California takes lead on clean energy by defeating Prop 23



November 2 has come and gone, and once again California took the lead on the topic of the greening of America by defeating Proposition 23.

The passing of Proposition 23, largely funded by out-of-state oil refiners, would have suspended the state’s climate change law until the California’s looming unemployment rate of over 12 percent (third highest in the nation) fell to below 5.5 percent for an entire year. Now the path is clear to a clean energy future.

State of the States 2009: Renewable Energy Development and the Role of Policy

This time last year the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) put out a report that evaluated state policy measures as they relate to renewable energy. The goal was to determine the effectiveness of these measures and tracks the progress of renewable energy development within each state.

Renewable energy includes biomass, geothermal, large-scale solar, wind, non-hydro renewable resources and hydro-electric, all of which currently account for less than 10 percent of U.S. electricity generation.

California led the nation in terms of total non-hydroelectric renewable generation and distributed solar power as well as geothermal and biomass electricity generation in 2007 (the year for when the information was gathered). In addition, the state was third in hydro-electric generation. Leading wind energy states included Texas, California, Iowa, Minnesota, and Washington.

Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32)

Considered to be the most aggressive law in the country, AB 32 focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. The centerpiece of the plan is the cap-and-trade system. But what is cap and trade?

In order to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) the government places a limit or CAP on the amount of GHG companies can emit, but offers lower emitting companies, those that don’t reach the cap, the chance to TRADE (actually sell) their extra permits to other companies. This is sometimes called carbon trading.

According to the law, cap-and-trade will cover about 85 percent of the state’s emissions. This includes transportation, electricity generation, refineries and other energy-intensive industries.

California’s plan also calls for a boost in its renewable energy mix, subsidies and rebates for buying, producing or investing in low carbon and energy efficiency products or technologies, and implementing a Low Carbon Fuel Standard along with a proposed High Speed Rail System connecting Northern and Southern California.

Of course there are critics of the plan. However, many say it is a solid first step in the right direction.