Tag Archives: AB 32

Reblog: Leaking Coal to Asia

Maximillian Auffhammer at UC’s Energy Institute @ Haas focuses on the issue of exporting coal from the Port of Oakland, but he turns to the issue I highlighted recently–the path to accomplishing environmental objectives should travel through compensating those who are worse off from such policies.

Source: Leaking Coal to Asia

Differing views of the future? High speed rail vs electric vehicles

As I was driving back from Los Angeles to Davis, I thought about how convenient it would be to turn on an auto pilot that allowed us to lock into the train of cars up Highway 99. The only reason I really had to pay attention was due to the varying speeds of the traffic. But that future may be nearer than we might think. Google’s self-driving car is getting most of the press, but in fact there are many similar technologies already on the road. In fact, there’s been some concern that drivers are already pushing the limits on current controls, but collision avoidance devices may soon be standard equipment.

Which brings us to the question: How will high speed rail fare in a world with driverless electric cars? The high speed rail travel forecast appears to assume a similar mix of gasoline-fueled automobiles; in fact, the word “electric” isn’t even in the report. On the other hand, studies show that EV market share probably needs to reach 45% by 2030 to achieve an 80% reduction in GHG emissions by 2050. And the Air Resources Board is considering regulations to implement “fast refueling / battery exchange” that would make the LA-SF trip even easier in an EV. Given the shorter life of automobiles, we might expect that almost all of the highway trips are with EVs by 2045.

We’re left with the question of what are the true emission reductions from HSR in such a world? Are we building a project that’s truly useful life is less than a decade?

Focus on uncertainty and risk in climate change

Unfortunately Alex Epstein, a blogger at Forbes, takes the wrong perspective–an underlying premise that we need absolute certainty that climate change is occurring before we should act. (And equally unfortunately, environmentalist argue that catastrophic climate change is occurring with absolute certainty to defend policy initiatives.)

The correct perspective is to ask “what are the relative risks and consequences posed by potential climate change?” Can we say with absolute certainty that GCC is not and will not occur? No, we have strong evidence that warming has occurred (although the rate can be disputed) and that various local climates have measurably changed (e.g., glaciers receding). As an analogy, would anyone argue that we shouldn’t take measures to reduce forest fire risks to communities even if fires aren’t burning nearby? We know that such fires are a strong risk, and we ask what actions are sufficient to reduce the risks while still achieving other objectives. We should be asking the same questions regarding responses to potential climate change.

Steve Moss and I wrote about this perspective in 1999 in Chapter 2 of this report. (Note that we did not coauthor the other chapters. Chapter 3 about the economic consequences of using carbon taxes to replace other tax revenues in particular is simply wrong.) Economists have evolved methodologies beyond the simple approach we presented there, such as robust decision making (RDM)real options analysis and “fat-tailed” uncertainty benefit-cost analysis. We face a great deal of uncertainty in many dimensions. We need to conduct more complete analyses that assess the potential costs and benefits under uncertainty–i.e., measure the risk of relative actions and non actions.

Simply having a battle over which scientists are correct is fruitless and distracts us from the real question at hand. Let’s agree that a large plurality of scientists have posed a plausible case for human-induced climate change, even if there are doubts about the potential magnitude and consequences. Then we can move on to what are the range of potential consequences and the justification for various responses.

SANDAG, Executive Orders and California Policies

In a rather earthshaking ruling, California’s Fourth District Court of Appeals ruled that the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) must comply with the Governor Schwarzenegger’s Executive Order S-3-05 to “by 2050, reduce GHG emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels.” SANDAG had completed its 2050 Regional Transportation Plan using AB 32 as its primary compliance hurdle. AB 32 “requires California to reduce its GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.” SB 375 required that metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) such as SANDAG develop sustainable community strategies (SCS) that reduce GHG emissions by an amount allocated by the California Air Resources Board to each MPO.  SANDAG’s RTP is its SCS.

This is the first time that an EO has been held at legally binding on local agency actions. Governors have issued plenty of EOs before but they’ve been taken as providing policymaking and rulemaking guidance to the Governor’s appointees in various agencies. This decision raises the question whether those other EOs will now carry much more weight? And if governors issue conflicting EOs, which one is currently in force? What if an EO conflicts with state law passed by the Legislature?

