The Board’s own staff is delaying the decision until they resolve unexpected technical problems such as how to reliably measure tiny quantities of soot. But both environmentalists and automakers alike expect California to act more quickly and to adopt a tougher target than the federal government. For that very reason, the political pressure is heavy.
“This might not get the same kind of press as the RPS because it is regulatory rather than legislative, but it’s equally important and will have at least as big an impact,” said Kalb.
In the State Capitol, some key lawmakers suggest the new climate measures may be forced to take a low public profile because of the need to recast the climate agenda in light of the economic challenges facing the state.
“The real challenge is to combine this environmental and energy agenda with creating jobs, helping the California economy and budget,” said Pavley. “In 2011, you’ll hear less about cap and trade. I think it’s very important to let the public be aware of the many success stories in providing green jobs.”
Despite the intent to focus on green jobs, two other key issues on the climate policy plate will not necessarily lend themselves to that message.
Aside from all the rhetoric about renewable energy and emissions, the real nitty-gritty of climate policy will rely on a vast and arcane series of decisions by local governments that will govern how average people live and move.
For example, a state law enacted in 2008, known as SB 375, was the nation's first law to control greenhouse gas emissions by trying to curb suburban sprawl. Yet the implementation of this mandate has fallen to the state’s 18 metropolitan planning organizations, which were tasked with concentrating new growth around existing transit corridors. In 2011, local authorities have a mind-numbing series of decisions that are likely to fly completely below the radar of national attention.
Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, a Democrat from the Oakland-Berkeley area, said that legislators and regulators in Sacramento will have limited authority over these decisions. “In California, 50 percent of emissions come from the transportation sector, but so far, we don’t have anything to close to where we need to be,” Skinner said. “It’s the sector that’s growing fastest, with an increased number of trips per day and increased distance, but I can’t say we have seen results.”
While Schwarzenegger grabbed headlines with his “Million Solar Roofs” initiative to support residential installations, his results have been meager. “Individual residential solar installations are great, but they’re not necessarily the most cost-effective,” said Skinner. “We need larger commercial-scale installations, or ones in areas where transmission already exists. That isn’t happening at a pace or scale that some people think necessary.”
“A major focus of Gov. Brown’s new administration has to be on actual performance, to deliver the savings promised,” said Dian Grueneich, who spearheaded much of the state’s energy-efficiency regulations and its renewable-energy transmission lines during her six-year term on the Public Utilities Commission that ended Dec. 31.
“There is a real risk that the goals will not be met,” Grueneich added. “What’s important is not just what’s in the contract or the decision issued, but what are the real energy efficiency savings delivered by the utilities, and how do we make sure the renewable energy resources are not just permitted but actually built?”