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Climate Policy in a Post-Trump World

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I’m a liberal, and like most urban millennials I care a great deal about climate change. While I had entertained the idea of a President Trump, I didn’t recognize the reality until it was too late. As reality sunk in, I had to question what a Trump presidency could mean for action on climate change. In a nutshell, it’s bad, and we need to act quickly.

Rather than twiddling our thumbs and standing idle while the Federal Government turns a blind eye on climate change, we need to unite behind emission reduction systems currently in place, and ensure that strong policies and frameworks for action will be in place and strengthened over the next four years. This largely means uniting behind California.

A Quick Summary of California

California is the only economy that you can really look to when it comes to climate change policy. California accounts for around 14% of the US economy, while simultaneously having a legal requirement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. California’s cap-and-trade program also regulates emissions from more economic sectors than any other programs while still maintaining a high price on carbon.

The California Air Resources Board, the agency primarily responsible for climate change regulation, has a budget of over 600 million dollars dedicated to addressing and administering climate change programs. Compare this budget to the 280 million that the US Environmental Protection Agency has (note: the EPA budget is unlikely to remain in place under the Trump administration). California is using this budget, and a staff with decades of experience in environmental regulation, to lead the way in climate policy, building off of, setting, and improving upon federal provisions.

California is aiming for over 4 million Zero Emission Vehicles (electric vehicles) in the state by 2030, alongside major reductions in methane emissions from dairies, and an immense expansion of renewable electricity generation while simultaneously reducing the carbon intensity of transportation fuel.

To achieve these changes, California is relying primarily on two market-based mechanisms: Cap-and-Trade Policy and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard. These programs are a big deal, redirecting billions of fossil-fuel-dollars toward clean energy investment. These programs are currently the best-implemented policy approaches for efficiently addressing climate change.

One Nation Under Trump

In a Trump world, the EPA is in bad shape. A climate skeptic leading the EPA means that regulatory action to reduce GHG emissions cannot be expected. The Clean Power Plan, Obama’s big push for addressing climate change by reducing emissions from electricity generation, is currently being litigated in the court system, and a Trump presidency is unlikely to improve the court outcomes.

The other major federal climate policy in place is the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which reduces GHG emissions from transportation fuel by incentivizing the use of alternative, renewable fuels over gasoline and diesel. Trump has had polarizing statements on the RFS, sometimes looking to scale it back or weaken it, while at other times promoting the use of domestically-produced fuel. Whatever the case, a weakened EPA with a dramatically reduced budget is in no state to reform and push the RFS forward in terms of mitigating GHG emissions.

With a president that is openly hostile toward climate policy, we cannot expect any beneficial federal policies in the next four years, which means it is up to the states to move forward on climate policy.

Uniting Behind California

While it is possible for other states to define their own programs that address climate change, it can be very hard and expensive. California’s programs have a dedicated budget of over $600 million. This budget allows for dozens of full-time staff members to assess, analyze, and administer each program. Other states simply do not have this capacity, and are unlikely to develop it.

Furthermore, California has already started linking their major programs to other regions. Cap-and-Trade has established links to programs in Canada, and California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard framework and implementation is being heavily relied upon by Oregon, with future linkages possible to Canada.

While California’s policies are established, large, and smoothly operating, the more important reason to unite behind California’s policies is due to politics. The ever-fickle nature of the political environment means that these policies need constant political support.

Right now, California has authority and the political will to take action on climate change. If the social cost of these programs goes up substantially, without providing flashy benefits that politicians can showcase in California (something difficult when tackling a global environmental problem), California policy could falter.

We’ve seen policies, like the Renewable Fuel Standard, directly overhauled when costs escalate to a politically difficult level. California policy is cheaper to comply with as long as federal policies stack on top of it – production tax credits lower the cost of wind and solar energy, and the Renewable Fuel Standard reduces the cost of compliance for the Low Carbon Fuel Standard. If federal policies go away, that means California policies become more expensive. More expensive policy is not a good thing for California, and it is especially not a good thing if the rest of the world is looking to California as a model for successful climate policy.

That means that other states and local jurisdictions need to unite behind California policy. California needs to gain support from local jurisdictions to obtain a 2/3rds majority vote in the legislature to definitively go forward with Cap-and-Trade after 2020.

