California lawmakers are on the verge of enacting a set of bills that will fundamentally transform California’s energy market. The dual proposal sets a vision for the state to curb its green house gas (GHG) emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 (SB 32) and requires an abrupt 50 percent reduction in petroleum usage by vehicles over the next fifteen years (SB 350).
The Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce (TACC) supports the efforts of public leaders to address global warming but is concerned about the economic impacts of an expeditious and emphatic reduction of the state’s petroleum industry and the lack of voter oversight that California citizens will have over a monumental policy formation should the bills pass into law.
According to a report published by the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation, the state’s petroleum industry contributed $220 billion in direct economic activity statewide and provided 468,000 direct, indirect, and induced jobs for California workers in 2012. Government was also a large beneficiary of petroleum production in 2012 receiving $21.6 billion in state and local tax revenues with Los Angeles County alone collecting $5 billion. The two bills are remiss to not consider that the state is still making its way out of one of the worst economic downturns in its history. A 50 percent petroleum reduction in fifteen years is hasty and subjects California’s economic recovery to considerable risks.
Additionally, the upkeep of the state’s transportation infrastructure is largely reliant on high petroleum usage in vehicles. The state receives about three-fourths of its transportation funding from state excise taxes on gasoline, which have depreciated greatly over the years as current climate change policies have implemented fuel-efficient vehicle requirements and other provisions to reduce petroleum usage in vehicles. Earlier this year, Governor Brown announced that the state faces a $59 billion shortfall over the next 10 years to adequately maintain the existing state highway system. Local governments have also estimated the funding shortfall for maintaining existing local streets and highways is $78 billion over the same time period. Devoid of prudence, policymakers who vote to pass SB 32 and SB 350 will further exacerbate this crisis without a viable solution in place to fund the lifeblood of the economy–the state’s transportation infrastructure.
The question has to be asked: will the costs of a rapid reduction of the state’s petroleum industry be justified by the environmental benefits?
California’s GHG emissions comprise less than one percent of the world’s emissions. In order for the policies to be effective, congruent policies would need to be implemented both nationally and internationally to have real effects on global warming; however, California’s current climate change policies are unprecedented in the United States. This latest proposal will extraordinarily entrench the state on its own policy island if passed. SB 32 and SB 350 proponents applaud California Legislators as leaders on climate change, but are the state’s lawmakers leading if other states are not following?
In fact, California’s lawmakers are not actually leading efforts to solve climate change at all. That profound responsibility will be delegated to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which will be empowered to formulate the GHG emissions and petroleum reduction plans as it sees fit. Ultimately, one of California’s most game-changing policy formations will be without legislative or citizen oversight, and without a requirement to consider economic impacts from the policy, for the next 15 (SB 350) and 35 (SB 32) years.
It is alarming that state policymakers are proposing to delegate away the democratic oversight of such a monumental and important policy formation. No matter what one’s viewpoint towards California’s climate change policies may be, it is critical to understand that should these bills pass, CARB, an unelected body, will be the end-all, be-all guide for the state as it moves into what may turn out to be a profoundly volatile future.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_separator height_2=”25″ height=”25″ show_border=”yes_border”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_column_text][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″][vc_column_text width=”1/1″ el_position=”first last”]
Brandon is the Governmental Affairs Coordinator for the Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce. His primary responsibilities include facilitating the Chamber’s Governmental Affairs Policy (GAP) group, planning Chamber events with legislators, and facilitating the Chamber’s Political Action Committee (PAC). Feel free to contact him at any time.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]