California Legislators Want to Pass a Law That Requires Less Oil, More Clean Energy Use

Could drive up costs of driving, manufacturing


During his keynote address at a climate summit in Toronto last Wednesday, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) described as "troglodytes" — i.e., willfully ignorant people — those Americans who deny the effects of global warming. "We have to redesign our cities, our homes, our cars, our electrical generation, our grids — all those things," he said, as he issued a "call to arms" for states to combat climate change.

We've all become accustomed to bold rhetoric from politicians. But while Brown talked about climate change, his allies in the Legislature were advancing a bill that tries to put many of his far-reaching goals into action.

SB 350, introduced by Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) imposes three significant clean-energy goals by 2030: Reducing the use of petroleum products in automobiles by 50 percent; increasing to 50 percent (from a current 33-percent goal) the amount of energy that uses renewable sources such as solar and wind power; and doubling energy-efficiency in current buildings.

These are aggressive mandates to reach in a relatively short time frame. "We need to break the stranglehold the profit-driven oil companies have on our economy and give consumers better options to power their homes and cars in cleaner, healthier and more sustainable ways," said De Leon after a key Assembly committee on Monday approved his bill.

Critics warn the bill would will crush business development and increase the costs of already-rising electricity, gasoline and other products. A new study by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. detailed potential problems such a reduction would mean not just in the oil industry — but in related manufacturing and transportation sectors. These regulations threaten 11 percent of the state's jobs and more than 14 percent of its GDP, the study argues.

De Leon's office sent me a fact sheet debunking fears of economic harm: "California's GDP is nearly 30 percent higher than it was in 2006… Our GDP is growing while our emissions fall." The sheet also touts the prospects of a growing green economy. Business leaders say the economy isn't growing as rapidly as it should, there's insufficient growth in the high-paying manufacturing sector, and green jobs are only a fraction of the economy.

It's hard to argue the economics of these regulations because the bill only sets standards — and then gives the California Air Resources Board broad authority to achieve the goals. "Without legislative guidance or protections against increased costs or job loss, what tools could CARB employ to meet the reduction mandate?" asks the California Chamber of Commerce. The chamber raises the possibility of gasoline rationing, which may be a scare tactic.

Jay McKeeman, vice president of the California Independent Oil Marketers Association, expects the state to come up with a credit system similar to cap-and-trade. Oil producers would have to bid for a limited number of credits after petroleum use is capped. Those credits will become pricey — and the end result will be a new tax on gasoline. California's per-gallon gas prices already are around 70 cents higher than the national average. "Suddenly, every aspect of the economy is regulated by CARB (if SB 350 passes)," said California Business Roundtable President Rob Lapsley.

McKeeman expects more land-use controls of the sort we're already seeing, where the state limits the ability of local governments to allow developments that are not high density. The idea is to force Californians into smaller homes and to rely more on public transit systems, such as light-rail lines and eventually high-speed rail.

One largely unaddressed concern is the impact on the poor. Poor and middle-class workers drive older cars and can't afford to buy pricey new electric ones. That's why, as this column previously reported, CARB plans to provide highly subsidized hybrids to lower-income people. But it's hard to believe that subsidies will do more than minimize the pain.

Robert Michaels, economics professor and energy expert at Cal State Fullerton, expects future legislatures and governors to pass stopgap measures and fudge the numbers to help the state meet these potentially unrealistic goals. "It's one of those things you have in the (news)paper and you say, 'Yes, people will pass it and let's hope it will be meaningless.'"

That leaves my fellow "troglodytes" hoping SB 350 is as meaningful as that resolution calling on the state to divest from investments in Donald-Trump-owned businesses.

Greenhut is the California columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Write to him at

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  1. …”We need to break the stranglehold the profit-driven oil companies have on our economy and give consumers better options to power their homes and cars in cleaner, healthier and more sustainable ways,” said De Leon…

    As if the renewable energy guys don’t want to make a profit…….

    1. He meant “We want to establish the stranglehold of profit-driven “green” energy companies and give consumer fewer options to power their homes other than in state-approved ways.”

  2. They also really need to add amendments that make unicorns a protected species and require municipalities to install unicorn feeding stations at all public parks.

