I recently testified at the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors hearing regarding the “Green New Deal.” I pointed out that in California, we already have the equivalent of a Green New Deal.
Who doubts or questions the fact that California leads the rest of the nation in environmental protections and regulations? What other state has a stronger commitment to a clean environment?
Supervisor Das Williams came pretty close to endorsing my testimony, calling it constructive. Thank you, Das. I try.
However, I also suggested that as we pursue new green regulations, we must always balance environmental integrity with economic vitality.
I believe, unequivocally, the best way to do this is by unleashing market forces concerning carbon pricing, and that this will continue to drive innovation through investments in new, clean energy technologies ? the kind of technologies that will ultimately allow us to create new, cleaner systems of energy production that are not only more efficient and abundant but more affordable.
One of the ways this is already being done in California is through the state’s cap-and-trade program, which is a market-driven, as opposed to a command-and-control-driven approach to reducing the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that industry, especially the energy industry, is allowed to emit on an annual basis.
By capping the permitted amount of GHG, while at the same time creating a market where businesses that emit large quantities of GHG can purchase offsets, or in the case of those businesses that emit a smaller amount can trade their allowance with businesses that emit more, we can and in fact are achieving California’s GHG reduction goals per AB 32 (The Global Warming Solutions Act).
Market-driven carbon pricing is a great example of balancing environmental integrity with economic vitality. And, ultimately, it is how California can continue to forge an economic opportunity society. And isn’t that really the point?
Indeed, this market-oriented cap-and-trade strategy to protecting the environment is how we are achieving a win-win-win in California.
With cap-and-trade, our environment wins, our industries win, and, perhaps most importantly, the millions of blue-collar working families that these industryies’ employ also win. But it doesn’t end there.
Our state and local governments also win as they continue receiving billions of dollars in tax revenues from those industries operating under an incentive-based, market-driven regulatory model.
But this only happens if they are allowed to actually do business in California and Santa Barbara County. And this isn’t always the case.
Cleaner and more efficient energy technologies are what will ultimately allow California to reduce the amount of carbon we release into our environment. And this is true irrespective of the larger question of what is causing global climate change.
The great news for Santa Barbara County is there is a golden opportunity to address this global problem with a local solution.
And that solution includes leveraging the economic engine of our local energy producers who are seeking permits to produce the energy that California needs. I say go ahead and cap their emissions, but allow them to both offset and trade those emissions to remain at or below the allowable emissions cap.
The county can then use the millions of new tax revenues, estimated at nearly $100 million over the next 10 years, to make the type of clean technology investments that will allow us to complete an energy transition from traditional sources to the cleaner energy sources of the future.
Santa Barbara County has a list of green priorities it supports to help address global climate change. But they currently lack the necessary funding to bring them to fruition. Some of these green priorities include:
•Rebates for zero-emission vehicles
•Expanded use of zero-emission school or transit buses
•Expanding battery-electric and fuel-cell electric vehicle infrastructure
•Planting urban forests
•Conservation projects on working agricultural land
•Retrofitting buildings for renewable energy and battery storage
•Expanding the vessel speed reduction incentive program
•Renewable gas trucks
Taken together, this list represents a multimillion-dollar investment requiring the use of federal, state and local tax dollars. What better place to get all or most of those dollars than from our local energy industry?
For those who would rather cling to environmental pureness over environmental pragmatism, they are not only denying our county from achieving its stated environmental goals, they are failing to understand the economic reality.
Transitioning to a new clean energy future will not only take time, but will also require a substantial financial investment.
Taxpayers, either at the state level or the county level, shouldn’t be expected to dig deeper into their pockets to finance these investments in green programs when there is a willing local industry that is volunteering to do it for us.
Let’s call it Santa Barbara County’s Green New Deal.