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Testing time for green California

As governor Arnold Schwarzenegger leaves office in November, state residents will be asked to vote on a ballot measure that could kill their landmark climate bill. Jan McGirk reports.

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Post Copenhagen, support for carbon trading has been falling globally. Now it appears that even California, famed for its environmental trend-setting, is losing its enthusiasm.  Bucking the trend is China, which reportedly will launch domestic carbon-trading programmes during the next Five-Year Plan period (2011-2015) to meet its carbon-intensity target by 2020.

As governor Arnold Schwarzenegger leaves office in November – having served the maximum term permitted by law -- Californians will be asked to vote on Proposition 23. If approved, this ballot initiative would stall, if not kill, the landmark climate-solutions bill on which the outgoing governor has staked his political reputation as a business-friendly environmentalist.

Two Texas oil companies are behind this latest bid to roll back California’s climate- change legislation until unemployment in the state stabilises at 5.5% -- from its current 12.3% -- for a full fiscal year, even though a bill with similar wording was roundly defeated by state legislators in January. Valero Energy and Tesoro, corporations that both own refineries in California and would benefit from delaying the state’s greenhouse-gas reduction programme, are the initiative’s biggest financial backers. They also are reported to be among the state’s biggest polluters.
 
Their campaign is gathering pace. Advertising spending on both sides of this high-profile issue is predicted to reach US$150 million, which would make it one of the most expensive campaigns in California history. Environmentalists have redubbed Proposition 23 the “Dirty Energy Proposition”, while fossil-fuel lobbyists and Tea Party enthusiasts opposed to government meddling prefer the more anodyne “California Jobs Initiative”.

The initiative has little direct connection to jobs. The target is the Global Warming Solutions Act (Assembly Bill No 32, or AB 32), passed in 2006, which is designed to cap the state’s greenhouse-gas emissions in 2012 and to reduce them to 1990 levels by 2020. Through cap-and-trade requirements on California’s biggest polluters, the law paves the way for investment in clean-energy alternatives throughout the state – yielding $9 billion in new projects so far.

Renewable wind or solar power will provide for at least one third of the state’s energy needs under the current law.  Implementing this California version of the Kyoto Protocol in order to spare future state residents the prospect of living in a post-industrial wasteland is a complex task. Bureaucrats took years of analysis in order to determine current emissions levels and how to monitor the pace of reduction and carbon trading. And just as tougher standards and fines for those who flout them are about to kick in, affected industries are crying foul and objecting to costly new regulations that they fear will drive too many jobs out of state.
 
The benchmark climate law AB 32, which public-opinion surveys indicate is supported by the majority of Californian voters, now is being derided by some conservatives as an exorbitant “energy tax” or a “global-warming tax” in disguise. Because Schwarzenegger, the erstwhile action hero, will no longer be in office to strong-arm its enforcement, environmentalists around the world view this as a hot-button issue. If the initiative passes, pollution controls and clean-fuel standards may lapse and undercut California’s position as a leader in renewable-energy innovation.
 
To pay for implementing its climate law, California must levy extra charges on natural gas utilities, pipeline owners and operators, producers and importers of petrol and diesel fuels, refineries, cement manufacturers, retailers of imported electricity, plus facilities that burn coal. These new fees have raised the temperature of debate.

Opponents of AB 32 contend that more than a million Californian jobs are at risk because state productivity would decline by billions of dollars as soon as greenhouse-gas emissions reductions are enforced. State assemblyman Dan Logue, a first-term legislator, fears that up to $146 billion in new costs could be passed onto California’s consumers.

“I am excited and happy that voters have an opportunity to weigh in on the proposition I wrote,” Logue told chinadialogue. “We can create and bring jobs to California rather than global-warming mitigation. The real issue is that Californians cannot afford to go it alone. AB 32 would have no impact on total global warming … even advisers to Schwarzenegger have admitted that California emits only 1% of the world’s greenhouse gases.”

Tom Tanton, a California energy-technology consultant with links to Big Oil, insisted that “California cannot afford to lead a parade right now with nobody following”.  And the inability of the US Senate to pass a similar climate-change bill for the nation does not bode well for the political will to legislate for cleaner industry inside California.

Leading businessmen are confident that the California climate law will nurture a burgeoning clean-tech industry and will create at least half a million new jobs. “AB 32 is an incubator of innovation,” Eric Schmidt, the head of Google, told the Los Angeles Times earlier this summer. Schmidt predicts that employment will rebound as “business responds to the need for energy-efficient buildings, transportation and a growing portfolio of renewable energy resources.” Power from offshore wind, rooftop solar and waste biofuels will prove cheaper in the long run than conventional energy derived from fossil fuel or nuclear plants.
 
