Delaying critical greenhouse gas reductions would lead to serious climate change impacts, warned speakers at the California Air Resources Board's March 5-7 conference on global warming solutions. Over the next five years, the air board is responsible for putting regulatory and market pieces in place to slash California's greenhouse gases. "It is a 100-year problem, but we have to start now," said Art Rosenfeld, California Energy Commission member. Carbon dioxide, responsible for global warming, remains in the atmosphere for a century. Experts presented a range of strategies for reaping near-term reductions in global warming gases in and outside California. They include improving building and appliance energy-efficiency standards, phasing out incandescent bulbs, boosting vehicle gasoline mileage standards, putting controls on ozone-depleting gases, and increasing vehicle tire pressure. California's new law AB 32 sets a mandate of a 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020. The state's private and public utilities are seen as critical players in the global warming battle, although together they are not the largest source of carbon emissions. The transportation sector is the biggest contributor in California. However, because the federal government controls mileage standards, the state has little control over the transportation sector. "With electricity, we control our own destiny," Rosenfeld said. The commissioner balked at the disparity between approved investor-owned utility spending on efficiency and the amount of funds allocated to state energy agencies. The California Public Utilities Commission gave utilities the green light to spend up to $700 million a year on efficiency. At the same time, lawmakers have allocated only $2 million a year to the Energy Commission for its efficiency work. "We need more staff and resources," Rosenfeld said. High-voltage line equipment, particularly circuit breakers, uses large amounts of sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. Pacific Gas & Electric regularly checks and fixes SF6 leaks along power lines. The strategy has cut the associated CO2 equivalent emissions of the compound from 250,000 tons in 1998 to about 80,000 tons in 2005. In addition to CO2 reductions, the utility saw reliability gains and reduced maintenance costs, said Sven Thesen, PG&E supervisor. Narrow, fully inflated, and low-resistance vehicle tires also produce real greenhouse gas reductions, according to Axel Friedrich, head of the German Environmental Protection Agency, environment and transport division. Reducing tire resistance with full inflation cuts vehicle fuel consumption and associated carbon emissions by between 2 and 6 percent, he said. Tire maker Bridgestone backed that claim. It announced March 7 that more than 90 percent of motorists in Europe drive on underinflated tires, "causing an additional 18 million tons of carbon dioxide to be released into the environment." Friedrich dismissed the touted potential of hydrogen-fueled cars over the next 30 years. "Hydrogen is used only as a deflection from the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions now," he said. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has advocated hydrogen highways since his first days in office. Friedrich also expressed reservations about the potential of biofuels development. "We need a certification scheme for biofuels to separate the good from the bad ones." The impacts of growing "biofuels crops" raise troubling issues (see related story on page 6).