In a state with 36 million residents and 23 million licensed drivers, California faces serious challenges to clean up the state's air. It is the world's 12th largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, with more than 40 percent coming from vehicle tailpipes.
Studies show that jobs are created and the economy grows in response to controlling emissions. According to a University of California study, lower emission standards would increase the state's productivity by about $60 billion and create more than 20,000 jobs.
This year I introduced Senate Bill 140, to require that all diesel fuel sold in California contain two percent renewable fuel by a date set by state officials. Renewable fuels include the oil drawn from products such as soy beans and mustard seeds. Two years later, diesel fuel must contain five percent renewable fuels. Senate Bill 210 would require that carbon levels in gasoline sold in California be reduced by 2010, and that greenhouse gas emissions be lowered by at least 10 percent before 2020. Carbon is a major source of air pollution.
The California Chamber of Commerce recently issued a list of so-called "job killer bills" in the legislature and included SB140 and SB210. This misleads consumers into thinking my legislation will spike fuel prices. Don't fall for it. A diesel fuel marketing company called OPIS issues monthly price comparisons of regular diesel and blended diesel sold in California. The firm reported that the difference between standard diesel and diesel containing renewable fuels averaged less than a penny per gallon from April 1 through June 4. Even when the cost of blended diesel is much higher than standard diesel, it shouldn't hurt the pocketbook of state residents. That's because the bill's two percent threshold is minimal enough that a gallon of blended fuel will cost just pennies more. Seems like a reasonable trade-off: fewer emissions for a penny per gallon of cleaner fuel.
The Chamber of Commerce's "job killer" list shows it is out of step with California's economy and future. Californians already embrace the need to change habits. In 2002, the state adopted stronger vehicle emission standards for new cars and light trucks sold in California beginning with the 2009 model year. Under the law, carbon dioxide levels would be reduced 22 percent by 2012 and 30 percent by 2016.
The chamber ignores the fact that President Bush and Gov. Schwarzenegger both recognize the need to control tailpipe emissions. While the president was slow to come around, much of the media attention focusing on California's good work is due to years of legislative advocacy for cleaning up the state's air. At the same time, my legislation is not the only one emanating from California. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has also introduced a federal measure calling for cleaner fuels to be sold in the United States.
By lowering greenhouse gas emissions, California's economy also benefits from having to fight fewer wildfires and an assortment of pollution-related illnesses. According to a 2006 report by the California Climate Change Center, "... if heat-trapping gas emissions are not significantly reduced, large wildfires could become up to 55 percent more frequent toward the end of the century." Reducing wildfire conditions would spare state and local governments from the otherwise exploding firefighting costs, and the fine particles released by fires that contribute to emphysema and asthma.
Greenhouse gas emission reductions also yield greater snowpack and a more reliable water supply in California. The state's 2006 climate change report said that "if heat-trapping emissions continue unabated, more precipitation will fall as rain instead of snow, and the snow that does fall will melt earlier, reducing the Sierra Nevada spring snowpack by as much as 70 to 90 percent." By taking action now to counter that risk, state and local governments could forgo spending hundreds of millions of dollars to build water retention and delivery systems in Southern California, and instituting severe water conservation measures.
Environmental foresight may not be an attribute of the Chamber of Commerce and I invite them to change course and join the governor and president in fighting the spread of greenhouse gases.
The Senate passed SB 140 and SB 210 earlier this month, and I would welcome the chamber's help in advancing these bills through the Assembly. The days of being addicted to oil are over, and California has understood this reality longer than most states. My legislation would spur job growth and make California a cleaner and healthier place to live, work, and play, which is the essence of a strong economy.
State Sen. Kehoe, D-San Diego, represents the 39th District. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments may be published as Letters to the Editor.