CARB Stresses Life Cycle Analysis

By Published On: March 13, 2009

The California Air Resources Board is trying to fend off moves by conservative lawmakers and businesses to interfere with agency efforts to get the state’s greenhouse gas reduction law in place by 2012. The Air Board chair warned against trying to stall AB 32’s implementation via legislation or other means. “Any delay or change in direction will raise doubts about California’s seriousness,” said chair Mary Nichols. Putting off carbon reduction measures would drive up the environmental and economic costs, Nichols and other state agency heads warned two days later during a meeting of the Climate Action Team. “The governor has stood firmly on his commitment to aggressively move forward,” Linda Adams, California Environmental Protection Agency secretary, said March 11. Some conservative lawmakers called for putting the brakes on AB 32, criticizing the underlying economic analysis of the scoping plan and pointing to the shaky economy. The Legislative Analyst last December concluded that the economic analysis underlying the AB 32 blueprint was deficient (Circuit, Dec. 12, 2008). However, analyst Mark Newton said this week that the prospective plan should be shaped by updated economic analyses. “This is a wonderful opportunity to use economic analyses prospectively.” Nichols explained during a March 9 Assembly Natural Resources Committee hearing why assessments of both the direct and indirect impacts of strategies and fuels were necessary to ensure the integrity of the AB 32 program--the state’s plan to curb global warming. Invoking the old game of whack-a-mole, the chair of the board said, “If we reduce carbon here and it pops us somewhere else, we have done nothing good for the planet.” She added that global warming largely results from inefficient use of electricity and fuels, using power unwisely, and making energy from non-renewable resources. Some business representatives warned that putting the brakes on AB 32 would impede economic development and job creation. Last week, the Air Board rejected categorizing corn-based ethanol as a “low carbon” fuel because of the greenhouse gas impacts of expanding corn crops in former rain forests, wetlands, and other areas (Circuit, March 6, 2009). The board hopes to cut 174 million metric tons of carbon emissions by 2020. About 35 tons of cuts are expected to come from the state’s tailpipe emissions law. The new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator is expected to reverse the Bush Administration’s denial of the state’s right to implement the law. Another 10-15 metric tons of greenhouse emission reductions are estimated to come from the low carbon fuel standard, which requires qualifying fuels to have a carbon footprint at least 10 percent lighter than gasoline. Energy efficiency standards and a 33 percent renewable portfolio standard are expected to decrease emissions by about 26.3 million metric tons by 2020. If a carbon cap-and-trade scheme is launched, it is projected to cut another 34 million metric tons of carbon production.

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