    Unicorns produce no greenhouse gasses — unicorn farts actually sequester carbon.

    1. Sorry to bust your cloud, buster, but…

      Just as “eco-friendly” giant windmills serve as bald-eagle chipper-shredders, and puree other birds and bats as well…

      … so, too, unicorn farts are toxic to yard fairies! (Toxic to pink plastic yard flamingos as well, but they don’t count).

      1. Lies! Junk science that confuses correlaton with causation! I am confident the actual toxicological research will not back up the anti-unicorn shills for the yard fairy interests like you.

  3. We need to break the stranglehold the profit-driven oil companies have on our economy

    Because “green” energy companies don’t profit from subsidies. Remember that the profit motive cause inefficiency and less choices for consumers. Teh profitz are teh evul.


  4. re: “The sheet also touts the prospects of a growing green economy. ”

    That is based on thinking which is equivalent to the “broken window fallacy”. They think that by imposing extra costs on energy (the equivalent of needing to make payments for needlessly broken windows) that they will grow the economy. Instead it merely means money is spent on energy instead of other goods (just as the “broken window fallacy” is that money is spent on replacement windows rather than other goods), which means fewer other goods are produced, i.e. less wealth overall.

  5. Moonbeam and Nader have the market cornered on hair shirts. Unfortunately, moonbeam got elected.

  6. I hope Moonbeam likes explaining sky high energy bills to his constituents, because he’s going to have to.

    1. He’s term-limited out.

  7. Y’know;

    Solar collectors roast birds and effectively pave large tracts of land. Wind turbines act like giant blenders and we are discovering that they also produce sub-audible sounds that cause a number of problems in local people (and presumably aren’t great for wildlife). Hydroelectric hasn’t been officially “alternative” or “clean” energy since the 1970’s, because Greenies hate dams. Nobody seems to be insane enough to actually build “tidal energy” generators, which is probably for the best. Geothermal used to get a lot of Greenie chatter, but I haven’t heard much about it lately (except for Iceland, which seems to be ready to accept that they are going to lose a generator to laval about once a decade).

    How come these morons have so much momentum left? Their magic tech isn’t. Everybody seems to KNOW it isn’t. How the hell do they get away with claiming that it is?

    1. There is geo-thermal in the area of the Salton Sea.

  8. “We have to redesign our cities, our homes, our cars, our electrical generation, our grids ? all those things,”

    I have no problem with any of this provided it’s market-driven, which is the most efficient way for any of it to happen.

    1. I’m not sure what you mean by efficient. I characterize the issue as the value provided versus the cost of those purchasing the products. That’s why I like market-driven approaches.

  9. Why not just ration energy consumption on a per capita basis. Every household gets a topline number of energy units per months. If you reach your limit you go without until the beginning of next month. And every year reduce the allotment by 10%. If people have to do without heat or AC or cars or refrigeration, that’s their problem. If cities have to shut down water treatment, garbage pickup, road paving, then fine, everyone’s in the same boat. We could get California down to 19th century levels in a decade.

    1. It’ll all be on your Golden State Advantage (SNAP) card.

  10. Kevin de Leon is another of those people who were never much interested in math, but he will find that math is very much interested in him, when the house of cards he wishes to construct comes crashing down around him.
    The “goals” in his ambitious bill are not just unreasonable, but poppycock.
    Even a complete “central planning” regime that once existed in the USSR would never put anything like this into motion. But, he’s got the right people on the CARB to create a Central Planning Politburo: Extreme partisans who have drunk the Kool-aid, and will march in lock-step with our Dear Kommissar, Mary Nichols.
    Texas will gain a few more millions of people out of this, and ensure that CA loses at least one, perhaps two, seats in the House following the 2021 Reapportionment.

  11. The California Syndrome again? Pass a law,without regard to the sense, the propriety the worth of the proposal, and all will be well. While that might work in the land of Good and Bad Fairies, it doesn’t work all that well in the real world.

  12. California… continuing to make just about any other state more competitive than they are..

  13. For anyone saying that this is unfeasible you should read this:…..lem-2015-6

    A state-by-state plan has been created that uses combinations of renewables (dictated by the individual resources of each state) that shows how this country get nearly completely off of fossil fuels while reducing our consumption of energy immensely.

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