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California to Cap Greenhouse Gas Emissions

California legislative leaders and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger reached agreement on a compromise version of an assembly bill (AB 32—the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006) that is intended to bring statewide emissions of greenhouse gases back down to 1990 levels by 2020—an estimated cut of 25%.

The California Senate approved the measure on Wednesday; it now is in the Assembly, where final approval is expected.

The bill, which would make California the first state in the country to legislate a cap on greenhouse gas emissions, requires the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to:

  • Adopt a statewide greenhouse gas emissions limit equivalent to the statewide greenhouse gas emissions levels in 1990 to be achieved by 2020.

  • Adopt regulations on or before 1 January 2008 to require the reporting and verification of statewide greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Adopt a schedule of fees to be paid by the sources of greenhouse gas emissions to cover the actual cost of the monitoring and reporting program regulations.

  • Adopt rules and regulations in an open public process to achieve the maximum technologically feasible and cost-effective greenhouse gas emission reductions.

  • Adopt market-based compliance mechanisms meeting specified requirements. The bill would require the state board to monitor compliance with and enforce any rule, regulation, order, emission limitation, emissions reduction measure, or market-based compliance mechanism adopted by the state board, pursuant to specified provisions of existing law.

  • Adopt a schedule of fees to be paid by regulated sources of greenhouse gas emissions, as specified. Because the bill would require the state board to establish emissions limits and other requirements, the violation of which would be a crime, this bill would create a state-mandated local program.

The greenhouse gases covered by AB 32 are: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexaflouride. The bill does not address vehicles as a source. California had already passed a bill limiting the emissions of greenhouse gases from new vehicles—a bill currently under challenge by the auto industry in Federal court.

The basic implementation timeline is as follows:

  • On or before 30 June 2007, ARB will publish a list of discrete early action greenhouse gas emission reduction measures that can be implemented prior to the measures of AB 32.

  • On or before 1 January 2008, ARB will require the reporting and verification of statewide greenhouse gas emissions.

  • On or before 1 January 2009, ARB shall prepare and approve a scoping plan for achieving the maximum technologically feasible and cost-effective reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

  • On or before 1 January 2010, ARB shall adopt the greenhouse gas regulations and measures.

  • On or before 1 January 2011, ARB shall adopt greenhouse gas emission limits and emission reduction measures by regulation to achieve the maximum technologically feasible and cost-effective reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

  • On 1 January 2012, the statewide greenhouse gas emissions limit goes into effect.

The state is the 12th largest carbon emitter in the world despite leading the nation in energy efficiency standards and its lead role in protecting its environment. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is an issue we must show leadership on.

—Governor Schwarzenegger

Last month, Governor Schwarzenegger signed a climate change pact with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. (Earlier post.)



Tony Chilling

1) It is nice the see the elected officals attempting to keep their elected positions just before elections.

2) This bill is an attempt to drive down emissions BACK to the 1990 levels by 2025.
Wait! Wait! even the 1990 levels were FORCING global warming upon us!
THere MUST be radical reductions and they must be done now!
But this is just NOT going to happen.
So relax, do worry, chill out.
There will probably worse things that will happen to the Earth before any effects of Warming really hit us.


I agree that it is not adequate but I wouldn't be so cynical about the legislators since they have been working on this for months. Schwarzegger, however, made a calculated decision to fold because of the upcoming election. But so what. That's what Democracy is about.

Arnie has moved to the left because of his desire to continue to be the Governor of California. I just hope he stays there.


Back to 1990 levels by 2020 is better than continuing the trend of increasing levels. If they can show that it can be done while still maintaining their economy & gdp then it sets an example for the rest of the US and sets a precedent to continue along that path until emissions are significantly lower than 1990 levels. A drastic change happening immediately would see the economy of California collapse. Why do you think the EU is missing their self imposed goals from the Kyoto Protocol? They chose economic growth over emissions goals.

allen Z

1990 GHG levels are bad, but only if there is not some offset like a massive biomass energy production program in place. Such a carbon removal program would provide for at least fuel, energy, and carbon sequestation. Chemicals and raw materials, animal feed, and human food are other possibilities.
_If done in conjunction with a large thermal/photovoltaic solar electric generation system, one with some sort of storage system for overcast, night, and maintenance periods, it may be possible to wipe out most new human GHG emissions.
_We would primarily run on the thermonuclear furnace we call the Sun, and existing CO2 in the atmosphere.


