By Dennis Wyatt, February 12, 2014
How does planting trees in Georgia reduce air pollution in California?
In reality it doesn’t but in the political fantasy world advanced by Assembly Bill 32 known as the “Global Warming Act” it does.
goal of the 2006 measure is to reduce California emissions to 1990
levels by 2020. Who could object to that? But as with most legislation
passed in Sacramento AB32 was long on generalities and lean on details.
This hasn’t been a good thing for cities, businesses, and farmers
struggling to try to figure out how to implement AB32’s mandate to
revert to 1990 air quality levels. It is particularly troublesome in the
San Joaquin Valley that has seen more than a 50 percent jump in air
quality over the past 28 years. AB32 is an overlap on federal air
quality requirements that come with their own maddening dictates. The
valley is already struggling trying to figure out how to meet one
federal pollution benchmark regarding ozone standards that even air
quality experts concede can’t be met even if all vehicle, construction,
farming, and train traffic were to cease tomorrow from Stockton to
Bakersfield. But even when the great wizards of Sacramento get more
specific the rules they outline often lead to smoke and mirrors with no
Then there are the grand schemes aimed at
providing the key muscle to reach lofty goals that lawmakers promise
when cuddling up to special interest groups allegedly in the name of
We saw it happen in 2001 with the electricity
crisis. California got cozy with the energy providers as politicians
danced with the likes of PG&E, Enron, and Southern California Edison
to deregulate the electricity markets in the name of cheaper power for
We all know how that went.
The Global Warming
Act is now starting to show signs that it is a repeat of power
deregulation in terms of unintended consequences.
President Darrell Steinberg last month noted in a Los Angeles Times
piece that the cornerstone of AB32’s implementation — cap and trade —
allows polluters to buy green credits from those that reduce pollution.
in itself isn’t bad but a surprisingly large chunk of those credits are
being bought from out-of-state sources. That’s right. California
businesses that pollute because it is next to impossible to reduce their
emissions further are “buying” green credits from sources beyond
California’s borders such as timber firms re-planting trees and dairies
installing methane digesters.
How does this help clean the air in
California? It doesn’t. What it does is drive up the cost of doing
business and living in California with no tangible benefits.
state’s biggest polluters not only aren’t investing in green
technologies for their California operations but they are adding to the
cost of consumer goods such as gasoline by tacking on the cost of buying
emissions credits from out-of-state sources.
You could argue
trees are fleeting sources of greenhouse gas offsets as they have a
tendency to eventually die or be cut down. But if the emissions credits
had gone for trees planted in California at least the state would have
gotten some measurable benefit from what amounts to a costly air
pollution tax ultimately borne by consumers.
It gets worse.
month Gov. Jerry Brown started a push to use $250 million of the permit
fees paid by polluters who couldn’t secure and purchase the cheaper
emissions credits to help start the high speed rail track construction
in the San Joaquin Valley.
So how is the $250 million investment
in the bullet train going to effectively reduce air pollution in the
state’s most problematic air quality region — the San Joaquin Valley? It
might eventually take a chunk out of the air traffic between Los
Angeles and San Francisco. That’s fine. But those flights tend to go
over the ocean and the coast. It’s a major construction project with a
lot of potential for dust — an air quality pollutant under federal
rules. That means it will require lots of water to control the dust.
Since a shortage of water is already causing mass unemployment in the
valley, how will the bullet train construction mean a net gain in valley
jobs if they take water that farming needs an therefore costs jobs?
Oops, wrong Sacramento whooper.
Since the trains run on electricity they won’t emit greenhouse gases, right? Wrong.
need electricity to run. Given the fact that nuclear power was
generating 14 percent of the state’ power mix before San Onofre became
history, there is going to have to be some fossil fuel burning somewhere
to power the trains.
California could blanket the Coastal
Ranges with wind turbines and step up its bird kill. They could cover
the Mojave Desert with solar farms to disturb delicate eco systems. New
hydroelectric power is a bit problematic given how environmentalists
equate building more dams with filling Yosemite Valley with cement.
That means somewhere more greenhouse gas emissions are going to be created to power the governor’s high speed legacy.
world is not perfect. But what California leaders often hype as bold
innovations more often than not come back to bite Golden State taxpayers
and consumers in the pocketbook with minimal or no benefits.
least thanks to cap and trade the people of states such as Georgia are
breathing cleaner air and are enjoying a more robust economy on our