Utilities companies have spent the past four years preparing to comply with new standards and they oppose Proposition 23. The chairman of Pacific Gas and Electric Corporation (PG&E), Peter Darbee, pledged the company’s commitment “to helping California make progress, moving us toward a low-carbon economy while minimising the impact on customers as we make this necessary transition”.  He notes that “unchecked climate change could cost California's economy tens of billions of dollars a year in losses to agriculture, tourism and other sectors,” adding: “Thoughtful and balanced implementation of AB 32 is one of the most important opportunities we have to avoid this costly outcome while spurring new clean-tech investment, innovation and job creation in California.”

Anita Mangels, spokeswoman for the California Jobs Initiative committee, is dubious about his motives. “Defeating our initiative would allow PG&E to increase its rates and its profits at the expense of California’s already struggling families and businesses,” she said, adding that passing Proposition 23 “will not weaken, repeal or roll back California’s global-warming law in any way. It will simply temporarily adjust the timetable.”

Unsurprisingly, Schwarzenegger wants to combat Proposition 23.  Recently the Republican governor was touted as America’s next green hero, a celebrity who could help put some muscle behind US environmental policies and reach out to partners overseas for a global solution to climate change.

“This initiative sponsored by greedy Texas oil companies would cripple California's fastest-growing economic sector, reverse our renewable energy policy and decimate our environmental progress for the benefit of these oil companies' profit margins,” he wrote on his official website. "I will not allow this to happen on my watch."
 
Schwarzenegger’s trade overtures to China’s Jiangsu province, as well as to other foreign countries and provinces, have already yielded international collaboration in green technology for energy efficiency, but uncertainty over California’s future energy policies is likely to hinder planning for new projects -- at least for a few months. Promoting regional green economies and nudging national governments towards the same goal is a priority.

“Our mission is to address climate change while enhancing trade, and to share best practices with Jiangsu province,” said Elizabeth Turner Fox, director of US programmes for the US-Jiangsu Green Partnership. “New technology will be developed if there is research and development partnership. The faster climate change is addressed, the better news for the planet.”
 
Whoever wins the race for governor in November will set the tone for California’s next decade or so. The frugal and eco-friendly Democratic Party candidate (and former governor) Jerry Brown openly supports the cap-and-trade measures of AB 32 and is against the proposal to roll it back. He has his own nuanced green agenda, too:
 
“You'll see a great plan for new energy jobs, about 500,000 from investing in 20,000 megawatts of renewable energy and efficiency retrofits,” he told the CNBC business news channel earlier this summer. “This is a very powerful proposal. I know what I'm talking about.”
 
The Republican Party challenger, Meg Whitman, is less forthcoming. She urges a one-year moratorium on AB 23, ostensibly to enable Californians to ride out their current unemployment crisis and to coordinate the state emissions standards with any federal climate legislation that might be passed in the interim. The wealthy former eBay chief executive has not explicitly supported Proposition 23. Recently she toned down the rhetoric on her glossy campaign pamphlets to be less strident on this topic, which does not resonate with her Silicon Valley colleagues, nor with the independent suburbanites who her political advisers pinpoint as the swing voters who could win her the governorship.
 
“California has a choice,” Whitman said on a recent television broadcast. “We can put our head in the sand and continue to lose jobs overseas and to other states, or we can say, `You know what? We are not going to lose another job from California, and we're going to be the very best place to start and grow a business.' So I'll be the chief sales officer for California businesses.”

Californians still view themselves as global trend-setters, and even though the bankrupt state is $20 billion in the red and its economy has dropped from ranking as the world’s eighth largest down to 12th place, its blue-sky thinkers hanker for renewable energy and a boost in the green-job sector.
 
Most of California’s consumer-protection measures, such as a cigarette-smoking ban in public places or mandatory smog regulators on cars, eventually became mainstream and have been adopted in much of the United States. Whether this can happen with climate legislation, despite the economic downturn, remains to be seen.


Jan McGirk is a former correspondent for The Independent (London) who has reported on environmental issues and disasters in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

Homepage image from California's Office of the Governor shows Arnold Schwarzenegger speaking in a panel discussion at the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference.

 

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Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

第23号提案

加州就业提案(CJI)是石油公司的一场闹剧和诡计。无论如何,减少温室气体排放量和失业之间没有什么关联。这种言论简直是在侮辱加州人民的智慧。事实上,在清洁新能源产业中的工作岗位需求量是增长的。雪佛莱汽车公司在全球范围内招聘了65000名员工,“加州就业提案”并没有更改这一数据。唯一由石油产业创造的工作机会就是泄油事件后的清理工作以及深海作业、爆破和人工打泵等岗位。“加州就业提案”只会为石油行业带来巨额利润,加重空气污染,尤其是在工厂周边的社区,而且即便如此油价也不会降低。.瓦莱罗和泰索罗是两个超级大的能源垄断公司,然而他们何时关注过失业人员及其家庭呢?