A new Solar Concentrator energy production plant should be coming online in California soon. They say it is slightly cheaper than standard PV cells due to the high efficiencies requiring fewer actual cells and just more surface area for the optics for the same output of power. It will be a 10MW unit sold from Boeing to SolFocus of California.



You can be sure that when we cover our deserts with expensive solar power facilities in order to meet these new regulations, the environmentalists will scream that "we're destroying our fragile desert ecosystems!" We're already having that problem here in San Diego. The new Sunrise Power Link, which will transport energy from the solar facilities in the deserts to be built by Stirling Energy Systems, is being fought on just those grounds.

Even the Europeans are not willing to risk their already stagnant economies for the sake of Kyoto.

And we need to beware the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Herb Sewl

I hope this stuff does not drive up energy prices here in Arizona. I heard they were stringing power lines from a nuke plant here in Arizona to California. I don't think these regulations will do much good. What they need to do is raise the tax on gasoline. That will never happen because people like spouting off green rhetoric, but cry like a baby when they have to pay an extra nickel for a gallon of gas to put in their Suburban.

Sid Hoffman

Why would anyone think industry regulations do no good, but raising the price of gas 5 cents would? Gas went up 200% in three years and consumption is as high as ever. Still, personal transportation fuels make up less than 10% of the CO2 emissions anyway. That's why they need the regulations because the other 90% are who they need to go after.


California could do a nice job on GHG emissions if all law enforcement (state, county, city) detained illegal immigrants whenever they found them and held them for deportation.  The established areas either have skyrocketing land prices where things are good, or high crime rates making things unlivable.  The only way out is to go away and build new.  But if the state made a serious effort to catch illegals and get them deported, the immigrant gangs, drug smugglers and other factors driving the crime rates would be hit hard.  People could come back from the exurbs.  Fewer cars and highways would be needed, and they would waste less with congestion.

Not to mention that fewer people in general require less energy.


Cervus, just who aren't environmentalists? People that don't give a damn about anything other than their own back yard? Is that you? Is that how we should all behave? What a #$#*(& great world that would be!

And Herb it is the people "spouting off green rhetoric" that are the ones pushing electric and hybrid cars. Why should they be the most complaining? What a load of rubbish!

Robert Schwartz

As a resident of Ohio I think this is a great idea. We need the jobs that California will close down.


This is brought to you by a guy that pretends to be a treehugger but owns 8 Hummers.

"These days, Arnold sits high and mighty in his collection of eight of the rugged three-ton, 110-mile an hour supercars."


"Still, personal transportation fuels make up less than 10% of the CO2 emissions anyway."



Cervus, just who aren't environmentalists? People that don't give a damn about anything other than their own back yard? Is that you? Is that how we should all behave? What a #$#*(& great world that would be!

Marcus, the opposition to the Sunrise Power Link and projects like it goes far beyond the NIMBYism that has held up other projects like Cape Wind. I find it hard to care about environmental issues as much any more because I see an increasingly misanthropic streak in the movement.

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. There will always be environmental costs associated with everything we do. But I see an overzealous desire to make those costs zero that is irrational and unrealistic.

Am I totally against any environmental regs? No. We have come very far in 40 years. But once the point of diminishing returns is reached for a given technology, regulation should stop and new tech should be sought.


Cervus, you can't just throw around the term "environmentalist" like that. The attitudes between being totaly misanthropic and having your head in a bucket of sand, run along a continuum. When you deride "environmentalists" it simply comes across as a slur against anyone who gives a ##$(#*.

For example I would consider the people who run GCC as being environmentalists of a sort. Are you deriding them?



To their credit, I see GCC covering a very wide range of alternative energy possiblities. Including Coal-to-Liquid, which is not generally popular around here. That, and the fact they focus on technical/engineering issues more often than not, puts them in the "rational environmentalist" category in my book, and is why I continue to visit the site.

I apologize that it comes across as a slur. But I read about the opposition to the Sunrise Powerlink and similar projects and am completely mystified. And frankly, I've started getting angry. The benefits, 500-800 MW of solar power from Stirling Energy, clearly outweigh the potential damage from the powerlines.

What term would you suggest I use?

John Schreiber

SolFocus' product is supposed to scale to about $1 per watt at some point, which is more than slightly cheaper than conventional photovoltaics.


Cervus, how about "ecological extremists"? I really do think that a lot of "environmentalists" fully support clean energy projects over some ecological, or perhaps more accurately, aesthetic, concerns a lot of the time.


