Last week, 16 Democratic legislators sent a letter to ARB Chair Mary Nichols asking for a delay in adding transportation fuels to the AB 32 cap and trade program starting January 1, 2015. The legislators raise concerns about how a 15 cent per gallon increase could impact the state’s poor.
I was asked by EDF to sign on to a letter in response. That letter focuses on how much of the anticipated innovation arising from AB 32 is dependent on implementing this phase of cap and trade. However, I think the proposed letter misses an important point by the legislators.
Our state legislators are rightfully concerned about the impacts on those among us who have the least. Nevertheless, that problem is easily addressed with the tools and resources that are already available to the state. Those families and households who now qualify for the CARE and FERA electric and natural gas utilities rate discounts can be made eligible for an annual rebate equal to the average annual gasoline consumption multiplied by the amount of the GHG allowance cost embedded in the gasoline price. This rebate could be funded out of the state’s allowance revenue fund. For example, if the price is increased by 15 cents per gallon and the average automobile uses 650 gallons per year, an eligible household could receive $97.50 for each car.
About 30% of households are currently eligible for CARE or FERA. On a statewide basis, the program would cost about $650 million, which is comparable to the cost for CARE for a single utility like PG&E or Southern California Edison. Those legislators who are most concerned can coauthor legislation to put this program in place.