On climate change, governors have issued seven such EOs. The Governor recently issued an EO calling for substantial water use reductions in the drought. Is the EO from 2008 still in force?  The Energy Action Plan EO from 2004 calls for several specific actions by state agencies, many of them undertaken but necessarily on the timeline specified. Should the 33% renewable portfolio standard (RPS) be implemented along the lines of state law or the EO? A bit of research could show many more of these types of examples.

SANDAG is appealing the decision the State Supreme Court. How various interests align will be interesting.

Understanding the Challenges of Modeling AB 32 Policy

A summary of the review of the AB 32 Scoping Plan we conducted in 2008 for EDF.

Environmental & Energy Valuation News

The Aspen Environmental Group, M.Cubed for Environmental Defense / by Richard J. McCann
http://www.edf.org/documents/8902_AB32%20EconModeling%20M3%20final.pdf (full report)
http://www.edf.org/documents/8901_AB32%20AspenEnv%20Modeling%20PolicySum.pdf (summary)

[From press release] A new study released today concludes that state-of-the-science economic models, including those used for the California Air Resources Board’s economic analyses of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32), are not capable of simulating the fundamental changes in California’s economy that AB 32 measures are likely to cause. While critics of ARB claim that costs might be underestimated, this new study shows that many benefits also are not represented by models and more modeling isn’t as useful as consideration of lessons from prior policies and economics literature.

The study is timely because CARB will vote on the Proposed Scoping Plan to implement the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32) on December 11, less than a week away.

In the new study, Dr. McCann reveals that current techniques…

View original post 60 more words

Identifying the barriers to transportation fuel diversity

Tim O’Connor of EDF writes about the benefits of transportation diversification at EDF’s California Dream 2.0. I think that fuel diversity is a useful objective, but achieving that will be difficult due to the network externalities inherent in transportation technologies. Gasoline and diesel vehicles became dominant because having single-fuel refueling networks is more cost effective for both vendors and customers, and reduce the search costs for drivers to find those stations. Think of how many fueling stations someone might have to pass to reach their particular energy source. Investing in a particular fuel requires a certain level of revenue. Note how many local gas stations have closed because they didn’t have enough sales.

For a more recent example, we can look at cell phone operating systems. Initially each manufacturer had their own system, but now virtually all phones are driven by two systems, Android and iOS, while Windows 8 keeps trying to make inroads.

We need to be very aware of the fueling network economics when pushing for new transportation energy sources. Investing in a system is as much a set of business decisions as a policy decision. One approach might be to focus on using particular fuels in a narrow set of sectors and discourage broad sector-wide use. Another might be to use a geographic focus and to set up means of interconnecting across those geographies.

Repost: Californians Can Handle the Truth About Gas Prices

Sev Borenstein writes about the two sides of the argument on whether transportation fuels should be rolled into the cap-and-trade program in January 2015.

I have an observation that that has only been alluded to indirectly in the debate. The main point of the legislators’ letter calling for a delay in implementation is that low income groups may be particularly hit. The counter argument that we need the inclusion of transportation fuels under the cap to incent innovation seems to pit the plight of the poor against the investment risk of wealthy entrepreneurs. We haven’t really done a good job of addressing affordability of the transformative policies that can change GHG emissions. The proposal to use carbon tax revenues to rebate to low income taxpayers has been floated at the national level, but of course that died with the rest of the national cap and trade proposal. A similar proposal was made to mitigate electricity price impacts.

Our state legislators are rightfully concerned about the impacts on those among us who have the least. Nevertheless, that problem is easily addresses 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.

(BTW, I think the DOE fuel use calculator is outdated–on my many trips to LA I haven’t seen these types of fuel economy changes. My average MPG is pretty much the same no matter how much traffic there is on I-5.  But that’s just a fun fact aside…)

Repost: California Dream – How Big Data Can Fight Climate Change in Los Angeles

EDF and UCLA have created an interesting visual presentation on the potential for solar power and energy savings in the LA county, overlaid with socio-economic characteristics. (But I have some trouble with the representation of a few West LA communities as disadvantaged with high health risk–is that the UCLA campus?