Meanwhile, states other than California need to link with and build on California’s current policies. These links help lower compliance costs for all jurisdictions while supporting GHG emission reduction goals. Low-carbon policies can even be win-win; local production incentives in jurisdictions outside of California, like the Tesla gigafactory, can help create local job benefits while simultaneously bringing in California dollars. This sort of approach helps drive technology innovation, lowers California compliance costs (improving the political tractability of policies), and helps mitigate GHG emission reductions. Without federal climate action, California is our best hope.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Content Discussion

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on November 10, 2016

Jeff, at the rate California carbon emissions are dropping, AB32 goals for 2020 will be met just about ten years late.

Why on earth are you holding up our state, which is closing nuclear plants then replacing them with natural gas, which is now outsourcing 30% of its electricity to greenwash its generation, as a shining example?

California is the only economy that you can really look to when it comes to climate change policy.

If you were to look a bit harder, California’s emissions are virtually the same as they were five years ago. The state’s climate change policy is not accomplishing diddly-squat.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on November 11, 2016

California’s emissions are virtually the same as they were five years ago. The state’s climate change policy is not accomplishing diddly-squat.

That’s the same kind of bait-and-switch that Bas/Bentvels pulls repeatedly regarding Germany.  He points to it meeting its Kyoto goals, never mentioning that this was almost entirely due to reunification-related cuts in E. Germany and denuclearization has essentially stalled progress on GHGs.

Liars gonna lie.

Geoff Morrison's picture
Geoff Morrison on November 11, 2016

I think an interesting thing to watch is Trump on trade and how that will impact California. The state imports an increasing amount of renewable diesel from Singapore which has carbon intensities as much as 80% below gasoline/diesel. If it becomes much more difficult/expensive to import renewable diesel, LCFS credit prices should rise and possibly boost domestic biofuel production. Of course, everyone’s transportation costs will also increase under that scenario, which could have negative impacts on the broader economy.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on November 11, 2016

GMo, you claim “renewable” diesel from Singapore “has carbon intensities as much as 80% below gasoline/diesel.”
Does your calculation include the carbon intensity of the hydrotreating process required to make it, or that of the bunker oil burned in the freighter which brought it 1/3 of the way around the world?

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on November 11, 2016

… or the carbon dumped when the rainforest is burned to make room for oil palm plantations, and again later when the peat-based soil dries out and catches fire?

Geoff Morrison's picture
Geoff Morrison on November 11, 2016

Fair questions. Right now Neste (the Singapore fuel producer) sends tallow-based renewable diesel to California with a carbon intensity of 19.6 grams/MJ compared to diesel’s 94.7 grams/MJ. This includes the full lifecycle, including hydrotreating and transport.

See the lookup table: https://www.arb.ca.gov/fuels/lcfs/121409lcfs_lutables.pdf
The full analysis is here:https://www.arb.ca.gov/fuels/lcfs/2a2b/apps/nes-asia-uco-bd-rpt-102314.pdf

There are definitely higher carbon pathways for renewable diesel (like palm oil), but those are not used in California. Obviously, this reshuffling is an issue which would not be an issue if other states and countries had stringent climate policies.

Jeff Kessler's picture
Jeff Kessler on November 13, 2016

If you were to look a bit harder, California’s emissions are virtually the same as they were five years ago. The state’s climate change policy is not accomplishing diddly-squat.

I think linking over here is a good place to start.

California’s economy has been prospering, the population has been growing, AND emissions have been dropping. The current California policies in place have started out slow and are beginning to ramp up. The current LCFS target, for instance is only at a 2% reduction from Gasoline, but is moving to 10% by 2020.

Yes, California is closing Nuclear plants (which I disagree with), but they are also aggressively pursuing renewables, and are making substantial efforts to replace natural gas used in the state with biomethane (captured methane from landfills and dairies that reduces short-lived climate pollutants).

The state’s climate policy very much is accomplishing things — it is creating a unifying, well-administered framework, is successfully putting a high, market-price on carbon, and is working to promote technology innovation (if you need reassurance, take a look at where EV deployment and EV manufacturing is occurring, and what supports it). California’s not perfect, but it’s doing a lot better than every other region when it comes to addressing climate change.

