Tuesday, June 30, 2015

California Zero/Low Carbon Transportion: $373 million approved by Air Board

California continues to lead like a nation-state in addressing climate change.  Newly adopted incentives for low-carbon and zero emission vehicles include a program benefiting lower income purchasers and a phase out of benefits for higher income vehicle purchasers.

With a goal of 1 million zero emission vehicles on the road by 2023, the California Air Resources Board last week approved $373 million in allocations for FY 15-16 for low-carbon transportation, up $150 million over the prior year.  The funds are subject to final appropriation authority from the California legislature.   The bulk of the money comes from the California Cap and Trade Program.  

"Action taken by the Board today to boos funding for clean vehicle programs is in direct response to growing demand, and the need to put more zero-emission vehicles on California's roads," said Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary D. Nichols.  "This funding plan delivers clean air, less carbon pollution, and provides financial incentives to allow all Californians to benefit from driving and owning the cleanest vehicles."

The largest program within the allocation is $163 million for the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project, which offers up to $6,500 in vehicle rebates for the purchase or lease of new, eligible zero-emission and plug-in hybrid light-duty vehicles.  Since 2010, the Air Board has provided 110,000 rebates for a total of $230 million.

The table below summarizes the rebates that will be available for low and moderate income individuals.  Higher income individuals (individuals >$250k; joint filers >$500k) will no longer be eligible for rebates for battery or plug-in hybrid vehicles, thus addressing a concern that the program was providing benefits to those who do not need it.

In addition to the light duty vehicle incentives, other programs within the allocation include zero emission truck and bus pilot programs and continuation of the truck loan assistance program for cleaner, newer trucks.

Below is a summary of all of the allocations.  Additional information can be found in the ARB staff presentation to the Board here or the more detailed funding plan here.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A few climate videos I liked this week

Barrack Obama interviews Sir David Attenborough on Climate

Bill Nye provides a grade-school level explanation of climate change complete with emoji

California Senate welcomes U.N. climate head Christiana Figueres (her comments begin at about 3:00)

Cardinal Donald Wuerl responds to Bush, Limbaugh on Climate

Carnegie Scientists: California could meet 3-5x energy demand with solar

Friday, June 26, 2015

Who are the climate denier scientists?

97% of scientists agree with the consensus on climate, according to most analyses.  However, a recent survey indicates the number may be closer to 99.9%

Out of 24,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers on climate issues published in 2013 and 2014, only 5 question the consensus on human-caused climate change. That's according to the work of James Powell of the National Physical Sciences Consortium, as summarized by Tony Dokoupil of MSNBC Greenhouse.  Dokupil describes the 4 scientists responsible for the 5 papers in this segment from Greenhouse:

Dokupil provides a bit more detail in the summary linked here.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Climate: What Would Reagan Do?

George P. Shultz held positions in the administrations of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, including Secretary of State for seven years during a key period of U.S. and Russia relations.  One of his positions outside of government was President of Bechtel, the largest construction firm in the U.S.  He is currently affiliated with the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford.  His background is hardly one of an environmental advocate, but he has become a leading voice on the need to address the climate change threat.

Shultz with Ronald Reagan

Sacramento Bee Editorial Page Editor Dan Morain caught up with Shultz during the dedication of a Reagan statue at the California Capitol this week and wrote about his conversation in a column today.  He asked the simple question, "What would President Reagan have done about climate change?"

Shultz told Morain the story of the Montreal Protocol and the ozone hole.  There were doubters at that time, but Reagan "became convinced that the scientists who were worried were probably right."  He framed the action on the ozone hole as an  insurance policy and the U.S. became a leader in pushing for the steps necessary to address the issue.  Schultz described this "insurance policy" as "a gifted approach" and the resulting agreement as "the only environmental treaty that has ever worked."

What would the "insurance policy" on climate change look like?  First, there would be significant federal funding for energy and carbon alternatives.  Second, there would be a carbon tax at the source (e.g. at oil wells) with the money returned to citizens as a "carbon dividend."  On the insurance policy approach:  "That'd be the Ronald Reagan way."

