The clean energy story: Getting both sides right
It’s been another week of travel: Monday in Seattle to talk western climate strategy; today in L.A. to talk national climate risk. Sometimes I think the best short-term climate policy for the U.S. would simply be for me to stop getting on planes. Sadly that’s not happening any time soon! Until things settle down, forgive me for my tardy Cliffnotes.
Federal workers are back at their jobs today – with a raise to boot – but BART workers are back off the job and on strike, after an epic 30-hour negotiating session. I’m continually amazed by how one-sided the media coverage is on this issue, and recommend folks read this Alternet piece from July for a more worker-focused perspective. Meanwhile, as a labor supporter and a daily BART commuter, I’m crossing my fingers that BART management and the unions can come together soon with a fair deal.
Speaking of unbalanced media coverage, the California energy world is abuzz this week about this recent L.A. Times article focused on state support for alternative energy technologies and efficiency programs. (Ralph Cavanagh from NRDC has a good blog response here.) I’m sure there are programs in the state, in this area as well as many others, that could be streamlined. But let’s get real: public investments in alternative energy programs pale in comparison with public investments and subsidies for fossil fuels. I won’t rehash everything I’ve already said on this subject (highlights: public investment in emerging technologies is par for the course; oil and gas still get subsidies after 100 years of profitable business; etc.), except to say that California is actually the site of a massive “subsidy of omission” for fossil fuels, in that we’re the only major oil-producing state that doesn’t levy any extraction fee. Now that’s a serious budget issue.
What else is going on in this great state?
- Amy Harder from the National Journal had a couple of good pieces out this week focused on the “two faces of California”: the clean tech face and the oil producing face. As I’ve written in the past, these two sides of our state identity are increasingly clashing with each other, as seen in the fights over Sen. Pavley’s fracking regulation (SB 4), the ongoing push by the Western States Petroleum Association against the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, and most recently Governor Brown’s veto of a bill from Sen. Leno, SB 448, that would have required state analysis and publication of gas prices, with an eye toward scouting out possible price manipulation.
- Of course, the best way to stop worrying about gas prices is to stop needing gas. California continues to lead on electric vehicle sales, but also on EV charging stations, as this new map of the country’s alternative fuel charging infrastructure makes clear.
On the clean energy side, the Proposition 39 distribution list is out, showing how the $381 million in new funds will flow across California’s 1100 school districts next year. Looking at the list, it’s clear that Los Angeles will get the vast majority of funds, which makes sense as it’s by far the largest district in the state. As we’ve pointed out many times, it’s also critical for the smallest districts, many of which haven’t passed bond measures to improve their facilities in decades, to be able to bring in new Prop 39 dollars and to access the technical assistance they’ll need to access and leverage these funds. We’ll continue paying attention to this issue in particular as implementation continues.
That’s it for today; I’m off to brave L.A. traffic. More next week!