Jeff Kessler's picture
Jeff Kessler on November 13, 2016

The Low Carbon Fuel Standard accounts for indirect effects, and life-cycle emissions (such as hydrotreating, and transport). For renewable diesel from Neste, here’s one of the approved pathways for Tallow: https://www.arb.ca.gov/fuels/lcfs/2a2b/apps/neste-aus-031513.pdf

So yes, many RD pathways do have substantial reductions in GHG emissions compared to gasoline/diesel

Jeff Kessler's picture
Jeff Kessler on November 13, 2016

LCFS accounts for indirect effects. Neither the RFS nor LCFS incentivize the use of palm-to-fuel pathways.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on November 13, 2016

here’s one of the approved pathways for Tallow: https://www.arb.ca.gov/fuels/lcfs/2a2b/apps/neste-aus-031513.pdf

Tallow.  Beef fat.  Do you have any idea how carbon-intensive the feedstock is, and just how little of it there is?  Unless someone proposes burning Chanel No. 5 as a “renewable fuel”, this is about the pinnacle of greenwashing.

Neste’s “renewable” production is only 2 million tons annually.  At ~165 kg/bbl, this is a mere 33,000 bbl/day.  The world consumes petroleum at a pace of more than 1000 barrels a SECOND.  Great, you took care of 30 seconds worth a day, just 86,370 seconds left to go!  </sarc>

Diesel from waste is a good thing, but touting it as any sort of “solution” is the worst sort of propaganda.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on November 13, 2016

For renewable diesel from Neste, here’s one of the approved pathways for Tallow<

Tallow.  Beef fat.  Do you have any idea how carbon-intensive the feedstock is, and just how little of it there is?  Unless someone proposes burning Chanel No. 5 as a “renewable fuel”, this is about the pinnacle of greenwashing.

Neste’s “renewable” production is only 2 million tons annually.  At ~165 kg/bbl, this is a mere 33,000 bbl/day.  The world consumes petroleum at a pace of more than 1000 barrels a SECOND.  Great, you took care of 30 seconds worth a day, just 86,370 seconds left to go! </sarc>

Diesel from waste is a good thing, but touting it as any sort of “solution” is the worst sort of propaganda.

Jeff Kessler's picture
Jeff Kessler on November 13, 2016

It doesn’t need to be *the* solution. There are no silver bullets. It’s about finding enough pathways to offset and displace fossil resources where possible.

Electrification of the LDV fleet is coming, but only if California continues to create a protected market for technology learning and vetting. Aviation and marine transport will likely require energy dense liquid fuels, where waste-based and cellulosic resources can go a long way.

Establishing the supply chains and building up the throughput and capacity for these technologies is essential, and California is leading the way. With that said, California alone is not enough, which is precisely why we need other local and regional governments to help support this kind of low-carbon technology innovation.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on November 13, 2016

Jeff, approximately 180 input values in Neste’s submission for approval of pathway RNWD004, using the CA-GREET model, are listed as Confidential or Undisclosed. The company “Life Cycle Associates”, a pay-for-hire consulting company, has been permitted to modify CA-GREET, without any public disclosure of what modifications have been made.
Yet you feel confident in your conclusion the pathway offers “substantial reductions in GHG emissions compared to gasoline/diesel”. Why?

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on November 14, 2016

It doesn’t need to be *the* solution. There are no silver bullets.

So where does spewing the carbon to move tallow-derived hydrotreated fatty acids from Singapore to California fit into ANY realistic program to decarbonize our energy systems?

No one who thinks this was a good idea, or wrote policies which gave such hare-brained schemes preferences or grants, has any business acting on behalf of the public ever again.  We’d be much better served by throwing California’s governor and two sitting senators in prison and re-commissioning San Onofre.

Jeff Kessler's picture
Jeff Kessler on November 14, 2016

For each volume of tallow-derived renewable diesel entering California, we’re reducing California’s utilization of prehistoric phytoplankton-derived hydrocarbons (diesel) that California would otherwise be burning. This creates substantial criteria pollutant benefits, and GHG emission reductions. In the long-term, this same pathway may be used to offset emissions from growing aviation demand, something unlikely to be electrified.

While I personally would love to see San Onofre stay open, that doesn’t seem to be the general opinion of the California public. There are great organizations out there, however, that are working to try and keep San Onofre open. I’d suggest getting involved with them if it’s something you’re serious about. Further alignment with the environmental justice community on this issue could go a long way in helping keep the nuclear facility from closing.

Nonetheless, a single nuclear plant in California is not a climate success story. Even building out nuclear plants isn’t guaranteed to be a hit.

What is a scalable, tractable solution, however, is a global framework for countries and regions to build off of and utilize. California has created this with the Cap and Trade Program and the LCFS. Both programs are putting a price on carbon, and are creating the necessary innovation frameworks to allow for real, low-cost low-carbon solutions to enter the market. We’re not going to address global climate change unless we have low-carbon technologies that are utilized in the developing world, and that requires frameworks and policies that promote innovation.

