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Katy Grimes

Sen. De Leon’s Renewable Energy Bill: Inevitable Rationing Ahead

Can California really reduce petroleum-based fuels by 50 percent and still have any sort of economy? Most of California’s businesses and residents rely on oil and gas for day-to-day transportation needs. But a bill currently in the legislative committee process, SB 350, would compromise the availability of transportation fuels.

The Renewable Portfolio Standard, passed in 2011, called for 33 percent of electricity retail sales be served by renewable energy resources by the year 2020.

However, the President of the California State Senate, Kevin de Leon, no student of economics, is pushing a bill through the Legislature at breakneck speed to mandate the reduction of 50 percent in the use of petroleum-based fuels, 50 percent reduction in energy use by existing buildings and increases the Renewable Portfolio Standard to 50 percent — notably as California is already on track to meet the 2020 goal.

“Billionaire environmental benefactor” Tom Steyer, testified on behalf of de Leon’s bill in April arguing that if the state is an early adopter of renewable energy, “the rest of the world will have to follow us,” stating forcefully that “this is good for California jobs,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

In its 2014 Integrated Energy Policy Report, the California Energy Commission reported that 92 percent of all transportation fuels in California are made up of petroleum.

The California Chamber of Commerce calls Senate Bill 350 by Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, a “job killer bill that increases the cost of business and creates regulatory burdens throughout the state.”

This “job killer” bill had an intense hearing in the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee Monday. And while even some Democrats objected to allowing the California Air Resources Board carte blanch once again to do as they please in implementing another climate change law, each of the Democrats on the committee who commented on the bill, said they supported it.

The CalChamber, and many other businesses, associations, and individual taxpayers say SB 350 has set an arbitrary and unrealistic reduction of petroleum use with this bill. The increase in the current Renewable Portfolio Standard and increase in building energy efficiency without regard to the impact on individuals, jobs and the economy, is a definite job killer. Californians have already witnessed with implementation of AB 32 and the 2011 RPS laws have killed off certain businesses under the guise of reversing global climate change from California.

The CalChamber said SB 350 does not specify whether CARB should adopt and implement policies that have an impact on the demand for petroleum fuels, or whether it should adopt and implement policies that affect the supply of transportation fuels, and provides a blank check delegation of authority to CARB. In doing so, SB 350 “gives no consideration to the cost or job loss associated with this yet-to-be-determined regulation.”

Sen. Pres. pro Tem Kevin De Leon Climate Change Rules  

Hundreds of opponents to SB 350 registered their official positions on everything from important business and economic reasons, to more government intrusion, to individual taxpayers saying “enough is enough.” Following opponents’ testimony, committee members expressed concerns with the bill.

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Contra Costa, said she was concerned about what passage of SB 350 would do to the important tax base her district relies on from the tax revenues from the four major oil refineries in the district, as well as the thousands of jobs at those refineries. “The Air Resources Board may not prioritize what we prioritize,” Bonilla said.

Perhaps Bonilla’s most interesting comment was her concern with the lack of oversight of the California Air Resources Board. “We are missing a step in oversight in legislative approval,” Bonilla said. “I’m not sure it is fully flushed out yet.”

Bonilla called for more active legislative oversight of the Air Resources Board, and said the Legislature “shouldn’t be afraid of bringing things back to the Legislature,” or of “open hearings.” But then Bonilla said she was supporting the bill, “but I need to see this addressed.”

And that’s how Democrats roll these days. They often bring up very important objections about issues in bills, but vote to pass them anyway, defying the very purpose of the legislative committee process. The work is supposed to be done on proposed legislation in the legislative committees – not as an afterthought as a bill is voted on and passed to the next committee.

“We have the opportunity to create the economy of tomorrow,” De Leon said in response to Bonilla’s concerns. “Fossil fuels are simply not sustainable.” Then he rambled on about the cost to Californians’ health by emissions of “carbons, CO2, PM2.5 emitted into the lungs of children.”

If de Leon was sincerely concerned about the people of his district, and of the poor in all parts of the state, rather than only talking about the health concerns of people in certain areas, he’d talk about ways to improve their economic well-being so they had choices about where to live, and how best to thrive.

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, expressed concern over the economics for her constituents. “When I call the ARB – and I am a legislator – they just work around me,” she said. “This is very concerning.” Garcia said she has three tent cities in her district, and her constituents can’t afford to leave their communities behind.

The coup de grace was Assemblyman Jay Obernolte, R-Big Bear, who challenged de Leon on the drastically rising costs of energy in California – “41 percent increase to residential, 36 percent to commercial, and 62 percent increase to industrial.”

“What can we do to mitigate this?” Obernolte asked.

De Leon said the goal was to lower energy rates through more renewable energy and the Renewable Portfolio Standard of 33 percent renewable energy. “We’ve put in safeguards and offramps…” de Leon said. Obernolte asked how raising the RPS to 50 percent would lower the cost of electricity in California, when the last RPS increase increased energy rates. Obernolte said his constituents pay more per kilowatt in energy cost than anywhere in the country.

“That methodology is flawed,” de Leon said, dismissing Olbernolte’s legitimate concerns.

Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, added this odd spin: “Rates are higher, but bills are lower… because Californians use less energy to perform the same tasks as people in other states.” But he cited no authority for this.

The CalChamber has said it is unclear how the arbitrary goal in SB 350 will be met. “Will there be a 50 percent straight reduction in the production of petroleum in the state?  Will we have to ration petroleum to achieve the 50 percent reduction?  At what cost?”

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