This argument reveals an inherent problem with common perceptions of 'environmentalism'. Quite simply, there are as many positions within the environmentalist camp as there are outside it.
I find myself feeling personally attacked anytime someone pours scorn upon environmentalists - even though my views are about as removed from the unabomber's as can be imagined! We are going to find very soon (indeed already are) that current terminology is inadequate to describe the range of views which are being expressed. The most immediate example of this is the 'windfarms good' versus 'windfarms evil' camps. Both sides argue from perspectives which supposedly protect the environment, while pursuing entirely opposing agendas.
This problem is going to intensify - until people recognise that environmentalism is not a particular point of view, so much as a recognition that living planetary systems require our understanding and recognition just as much as other economic or political factors. That does not mean arguing over their intricacies will end!
This is all part of the common human mistake of assigning groups the characteristics of individuals. So, next time you feel despair and disgust towards 'environmentalists' remember - environmentalism is not a meaningful bounded identity, it is a continuum and it is entirely valid to disagree with others who would label themselves the same way.


Cervus, I'm pro-nuclear, think wind farms are just fine and would put solar just about anywhere convenient (though I think dish farms on buildings and over parking lots in LA make more sense than the Mojave - less transmission loss).

And I'm an environmentalist.


Solfocus information is available at this link, since green cars may some day operate on solar energy.

shaun mann

the most beautiful part about this (for a synic) is how they will do it.

California has repeatedly made it clear it doesn't want pollution in California. Which is to say they are fine if they get the products that were made through the creation of pollution, so long as they don't have the pollution in California.

California has paid other states to encourage them to build coal-based power plants to serve the California load. Not clean coal, not new coal, not cleany-newie-we-love-you coal, just plain old (dirty) coal. California doesn't mind this because the plants will be in the Southwest, which is downwind and NIMBY.

This is the approach they will take to meet their goals, so they will effectively push pollution out of their state - and into poorer states.

good job.


Shaun mann has a good point. In addition though California seems to be the leader of sorts for our nation and thus other states look to it as an example. I think the EPA should have more power and should be able to over-rule legislation that promotes the "NIMBYism" and guides us to an overall cleaner country.

For example... in order for internal combustion engines to reduce emissions for CARB approval they need to combust the fuel at perfect stoiciometric levels and then filter or otherwise treat the exhaust to remove the remaining "pollutants". Californina and it's legislation drives what kind of engines the rest of the country has to deal with. If we had lean burn engines we'd get the same power, but around 30% better gas mileage automatically. Catalytic converters increase backpressure and decrease performance. Consumers want that performance so they end up buying higher power engines that use more gas to compensate for their larger mass and inherently higher friction. I realize downsizing engines will only go so far, but lean burn engines hold enormous potential. Lean burn engines create more heat than "normal" engines but that would make them perfect for heat energy recovery systems. Legislation sometimes inhibits progress or leads us down a less than desireable path.

Where is the check point where we re-evaluate if the system is working or if it's having the desired effect? Are there land-based systems that can directly clean the air? Can we engineer cities to minimize the need for personal vehicles? Engineer-Poet was making this point already though.

As an analogy I just feel like we're trying to scrub the air with a tooth brush when it's obvious other things would more than likely work better. We're stuck trying to refine the toothbrush and force everyone to use the same one insead of taking a step back and realizing what we're really doing when trying to get industry and people in general to become more environmentally responsible.

Adina Levin

"California has paid other states to encourage them to build coal-based power plants to serve the California load. Not clean coal, not new coal, not cleany-newie-we-love-you coal, just plain old (dirty) coal. California doesn't mind this because the plants will be in the Southwest, which is downwind and NIMBY."

The California legislature just passed a bill that forbids utilities from signing long term power contracts with the out of state coal suppliers. I can look up the bill number in a bit.


Moots, hasn't Honda had lean-burn engines on American roads for years? Mean old California is holding the whole rest of the country hostage, forcing catalytic converters and non-lean combustion down our throats, eh? I'll tell you where I'm coming from- I spend a large part of every day driving not very far behind the car in front of me. I have to breathe what comes out of the tailpipe, before it is highly diluted. Catalysts make that a reasonable proposition, so I kinda like 'em. BTW, people drive big engines because they are fun, and even though it's bad for our economy and environment, our government has chosen not to discourage it. To blame them on Calif emissions regs is silly.

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