Jeff Kessler's picture
Jeff Kessler on November 14, 2016

You’re welcome to run GREET yourself for a similar pathway. You can even make some pessimistic assumptions to further check the resiliency.

Ultimately, if you take the energy input into account for the process, and the fuel output, you’re in pretty good shape to assess the CO2 emissions and comparable benefits. Staff at the ARB have extensively reviewed the Neste application. The calculated carbon intensity value is consistent with expectations from similar pathways.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on November 14, 2016

No Jeff, I can’t “run GREET myself” because 1) I don’t have their inputs, and 2) you’re not using GREET, you’re using CA-GREET, California’s knockoff, one which has been modified by companies with skin in the game.

You’ve confirmed you have no idea whether we’re in pretty good shape or whether the “calculated carbon intensity value is consistent with expectations from similar pathways”. Your faith in staff at CARB is unfounded, when neither the inputs nor California’s model itself are available for public review. Would CARB stoop to that level? They already have (add an ‘h’ to the front of the URL below to visit the link; when I try to include it verbatim this website copies the entire front page to my post):

ttp://www.ev1.org

BTW, I’m a software developer, I’ve downloaded GREET, I know the model inside and out. I’ve attended a workshop at Argonne and made suggestions to its development team. Don’t be naive.

Jeff Kessler's picture
Jeff Kessler on November 14, 2016

1) You don’t need their precise inputs to come up with comparable values. Between CARB documents, and the existing, public data available (as represented in Argonne GREET), you should be able to identify a range of reasonable CI values for the Neste process. The process-specific details labeled as confidential are values that happen to be considered confidential business information.

Of course there is uncertainty associated with the “true” value of carbon intensity reductions from any fuel pathway, but you will find that the value given by CARB is likely a conservative estimate within this range. Again, you are welcome to look at other Renewable Diesel pathways, and compare inputs and assumptions across them. RD is likely to provide substantial GHG benefits compared to conventional diesel.

2) ARB has made revisions to the Argonne greet model to better represent California-specific properties, such as the CA grid, oil mix, etc. While the differences are substantial, CA-GREET has gone through extensive review.

3) California’s model is very much available for download: https://www.arb.ca.gov/fuels/lcfs/ca-greet/ca-greet.htm

Feel free to provide any critiques you have with the model and its use directly to ARB. There is an open comment period associated with the Scoping Plan Process currently underway. Your comments and concerns will be reviewed and addressed.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on November 14, 2016

Jeff, I’m involved with Michael Shellenberger’s EnvironmentalProgress.org. I suggest you email them about the corrupt state of affairs in the California Public Utility Commission and the California Energy Commission, which are both hellbent on shutting down Diablo Canyon Power Plant as soon as possible. It’s for one reason and one reason only: to benefit fossil fuel development in our state (Jerry Brown’s sister Kathleen is on the Board of Directors at Sempra Energy, with $17 billion in revenue from the sale of natural gas and natural-gas-derived electricity).

Question: why doesn’t California use the “real” GREET for its analysis, one which is funded by DOE and transparent?

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on November 14, 2016

Jeff, thanks for the link to CA-GREET. It takes me to a download of DOE’s GREET:

“Software: GREET 1, Version 1.8b
Copyright © 1999 UChicago Argonne, LLC
Open Source Software License”

Well-to-wheels fuel lifecycle analysis, especially that of tallow from Australia hydrotreated in Singapore, has little to do with “CA grid, oil mix, etc.”. DOE GREET provides abundant options for configuring these parameters, and California’s grid mix is constantly changing. So we’re back to the question of how “CA-GREET” has been changed, and why.

Moreover, we not only don’t have their precise inputs, we don’t have any inputs for this specific pathway. SISO.

I don’t doubt you have strong convictions that the estimates are “conservative”, and faith in their “extensive review” (by CARB itself); that RD is “likely to provide substantial GHG benefits compared to conventional diesel”. But I feel the need to point out these are subjective assessments without basis in data.

Jeff Kessler's picture
Jeff Kessler on November 14, 2016

CA Greet 2.0 Tier-2 Calculator

Discussion and Documentation of Changes

Argonne GREET default values for HT-RD from Soybean:
RD1: 12.57 gCO2e/MJ
RDII: 16.54 gCO2e/MJ

Neste Pathways in LCFS:
16.21 gCO2e/MJ to 49.69 gCO2e/MJ

You have feedstock origin, fuel production location, and fuel destination. The staff reports provide a pretty good breakdown of the CI rating due to transport, production, etc. which includes some of the assumptions relating to energy used in the process. For example.