Prop 23

The California Jobs Initiative (CJI) is an oil corporation farce and fraud. There is no connection, whatsoever, between greenhouse gas emission reduction and the loss of jobs. This notion is an insult to the intelligence of the people of California. In fact, there is job growth in the clean, renewable energy industry. Chevron employs 65,000 worldwide and CJI is not going to change this. The only jobs created by the oil industry are clean-up jobs after oil spills and deep water, blow-outs and pump-handler jobs. CJI will make fantastic profits for the oil industry, increase air pollution, especially in communities around their refineries, and there will not be lower gas prices. Both Valero and Tesoro are super Enrons. Since when did the oil companies start to show a concern for the unemployed and their families?

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

污染能源提案

如果第23号污染能源提案通过,那么加州将失去21世纪在绿色经济领域中领头羊的地位。就像中国立志要在这个领域中胜出那样。国内碳交易项目对北京来说将会是一个不错的举措。因此"CJI"可以理解为“中国就业提案”——而非“加州就业提案”。

——弗朗西斯

Dirty Energy Proposition

If Prop 23, a Dirty Energy Proposition, passes, Californians will lose their head start on the 21st century green economy. Looks like China is poised to become best in this field. The proposed domestic carbon trading programmes will be a good move for Beijing. So is "CJI" actually a Chinese Jobs Initiative?

-Francis

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

省省吧

加利福利亚人正在失去他们的绿色优势,最近的例子就是普及全州的塑料袋禁令的失败。

石油产业对此也下了狠功夫游说。每天用塑料袋装宠物粪便的人滚球似的越来越多。真荒唐。请注意环保!

Bag it

The latest example of Californians losing their green edge is the defeat in their legislature of a statewide ban on plastic bags.

Petro- businesses lobbied hard against this one, too.
The number of plastic bags used by pet-owners for poop-scooping mounts every day. What folly. Recyclable options, please!

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

碳交易风险

绿色计划同样也可用于贪婪。
比如,为了避免使用HFC-23,也就是一种供发胶、空调和一些冰箱使用的成分,大量的资本被投入。因此厂家只要简单地生产过量的HFC-23来破坏它,就可以在一个联合国项目中获取碳信用额。来自环境调查机构(一个研究和倡导小组)的马克·罗伯特这么说:“这...完全是对国际努力抵抗气候变化的嘲弄。”

carbon trading perils

Green schemes can be used for greed, too.
For example there is so much money in getting rid of HFC-23, a component of hair sprays, air conditioners and some refrigerators, that the manufacturers produce excess HFC-23 simply to destroy it and earn carbon credits in a UN program. Mark Roberts of the Environmental Investigation Agency, a research and advocacy group, was quoted: "This ... makes an absolute mockery of international efforts to combat climate change."

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

稍微更正一下

哦。请注意在其中一个写共和党挑战者平台的段落中,关键数字被疏忽地颠倒了。惠特曼敦促暂停“AB32”即加州全球变暖解决条例的执行,当然不是“23号提案”,对此她有待声明。这个潜在的混淆在最近由桑·麦柯瑞发表的社论中被提出来。http://tiny.cc/o6u78

托马斯·艾丽莎说“反‘23号提案’行动,很可能需要花费与支持者同样的精力,但是他们有一个很大的优势:为了投票反对‘AB32’,投票者需要投票同意23。这种混淆通常会导致投票议题的失败。如果这次还这样,加利福利亚将会再次声称自己是清洁空气和可再生能源研究领域的世界领导者。”

——简·麦格克

slight correction

Oops. Please note that crucial digits were inadvertently transposed in one paragraph about the Republican challenger's platform. Whitman urges a suspension of AB 32, California's Global Warming Solutions Act, and certainly not Proposition 23, on which she has yet to declare. This potential confusion was highlighted in a recent editorial published by the San Jose Mercury
http://tiny.cc/o6u78

Thomas Elias says "The anti-23 campaign, which will likely spend almost as much as the yes side, has one big advantage in this contest: In order to vote no on AB 32, voters will need to vote yes on 23. That kind of confusion usually leads to defeat for ballot propositions.If it does this time, California will once again assert itself as the world leader in the search for both clean air and renewable energy."

-- Jan McGirk

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

事情正在变得糟糕

洛杉矶时报的一篇报道(http://tiny.cc/ogc27)表明关于这项提案的争论在迅速升温。德州石油公司和科赫兄弟(凭借他们雄厚的财力资助那些乡巴佬们的茶话会)目的就是用“23号提案”扼杀全球变暖法案。
(于良杰)

it's gotten ugly

A report at the LA Times (http://tiny.cc/ogc27)
shows how quickly the rhetoric is heating up over this bill. The Texas oil companies and the Koch brothers (whose deep pockets help fund the retro-yokel Tea Party fringe) aim to kill the Global Warming Bill with Prop 23.

Default thumb avatar
anyou

全面绿化建筑物

去www.a-green.cn和www.anyou9.cn看看就知道什么是全面绿化建筑物。“凉爽屋顶”和“绿色加州”计划确实面临考验。

Making buildings greener comprehensively

Have a look at www.a-green.cn and www.anyou9.cn,you will get a clear sense of making buildings greener comprehensively.The projects of“cool rooves”and “green California”are really at stake.