on oil. (I did a long post on this a few weeks ago, and you can just add the recent Bloomberg story about oil and gas pipeline explosions to that narrative.) That’s why I’m excited about electric cars, where California leads the market with 35 percent of all national electric car sales. And why I continue to natter on about the importance of Proposition 39 to lowering energy use in California’s schools, including in a keynote tomorrow at the Greenwise Joint Venture symposium in Davis. And why I’m happy to see the folks in Washington getting serious about energy efficiency standards that would help us all use less energy and fuel in general. The President’s new proposed standards on commercial refrigerators could cut energy costs by $28 billion, and the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, sponsored by Senators Shaheen and Portman, would improve building codes and supply chains nationwide, reducing our overall energy use by as much as 10 percent.

Of course, Shaheen-Portman is currently on hold as Congress focuses on potential military action in Syria – something the oil markets are also watching closely, because of Syria’s potential to disrupt oil production and shipping routes in the region, and therefore wreak havoc on international oil prices.

In the words of the inimitable Alanis Morissette: Isn’t it ironic?


Obama administration proposes new energy efficiency rules

After a wait of nearly two years, the Energy Department proposed two major energy efficiency rules Thursday for commercial refrigeration equipment and walk-in coolers and freezers.

The rules represent one of the Obama administration’s first steps to address climate change though its executive authority since the president announced his climate action plan in June.

28/Aug >> The Washington Post

A Bet on the Environment

Called Mosaic, the company functions like a virtual renewable energy bank, soliciting investments for solar projects and making loans to be paid back, typically, over about 10 years. Mosaic collects a fee on every loan. It is similar to the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, a Web site that matches creative ventures with financial supporters. In the case of Mosaic, with a minimum of $25, investors can earn a return.

2/Sep >> The New York Times

California is gateway to electric car market

Californians are known as early technology adopters, and electric vehicles are no exception.

More than half of consumers who registered a new electric vehicle through June did so in five metropolitan markets, with more than 35 percent in two California regions: San Francisco and Los Angeles, according to Polk data. Other top markets for electric vehicle registrations this year are Seattle, Atlanta and New York, the data company said.

3/Sep >> The Detroit News

Bills on fracking, earthquake warnings advance

A bill to regulate hydraulic fracturing in California and one that would require the state to develop an early warning system for earthquakes are among a number of proposals advancing as the state Legislature's session wraps up.

3/Sep >> E&E News Greenwire

Syria vote to delay consideration of pending efficiency bill

The years-long wait for the Senate to take up significant energy legislation is getting a little longer.

Debate over whether the United States should authorize a military response to Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons will delay consideration of an efficiency bill that had been next in line to hit the Senate floor.

3/Sep >> E&E News Greenwire

California needs controls on fracking

California may be floating atop the nation's biggest pool of oil, over 15 billion barrels that are best tapped by a technique that comes with serious risks. This state can't ignore this energy mother lode, but it needs strong rules to curb potential harm and ease public worries.

28/Aug >> The San Francisco Chronicle

Rim fire in and around Yosemite is 75% contained, officials say

The massive Rim fire burning into Yosemite National Park is now 75% contained, the U.S. Forest Service said Tuesday morning.

Forest Service officials listed the Rim fire’s burned acreage at 235,841 acres, or roughly 368 square miles, making it the fourth largest in state history. A September 1932 fire in Ventura County that burned 343 square miles previously held the spot, according to Cal Fire.

3/Sep >> The Los Angeles Times

Decades of Ruptures From Defect Show Perils of Old Pipe

Cristobal Sustaita didn’t know about the pipeline running underground near his West Texas home until it erupted into a fireball in 1976, burning to death five people including his wife and 20-month old son.

The explosion was one of the first to focus attention on a lethal welding flaw in U.S. pipelines built before 1970. In the decades since, this type of pipe has continued to leak, rupture and explode, killing more people, despite repeated warnings to the industry from federal investigators and private consultants.

2/Sep >> Bloomberg

Solar, utility companies clash over changes to net metering

In the sunny Southwest, a fight between utilities and solar companies is heating up, casting a shadow over future renewable energy growth.

At stake are revisions to net metering, a key incentive for rooftop solar installations in the United States. Under these policies, the utility gives the homeowner a credit for the energy his rooftop photovoltaic panels put onto the grid that is subtracted from the electricity his home uses when the sun isn't shining.

3/Sep >> E&E News ClimateWire

Join the Conversation