Most RD coming into California has a CI far greater than the default values in GREET.

Please feel free to dig into the pathway details across the board. I think you’ll find that the values being reported, that were verified by staff, are reasonably aligned with the scientific literature, and fall within acceptable ranges of uncertainty.

Again, I encourage you to send any comments or concerns directly to ARB through the stakeholder comment process.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on November 14, 2016

Jeff – why are we comparing values for soybean RD to that from tallow? And why is CARB, in CA-GREET, using a national electricity mix from 2010 as its basis for CA-GREET energy input in 2016?

At this point, we’re engaging in energy navel-gazing: RD’s contribution to the fight against climate change is, and always will be, negligible (as Engineer-Poet points out above). I have devoted more time relating my concerns to the State of California than I care to remember – Jerry Brown and his CPUC/CEC mafia don’t want to hear it. The brusque response of California Energy Commission President Robert Weisenmiller, when confronted about preserving clean nuclear energy in California after a recent hearing:

“Legislature wants gas.”

Love or hate it, that’s the reality.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on November 14, 2016

If I was looking for maximum carbon savings from surplus Australian beef tallow, I would bring it up to liquefaction temperature and burn it as a co-fuel in marine diesels along with bunker fuel.  This eliminates all carbon emissions in processing and further transport.

Another alternative is to co-fire liquefied, atomized tallow in fossil-fired steam power plants.  In most cases this would replace high-carbon coal joule-for-joule, rather than lower-carbon petroleum.

Hydroprocessing triglycerides to hydrocarbons + propane and shipping the former halfway around the world… why is ANYONE even talking about that?

Geoff Morrison's picture
Geoff Morrison on November 15, 2016

Engineer Poet — I disagree that renewable diesel is simply a tool for propaganda. You’re right there’s not much produced right now, but that’s not a valid reason to object to it. There’s about 2 billion gallons a year of waste oil in the U.S, plus a heck of a lot of cellulosic material if we need it. The alternative fate of waste oil is to sit in the ground somewhere. Using it for transportation and displacing diesel seems like a pretty productive use of it to me!

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on November 15, 2016

There are plenty of ways to use waste fat (either vegetable or animal) which don’t require fancy processing.  Filtered and heated waste fryer oil works directly in diesel engines.  The carbon emitted in the hydrotreating and halfway-round-the-world transport, in order to meet the letter of some specification for “low-carbon fuel”, shows that the system has gone insane.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on November 15, 2016

California’s not perfect, but it’s doing a lot better than every other region when it comes to addressing climate change.

Better at what, exactly? Better at reducing emissions? Affordability? Not so. Over the period 2007-2014, US CO2 emissions (energy) were down 10%, and the US in total has experienced similar population growth. California’s emissions as indicated by ARB are down 9%. US 2016 electricity rates for residential, commercial, industrial are 13, 11, and 7 cents/kWh respectively. California electricity rates are 19, 12, and 14 cents/kWh respectively.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on November 15, 2016

References:
US CO2 emissions for energy
http://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/carbon/
https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.cfm?t=epmt_5_6_a

Geoff Morrison's picture
Geoff Morrison on November 15, 2016

I’m not aware of any OEM that allows use of filtered waste oil without a void of warranty. Do you? What are the air quality impacts?

Also, can you back up your claim that hydrotreating is carbon intensive? I’m not aware of any studies that support that claim.

Jeff Kessler's picture
Jeff Kessler on November 16, 2016

Better at what, exactly? Better at reducing emissions?

Better at reducing emissions, encouraging technology innovation, putting a price on carbon, and creating a framework for other regions and nations to build upon. But why quibble over conjecture, let’s jump into some real data and science to support this view.

It’s been fairly well-established that GHG emissions are a function of both population and the wealth (feel free to dig into the literature on kaya identities, etc.). As such, to make a fair comparison, you have to control for at minimum these two factors when discussing California and California policy efficacy. There are other things that of course come into play, such as the type of economy — manufacturing, service, etc, which I won’t go into here, but could make for a fascinating research paper.

Nonetheless, I’ve done a quick regression analysis using US Census Data for state population from 1990 through 2014, GHG emission inventory data from the EIA, and per-capita GDP for each state (GSPpc) from the Bureau of economic analysis.

To setup the regression, I added a dummy value of 1 for the state being California, and 0 otherwise. We therefore have a fixed effect model to assess the effect of “being” California on emissions compared to what would otherwise be anticipated, using the rest of the US as your “experimental cases”.