Morain's column can be found here:   Shultz's View of Climate Change

This isn't the first time Shultz has discussed what Reagan would do on climate change.  Earlier this year, he wrote a column in the Washington Post:  A Reagan Approach to Climate Change  He provides a little more detail of his experience with the Montreal Protocol on ozone and the two-pronged insurance policy strategy, concluding "Before you get mugged by reality, take out an insurance policy.  It's the Reagan way."

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What's Really Warming the World?

Eric Roston and Blacki Migliozzi at Bloomberg Business have done a fabulous job of presenting data and graphics to dispel the myth that global warming is due to natural causes.  See their analysis here: What's Really Warming the World?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tom Steyer to California Teachers: Divestment Makes Sense

Earlier this month I watched Tom Steyer make a clear case for divestment from fossil fuels before the California State Teachers Retirement System Board in Sacramento.  The video of the presentation is now available and linked below.

Steyer laid out five criteria for evaluating divestment:

1.  Does the group of companies cause harm to society?

2.  Is there a realistic replacement for the product or service they provide?

3.  Is it a long-term asset appropriate for large long-term pension funds?

4.  Does engagement with management offer any prospect of improving the investment?

5.  What is is the financial impact to the retirement portfolio?

Steyer showed that fossil fuel investments fail in all five areas.

He provided data indicating that fossil fuel investments have actually performed worse than other investments.  He also questioned the value of existing fossil fuel companies, arguing that their reserves will become stranded assets as the world addresses climate change by reducing fossil fuel use.

On the issue of whether the fossil fuel companies can reform themselves, he said that if you look at the annual reports of the petroleum companies, it is clear they are very reluctant to change their strategic thinking about their long term role.  

Steyer said that alternative energy is growing rapidly in California and he expect there to be over 500,000 clean energy jobs in the state by the end of the year:  "We are seeing something very good happening here in terms of the state push for clean energy."

Steyer's initial comments to CalSTRS are in the first 15 minutes or so of the video, followed by Q&A with CalSTRS board members.  

Warmest May on Record

The latest data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show that May 2015 was the hottest May in recorded history.  Notable weather anomalies occurred around the world 

According to NOAA:

The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for May 2015 was the highest for May in the 136-year period of record, at 0.87°C (1.57°F) above the 20th century average of 14.8°C (58.6°F), surpassing the previous record set just one year ago by 0.08°C (0.14°F). This ties with February 1998 as the fourth highest monthly departure from average for any month on record. The two highest monthly departures from average occurred earlier this year in February and March, both at 0.89°C (1.60°F) above the 20th century average for their respective months.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Bill Reilly and Christiana Figueres Paris Optimism

A few days ago, I attended a Climate One event in San Francisco featuring former George H.W. Bush EPA Secretary Bill Reilly and Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change  Christiana Figueres.

I came away with renewed hope that there will be success at the upcoming Paris Climate Summit.

Both Reilly and Figueres expressed optimism, but cautioned that the Paris agreement may not be as strong as many would like.  Reilly suggested the "bar" has been set low enough that success in Paris will be inevitable.  Figueres said the Paris agreement will be more about "what" we need to do moving forward than "how" we will get there. Terms like "baseline" and "first step" were used. 

Figueres said that 39 countries have so far submitted plans for how they will achieve emission reductions and she expects twice that many to be completed by the time the Paris Summit opens in December.  She said that every country is engaged in the process.  She also said that in a meeting in Bonn earlier this month, there is a new push to limit global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius rather than the 2 degrees that is the more common goal being pushed by climate leaders.  

Figueres noted much more climate change awareness outside of the U.S.  Reilly estimated there are about 100 Republican members of Congress in the "Climate Closet."  According to Reilly, they are fully aware of the climate issue and the need for action, but have had to remain publicly aligned with climate deniers for political reasons.  He said he is being told by those in the Climate Closet that they are not hearing from constituents about climate change  The implication is that increased community and direct engagement with these officials could bring them out of the closet.