Tag Archives: california

Policy Watch: Black carbon, Beijing’s new air pollution measures, and California carbon trading

January 24, 2013 |


This week, climate policy headlines from around the world include a new study that ranks soot as the second-worst cause of climate change, an estimated $700 billion cost to avoid further temperature rise, and Germany’s solar development.

Elinor Benami, Chiara Trabacchi, Hermann Amecke, and Karen Laughlin contributed headlines to this edition of Policy Watch.

Study: Black carbon ranks as second-biggest human cause of global warming
Soot ranks as the second-largest human contributor to climate change, exerting twice as much of an impact as previously thought, according to an analysis released Tuesday.

The four-year, 232-page study of black carbon, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, shows that short-lived pollution known as soot, such as emissions from diesel engines and wood-fired stoves, has about two-thirds the climate impact of carbon dioxide. The analysis has pushed methane, which comes from landfills and other forces, into third place as a human contributor to global warming.  Full article.

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Clearing the air with industrial audits

October 18, 2012 |


California’s cap and trade system will begin operation in 2013. It will be the most ambitious, comprehensive climate change program in the U.S., helping California reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020: 6% below 2009 levels and 12% below the peak in 2007.

As our recent analysis shows, if greenhouse gas and air quality regulators work together effectively, cap and trade can bring cleaner air to California and better health to Californians.

California’s Air Resources Board has already taken a step in the right direction, requiring large facilities to conduct industrial audits to assess energy efficiency opportunities that will lead to greenhouse gas and local air pollution emissions reductions.

The data from these audits are slated to be available online by the end of this year. It’s not yet clear what level of detail the data will provide, but more detail is better: It means a larger number of people will know exactly where facilities can make changes that will yield cleaner air.

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Renewable energy in California: What has policy brought us?

September 21, 2012 |


Government support for renewable energy is a subject of national debate. In particular, many are scrutinizing the Federal Production Tax Credit for wind energy – absent legislative action, it expires in December.

Policymakers across the political spectrum are asking questions like “has government support of renewable projects been effective?” and “should government support be continued or scrapped?” Investors in renewable energy are similarly interested in how policies can best provide stable support to help the industry mature.

With those questions in mind, our team looked back at what state and federal renewable energy policies have meant for California’s renewable energy deployment up to now.

A brief history of California renewable energy policies

As this graphic shows, renewable energy deployment in California has been concentrated in two waves. The first, in the 1980s, was due to a combination of the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), high natural gas prices, and new technologies. The second, which started around 2001, coincided with California’s renewable portfolio standard as well as state and federal incentives.

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California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard will likely spur innovation

July 12, 2012 |


California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (a provision of AB 32 requiring refiners and transportation fuel distributors to reduce the carbon intensity of fuels by 10% by 2020) faces legal challenges and its future is uncertain. Adding to the recent debate, on June 19 the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) hosted a forum centered on their release of a study from Boston Consulting Group (BCG) projecting severe, negative impacts on jobs and economic activity. The study’s pessimistic assumptions and limited scope mean it does not give a complete picture of the policy’s likely costs and benefits.

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Voluntary action + regulations = double punch of emission reductions

December 16, 2011 |


Just when I was beginning to doubt that voluntary action by major emitters could truly reduce pollution, a new study [subs. req.] has shown that voluntarily slowing commercial container ships near-shore (and switching to low-sulfur fuel) can reduce some major pollutants by up to 90%.

Container ships approaching land from the open ocean bring a number of environmental problems with them, like acid-rain causing sulfur dioxide, lung-damaging particulate matter, and haze-forming black carbon, all emitted within a few miles of people living near shipping lanes and ports.

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