GHG Emissions ~ GSPpc + Population + {Dummy_CA}

From this simple model, the regression results show that California’s GHG emissions are significantly lower than would otherwise be explained by GDP and Population trends by about 260 million metric tons per year. If California hadn’t been pursuing active climate policies, that is to say, if California were similar to the rest of the US, then emissions in 2014 would be about 620 MMTCO2e as opposed to the 360 MMT CO2e that EIA pegs them at. So yes, California IS addressing climate change better than what would otherwise be expected based on other U.S. states.

Attribution of specific California policies to this reduction effect, of course, requires further analysis, which would require several months of research at minimum.

Please let me know if you would like the dataset/R-code for this analysis, and I’ll be happy to post it or create a short writeup.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on November 16, 2016

Better at reducing emissions, encouraging technology innovation, putting a price on carbon, and creating a framework for other regions and nations to build upon.

California has positively persecuted nuclear technology.  It has never put a price on carbon, because those in charge know that it would incentivize nuclear; instead, it has demanded “renewables” (narrowly defined) which specifically exclude nuclear.

It’s been fairly well-established that GHG emissions are a function of both population and the wealth

Which ignores the role of technology.  Hydro-heavy Quebec and nuclear-heavy Ontario and France have very low CO2 per kWh, much lower than “Green” Denmark and Germany.  Only nuclear scales.

Nonetheless, I’ve done a quick regression analysis using US Census Data for state population from 1990 through 2014

If you’re not counting all the emissions from industry pushed out of California by high prices and hostile policies, either to the rest of the USA or the Pacific rim, the regression is worthless.  Add balance of trade in goods and you might have a good start.

Jeff Kessler's picture
Jeff Kessler on November 16, 2016

Engineer-Poet, if you are willfully ignoring facts, then you can just about make any claim you want.

It [California] has never put a price on carbon, because those in charge know that it would incentivize nuclear;

California has a price on carbon of about $13/ton across most sectors, which is set to continually rise. This is substantially higher than anywhere else in the US, and is pretty aggressive from a global stand point given the size of California’s economy.

In addition, the Low Carbon Fuel Standard currently prices carbon at about $80-$100/ton, the highest in the world outside of Sweden.

In addition, YES, California is aggressively supporting the deployment of renewables. That is a good thing.

As for Nuclear support — that could be better. Looking at San Onofre, it looks like replacing it with natural gas (which is a possibility) would increase emissions by ~ 9 MMT-CO2e per year. This is an overly pessimistic estimate, as California is also likely to displace some of that with renewables. I agree, that the loss of nuclear in California is substantial for emissions, but it simply pales in comparison to the ~ 300 MMT-CO2e that California has managed to reduce relative to what would typically be expected in the US (see previous analysis).

As far as pushing industry outside of California — yes, California has lost a lot of manufacturing jobs (as has the rest of the US), but identifying shuffling and leakage is non-trivial, and depends on how the policy is structured, and the price-correlations across industries and between states. California has worked to better design their policy to understand and reduce leakage risks.

I would suggest you take a more rigorous approach before making your claims, and that you not just latch on to your current bias. It is evident from your posting history across TEC that you mostly exert your opinion without providing substantial scientific evidence to support it, or to evaluate the magnitude of effects. Evidence and economics tends to support the statement that California is doing better than the rest of the US at addressing GHG emissions, even if they could improve on their support for nuclear facilities.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on November 16, 2016

California has a price on carbon of about $13/ton across most sectors

The latest estimate of the social cost of CO2 is $220/ton.  $13/ton is a joke, less than 0.72¢/kWh for a gas plant emitting 550 gCO2/kWh and barely more than 1/3 of the previous estimate of social cost.  Further, Greens love things like nuclear fuel taxes which jack up the cost of nuclear power to steal back whatever advantage that emissions taxes give it.

I have seen what CARB has done for electric propulsion.  Several times when technologies like plug-ins got close to being economic under the rules, the rules were abruptly changed to put the goalposts out of reach again.  This does not happen by accident.

As for Nuclear support — that could be better.

It could hardly be worse.  Jerry Brown’s daughter sits on the board of either Sempra Energy or some closely-related company.  His family is literally in bed with the competition, and has colluded to shut down Diablo Canyon and transfer the costs to ratepayers.

This is an overly pessimistic estimate, as California is also likely to displace some of that with renewables.

So it represents a net increase in CO2 emissions even after offsets are applied.  It also represents increased sales for the natural gas industry.  But nothing to look at here, oh no!

