At the same time that Californians want clean energy, they want it to be affordable and reliable. Wind does not always blow, the sun does not always shine, and these sources are more expensive than traditional ones.
The unanswered question of affordability is a major flaw in Senate Bill 350, which is part of a broader legislative package that attempts to address climate change. The Senate recently approved SB350 without bipartisan support; it’s now before the Assembly.
SB350 would require a minimum of 50 percent of the total electricity sold to California’s customers to come from renewable resources by 2030. The bill would also require the California Air Resources Board – an unelected bureaucracy – to create and implement fuel standards that would reduce oil use by 50 percent by 2030.
However, the bill does not lay out how the state is to achieve those targets, even as the state’s job creators struggle to meet the requirements laid out in Assembly Bill 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. AB32 requires the reduction of statewide greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
AB32 has led to California businesses being charged billions of dollars by CARB without legislative oversight or approval. It has also led to a “hidden tax” being added to gasoline as a result of placing gasoline production under cap-and-trade. According to the nonpartisan Legislative’s Analyst Office, cap-and-trade will cost Californians $3.4 billion over two years. Even worse, the governor is using cap-and-trade revenue for the high-speed rail project, a legally dubious maneuver, at best.
Furthermore, the legislators who crafted AB32 wrote it in such a broad way that they ceded significant authority to CARB, allowing legislators to claim that they did not raise taxes or contribute to rising energy prices. SB350 would continue this disturbing trend.
Gasoline in California is already, on average, a dollar per gallon higher than in the rest of the country. California motorists use 16 billion gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel each year.
Ultimately, SB350 would require that the state cut that amount in half by 2030. In other words, Californians will be using gasoline at the same levels as in 1967, when there were only half as many Californians as there are today.
SB350 does not say anything about what will replace that fuel – and how much it will cost. Unless the price of alternative fuels can become comparable to traditional fuels, we may pay much more for transportation. Existing alternatives, like hydrogen, are simply beyond the budgets of most working families.
As the people’s duly-elected representatives, the Legislature should not give up its authority or oversight on such important issues to CARB, an unelected body that they cannot hold accountable. At the very least, there should be parameters in SB350 to keep bureaucrats in check. For example, new programs to be implemented by CARB should be crafted through a transparent process by the Legislature.
We should address climate change by promoting achievable goals, sound science and economic common sense. What we should not do is give an unelected body like CARB more authority to impose policies that will cost Californians billions in higher energy prices. I hope the Assembly will carefully consider these concerns as it takes up SB350 in the near future.
Sen. Patricia C. Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, is a member of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee.