Electric cars to cut greenhouse gases and smog are in California’s future in a big way after the California Air Resources Board Jan. 27 unanimously backed new automotive emissions standards covering model years 2017-2025. The Air Board expects the standards to bring 1.4 million battery electric, fuel cell-powered, and plug-in hybrid vehicles to the road by 2025, as well as lower emitting gasoline-powered vehicles. The cleaner cars are expected to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 52 million tons that year. Under the state standards, motorists are projected to save $5 billion in fuel costs in 2025, with the amount climbing after that as more and more vehicles are powered on electricity. California utilities will have to supply power to charge up about 1.3 million of these vehicles, according to an Air Board estimate. The standards took three years to develop and are closely aligned with federal automotive emissions and mileage standards proposed by the Obama administration. The federal standards call for the average 2025 model year car to get 54.5 miles/gallon of gas. The new state standards come about a decade after a previous electric car mandate was effectively rescinded when pure battery-powered vehicles--which have a limited driving range--failed to catch on with motorists. Over the past 10 years development of hybrid technologies--which provide greater driving range by combining electric and gasoline-powered drive trains under the hood--have made electric transportation more feasible for the average motorist. The fluorescence of public transit and denser development also is reducing the need to drive for many Californians, making electric cars more feasible than during the 1990s. * * * * * * Legislation directing the California Air Resources Board’s use of revenue generated by the upcoming greenhouse gas emission auctions was introduced last week. AB 1532 by Assembly member John Pérez (D-Los Angeles) requires that auction revenue be deposited in the Board’s Air Pollution Control Account and that the funds be directed “to measures and programs that meet specified criteria” as set forth in the state’s climate protection law, AB 32. The two-page spot bill introduced Jan. 23 only sets general parameters for fund awards. Eligible categories include energy efficiency, distributed renewable generation, low-carbon emitting vehicles and fuels, sustainable housing and transportation development, as well as natural resource protection and sustainable agriculture. To date, the categories are not defined. * * * * * * California’s Department of Insurance is interested in the risk that insurance companies face due to extreme weather caused by climate change. For the past two years it’s administered a survey of major insurers in the state about what they perceive as climate change risks and how they are changing their operations to address those risks. Now the department is doing so again, but this time is being joined by its counterparts in the states of Washington and New York in administering the survey. “The survey data will provide regulators with substantive information about the risks to insurers posed by climate change,” stated California insurance commissioner Dave Jones. “The survey will also explore the actions insurers are taking in response to their understanding of climate change risks.” According to industry sources, 2011 set a record for catastrophe losses for insurers. A significant portion of those losses were due to severe storms and flooding. U.S. insurers saw claims from nearly 2,000 tornadoes, plus thousands of hail and high wind events. If the spring 2011 tornado and storm season were to be considered a single event, it would have cost $21.3 billion in insured losses, making it the fourth-costliest insured event in U.S. history, behind Hurricane Katrina ($47.6 billion), Hurricane Andrew ($25 billion), and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks ($24 billion). In 2011, crop insurers paid out a record $9.1 billion in claims on U.S. crop damage. That total could exceed $10 billion when all claims resulting from damage from drought, flooding, and freezing weather are tallied. The previous record was $8.7 billion in 2008. In fact, the cost of the federal program has more than doubled in a decade.