I would suggest you take a more rigorous approach before making your claims

You mean, like a spreadsheet that only accounts for California vs. non-California when correlating emissions to policy?

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on November 17, 2016

Better at reducing emissions, encouraging technology innovation, putting a price on carbon, and creating a framework for other regions and nations to build upon

The first, reducing emissions, is indeed the goal, about which I drew the comparison. The others (framework, carbon price, etc) are not the goal but the means by which some propose to accomplish the goal. Without efficacy, these proposals are at best benign, and malignant if they come with either great cost or retard other mechanisms that are actually effective (e.g. nuclear power).

…It’s been fairly well-established that GHG emissions are a function of both population and the wealth (feel free to dig into the literature on kaya identities, etc.). As such, to make a fair comparison, you have to control for at minimum these two factors …

Those variables (and several others) would be indeed be relevant if the comparison at hand was year to year, or with California and some remote land where population growth and GDP growth were wildly different from California. The EIA for instance routinely correlates CO2 emissions changes with GDP, population, and other factors (See, e.g. Figures 10, 11 on the EIA carbon page) The emissions comparison I drew was CA to the US at large and if GDP and population changes are similar their effects are moot; certainly there’s no need to run the data on every state:

CA Population Growth, 2000-2014: 34 to 39 million, +15%
CA Real GDP Growth, 2000-2012: $1.47T to $1.75T, +20%
US Population Growth, 2000-2014: 282 to 321.4 million, +14%
US Real GDP Growth, 2000-2014: $11.2T to $13.4T, 20%

US emissions began to decline in 2007. Using EIA figures for both the US and CA (not ARB), the change in annual energy emissions over the period (2002-2014) was

US: -400 MMT CO2, -10%
CA: -45 MMT CO2, -11%

When looking at emissions from only the electric power sector, more dramatic differences emerge, as one would expect with the closure of SONGS. Comparing California and Virginia (my state):

Annual emissions from electricity generation, (2007-2014), % change:
CA: -7.4%
VA: -19%

Virginia enjoyed similar GDP & population growth, and has zero installed wind and little solar.

The data suggest the US at large can find a better model than California’s for emissions reductions, especially with regard to electricity generation.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on November 17, 2016

I’ve done a quick regression analysis …. from 1990 through 2014…If California hadn’t been pursuing active climate policies, that is to say, if California were similar to the rest of the US, then emissions in 2014 would be about 620 MMTCO2e as opposed to the 360 MMT CO2e that EIA pegs them at.

Over what period? From 1990? If so why? That drowns out all real changes in US energy consumption in the last 7 years, in particular the switch from coal to gas and improvements in efficiency, and hides the loss of SONGS in California.

Since 2007 US energy emissions have declined, so if you find an increase in CA with US trends 2007-2014 applied, you have a sign error.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on November 17, 2016

but identifying shuffling and leakage is non-trivial, and depends on how the policy is structured, and the price-correlations across industries and between states

.

Yes, very non-trivial, and so a factor to be resolved before hailing a one state carbon tax as an un-examined ‘good thing’

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on November 17, 2016

Electrification of the LDV fleet is coming, but only if California continues to create a protected market for technology learning and vetting…. California is leading the way…

Championing some California policy above all else in regard to LDVs is illogical, as it’s long-distance transportation, and myopic: see e.g. Kenworth’s T370 hybrid, or Utah’s Nikola Motor Company‘s semi-tractor unveiling Dec 1, or BMW’s 40-ton truck. With regard to passenger vehicles, hybrids, in particular the ~million Toyota Prius’s alone, have conserved far more petroleum per mile driven than all the EVs on the road. Going forward, the plug-in hybrids coming out of Detroit are more likely to decarbonize transportation than California’s all-electrics.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on November 17, 2016

Even building out nuclear plants isn’t guaranteed to be a hit.

Cost is subject to the vagaries of the current regulator. But building out nuclear is guaranteed to decarbonize electricity generation. Its been done, repeatedly. Aside from nuclear and hydro sources, a clean grid has never even been approached.

Geoff Morrison's picture
Geoff Morrison on November 18, 2016

Mark – Come on man. California is already relatively decarbonized compared to Virginia (or the US) so a 10% decline in the US/VA is not the same as a 10% decline in CA.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on November 18, 2016

CA electric generation remains 54% natural gas, hardly decarbonized.

