“California governor orders country’s most aggressive emission cut goals” – The Washington Post, 29 April 2015

California is currently undergoing an overly aggressive, record-breaking drought. In order to combat that drought, California Governor Jerry Brown (D) has not only put a cap on how much water residents can use, but is also placing a cap on emissions levels.

For California, the worsening effects of climate change have directly led to its water shortage. Greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants are the major culprit for the state’s remarkable drought. To combat the drought and any further climate change damage, Brown has issued a new executive order that has created new carbon emission goals for his state.

Brown’s aim is to curb emissions by 40 percent less than emissions levels in 1990, and to do so by 2030. Not even Arnold Schwarzenegger, who held the term before Brown, had such expectations for the state: Schwarzenegger’s aim was to cut emissions so that they were equal to 1990 levels, and to do so by 2020. Schwarzenegger then wanted to cut emissions an additional 20 percent by 2050. According to Brown, California is well on its way to fulfilling Schwarzenegger’s goal.

Brown is committing his last term in office to climate change. During his inaugural speech, he pledged that half of the state’s electricity will come from renewable energies over the course of 15 years. He also intends to halve petroleum use in vehicles on state roads.

The state is now required to integrate the effects of climate change into its infrastructure and financial planning. Moreover, state agencies are obligated to place caps on emissions for any supplies of emissions that they oversee.

In addition to the executive order, California has also signed an accord with Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia that aims at restricting carbon emissions in the regional area. Brown has signed similar agreements with countries like Mexico, China, Japan, Israel, and Peru. The Governor is hoping his work will make an impact at the upcoming UN climate change conference in Paris.

Previously, California tried to enact a program called “cap and trade,” where they required companies to pay for greenhouse gas emissions. However, the state’s Senators and Representatives — particularly the Democrats — fought back, alleging that the program would directly impact the poorest Californians. Hopefully Brown’s latest endeavor into mollifying the effects of climate change will pan out. California’s voice is very influential and proactive, particularly on a global scale.

(From The Washington Post)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

April 30, 2015

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“How Renewable Energy Is Taking Over the Electric Grid” – The Motley Fool, 6 September 2014

Renewable energy might very well beat out coal, nuclear, and natural gas as our number one source of energy. This July, every new power generating plant that opened in the US sources renewable energy.

Renewable energy is seeing an upsurge because it’s the cheapest energy alternative. Natural gas is beating wind and solar power by only a small margin in this year’s installed capacity (MW). If residential and commercial rooftops using solar power — called distributed solar energy — were added to the equation, then the number of solar units installed would be equal to natural gas in 2014.

US Energy Information Administration

US Energy Information Administration

While the previous table tells us the source of electricity generation, we should note that wind and solar energy only make a small percentage of the energy we actually use in the US.

US Energy Information Administration

US Energy Information Administration

Renewable energy’s climb is slow, but the trend is showing that renewables will soon replace coal and nuclear power. Natural gas remains a favorable source because it is still low in cost and can retain renewables and other energy sources for future use.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) published further data that shows how the US’s electricity prices have grown over the year. While costs rose in New England and the Mid-Atlantic due to increased wholesale prices from electricity generators, costs decreased on the Pacific coast — California, Oregon, Washington — because these states have installed more solar energy in the last year.

Renewables are a superior energy source in comparison to fossil fuels. Not only can wind and solar energy become cheaper, but both also prevent more greenhouse gases from being released into our environment.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

September 8, 2014

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“California’s Cap-and-Trade Revolt” – Wall Street Journal, 30 June 2014

While West Virginia and Kentucky Democrats are bucking Obama’s climate policy, California Democrats are also fighting similar policy in California, the state’s cap-and-trade program, which is directly effecting the poorest Californians.

Recently, 16 of members of California’s Democratic Assembly wrote a letter to the California Air Resources Board, encouraging the board to revise or postpone California’s cap-and-trade program. The program calls for big manufacturers and power plants to adhere to a state-ordered carbon cap by buying carbon permits or limiting emissions. Transportation fuel suppliers will also have to acquiesce to permits in 2015.

via SF Public Press

via SF Public Press

Assembly Democrats’ minds are on gas prices, which could surge anywhere from 15 to 40 cents per gallon. California has the highest gas prices in the country, in large part due to fuel blending obligations and taxes. In 2012, the Boston Consulting Group anticipated that gas prices would rise anywhere between $0.49 and $1.83 per gallon by 2020. While the program’s objectives are pure—boosting gas prices is supposed to persuade people to drive less, carpool, or purchase electric cars—California’s cap-and-trade is invariably hurting those who cannot afford it. A majority of the 16 Democratic Assembly Members represent minorities and low-income populations.

The Air Resources Board maintains that the objective of the program isn’t to finance new state governmental programs, though California’s 2014 budget does allocate $250 million from carbon permit auctions, as well as 25 percent of future yields, to fund a high-speed rail. The auctions will bring in anywhere between $12 billion to $45 billion by 2020.

Assembly Democrats are in agreement with the California Chamber of Commerce, which is suing the Air Resources Board to invalidate California’s program.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

June 30, 2014

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“Fracking Tests Ties Between California ‘Oil and Ag’ Interests” – New York Times, 1 June 2013

The Monterey Shale oil reserve, a large untapped resource, lies underneath the southern half of the San Joaquin Valley, a mainstay for California agriculture. For years, hydraulic fracturing has been a lucrative business in the area; however, the likelihood of it having a negative affect on agriculture and the environment has led farmers and environmentalists to oppose fracking.

Although California’s oil generation has abated since 2010, a portion of the Monterey Shale reserve, called the North Shafter oil field, has shown a 50% increase in output. As a result, more oil companies are coming to the San Joaquin Valley, setting up new operations adjacent to farms — testing the relationship between oilmen and farmers.

Fracking is something these oil companies can’t give up: it’s the only way for the companies to extract crude from the Monterey Shale, where two-thirds of the US’s shale oil reserves can be found. Tapping into the Monterey Shale could transform California into the US’s top oil-producing state, allowing the state to experience an oil boom similar to those in North Dakota and Texas.

In order to extricate the crude oil, fracking technology infuses water, sand and chemicals into the shale rock to release the oil and gas underground; and uses an enormous amount of water and chemicals that could potentially contaminate the groundwater that is vital to the farmers’ crops. New fracking techniques are introducing more powerful chemical mixes, and drillers aren’t forced to publicize what they use. California barely regulates fracking activities.

While the US has been in an oil and natural gas frenzy, the environmental impact of fracking has been ignored. The State Department of Conservation is now working to enact regulations for fracking, one of which could be groundwater testing both before and after fracking, in order to guarantee quality.

But sometimes the issue isn’t just groundwater — it’s compensation. According to state law, California farmers don’t own their property’s underground rights, but are often paid for permission to use the surface.

It is a precarious balance between oil and ag — oil can be largely beneficial economically, but could also destroy California’s most fertile region.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

June 13, 2013

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