Geoff Morrison's picture
Geoff Morrison on November 19, 2016

My point isn’t that California is a panacea, it’s that you’re comparing apples to oranges. The cost of abatement differs between states and trying to say “my state is better than your state” really isn’t productive. I live in DC btw.

I also don’t buy the argument that California should be condemned for its emissions leakage problem. The real question is why can’t the adjacent states improve their own polices so leakage isn’t an issue?

There are several states with 2050 climate goals and what’s interesting to watch is which policies work and which fall flat; and how can the effective policies be repeated in other jurisdictions.

Geoff Morrison's picture
Geoff Morrison on November 19, 2016

Dude, EP – tallow is just one of many possible feedstocks. There are lot of others (Neste uses 8 different ones). You can also convert cellulosic to oil for hydrotreating. You seem like a conspiracy theorist. Try to use science please.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on November 19, 2016

GMo, the only conspiracy is the one to maximize profit through misrepresentation – arguably, one in which we’re all co-conspirators.
If I were in Neste management, to maximize profit I would use the cheapest feedstock available – companies which don’t go bankrupt. Successful public policy relies on both science and pragmatism.

Geoff Morrison's picture
Geoff Morrison on November 19, 2016

Fuel providers like Neste have too much to lose to vastly misrepresent their carbon intensities to CARB. I just don’t buy it. CARB caught VW and now they owe $14.7 billion. Sure, there are issues with shuffling of fuels, but what’s the solution? Other regions need to step up and get climate policies.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on November 19, 2016

GMo, first of all, CARB didn’t “catch” VW doing anything. They were caught by five researchers at West Virginia University – and in fact, CARB had certified the vehicles as meeting emissions standards. So much for your oversight.

Second, CARB does not have the resources to inspect Neste’s tallow processing in Australia and Singapore. Let’s get real – Neste could provide any numbers they like. And, most certainly, they are. The public can’t check them, because their inputs are “Confidential”. They’re “Undisclosed”.

Geoff Morrison's picture
Geoff Morrison on November 19, 2016

It’s a major risk for companies to completely cook their books in carbon accounting. I’m not buying that its as prevalent as you suggest.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on November 19, 2016

GMo, your assertion was that California was already nearly “de-carbonized” and that therefore it could not be compared to other states like Virginia. The premise is wildly incorrect. California’s carbon intensity of the energy supply (2013) was 51 kg CO2/million BTU, Virginia’s is 53 kg-CO2/million BTU, with carbon intensity varying among all states from 35 to 80 kg-CO2/million BTU, median 55.

Virginia and California have similar results though Virginia has little hydroelectric and little wind resource, and Virginia has long relied on Appalachian coal. The explanation: Virginia’s electric generation is 26% nuclear compared to California’s 8% nuclear, and Virginia has replaced coal with gas, as opposed to replacing nuclear with gas.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on November 19, 2016

EIA Table 7
http://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/state/analysis/

Geoff Morrison's picture
Geoff Morrison on November 19, 2016

I never claimed California is “nearly decarbonized.”

Mark, question for you… why is CO2/MMBTU the right measure for decarbonization? Why not energy intensity? Why not per capita emissions (California is 3rd lowest in the U.S. according to Fig 2 of the EIA link you provided by the way)?

Instead of using a single measure or a regression, though, I’d recommend a decomposition analysis as a way to compare two states/regions over time. There are lots of examples… here’s one from Gellar et al. (2006) discussing California. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421505003113

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on November 20, 2016

Fuel providers like Neste have too much to lose to vastly misrepresent their carbon intensities to CARB.

You mis-represent the issue.  The issue is that CARB’s policy re diesel from hydro-treated fats results in both more cost and more carbon emissions than other uses of the same feedstock.  This amounts to greenwashing.  CARB’s accounting rules allow this, which means they’re defective by design.

One of the effects is to keep California energy prices high, which encourages people (esp. the poor) to leave the state.  The irony of importing a massive population of peons to turn the state blue on the one hand, then try to get rid of them with tools including energy policy on the other, is not lost on me.

Geoff Morrison's picture
Geoff Morrison on November 20, 2016

I agree that escalating costs and equity are EXTREMELY important when designing climate policies. However, we were arguing about emissions (and it appears we disagree on that one).

On costs/equity, I’d like to see some actual evidence beyond reports from API or WSPA. And of course you’d need to show those negative impacts outweigh positive impacts from climate mitigation and that negative impacts are not just short-run impacts.

I don’t like greenwashing either and I don’t like wasting taxpayer money, but I’m also not a fan of railing on public agencies without offering some solutions.

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