California unveils plan to drastically reduce fossil fuel use

FILE - This aerial photo shows the Standard Oil Refinery in El Segundo, California, with Los Angeles International Airport in the background and the El Porto neighborhood of Manhattan Beach, California in the foreground on May 25, 2017. A plan released by The California Air Resources Board on Tuesday, May 10, 2022 recommends that a majority of the state's oil refineries install carbon capture technology by 2030.  Such technology could be used to capture carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere.  (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, file)

FILE – This aerial photo shows the Standard Oil Refinery in El Segundo, California, with Los Angeles International Airport in the background and the El Porto neighborhood of Manhattan Beach, California in the foreground on May 25, 2017. A plan released by The California Air Resources Board on Tuesday, May 10, 2022 recommends that a majority of the state’s oil refineries install carbon capture technology by 2030. Such technology could be used to capture carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, file)

AP

New homes built in California beginning in 2026 must be powered by all-electric stoves, ovens and other appliances if California is to meet its ambitious climate goals over the next two decades, according to a state pollution reduction plan released Tuesday.

The California Air Resources Board’s roadmap points the state toward achieving “carbon neutrality” by 2045, meaning removing as much carbon from the air as is emitted. The state’s schedule is among the most ambitious in the nation; Hawaii has a similar goal and several other states have a 2050 deadline.

California could achieve its goals through a drastic transition away from fossil fuels that power cars, trucks, planes, ships, homes, businesses and other industries. Board staff recommends the state reduce its use of oil and gas by 91% by 2045 and adopt technologies to capture and store carbon emissions from remaining sources.

The plan was compiled by Airboard staff and is not final; A public comment process will begin, and the politically appointed individuals who make up the Air Board will ultimately decide whether to make changes. The legislature or other regulatory bodies would have to agree to introduce the various directives. The California Energy Commission, for example, sets building codes.

Still, state officials said the document represents an important step for California and the rest of the nation. California is the nation’s most populous state and has the fifth largest economy in the world compared to other nations. This economic power means the state’s policy decisions can make big business changes, and other states often follow California’s lead on climate policies.

“When this plan is completed, it will serve as a model for other developed countries around the world,” said Jared Blumenfeld, secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency.

But neither environmental justice advocates nor the oil industry were happy. Environmental groups have blasted the plan over its reliance on carbon capture technologies that allow oil refineries, cement plants and other industries to continue polluting disadvantaged neighborhoods. They also pointed to a little-noticed element of the plan, which calls for the expansion of natural gas capacity as a failing of the Air Authority.

“At a time when we must plan to phase out fossil fuels, our top air regulators are instead planning a massive expansion of dirty gas power plants,” Ari Eisenstadt, campaign manager for Regenerate California, said in a statement. The group is a partnership between the California Environmental Justice Alliance and the Sierra Club, which champion clean energy.

The Western States Petroleum Association, meanwhile, said the plan would mean more “bans, mandates and expensive regulations.”

“Forcing people to choose certain jobs, certain cars, certain houses, and certain times to use energy is unrelated to the way ordinary people live,” WSPA President Catherine Reheis-Boyd said in a statement.

Changing the way buildings and transportation are powered is central to the Air Board’s plan. It proposes that the state require all new homes to have electrical appliances by 2026 and new businesses by 2029. For existing households, 80% of appliance sales should be electric by 2030 and 100% by 2035. That would help older households switch to electric-powered appliances when owners need an upgrade.

Transportation, meanwhile, is the state’s largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions. The state is already on track to make all new passenger cars sold emission-free by 2035. The plan also recommends that all truck sales be zero-emissions by 2040, 10% of aircraft fuel needs to be met by hydrogen or batteries by 2045, 100% of trolleys to be zero-emissions by 2035, and 100% of passenger trains sold to be zero-emissions by 2030.

The plan would place significant new demands on the electricity grid and would require the state to rapidly expand solar power and storage options, as well as hydrogen infrastructure, including pipelines.

California’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2045 goes back to an executive order by the government at the time. Jerry Brown signed in 2018. But the Air Board has been required to publish a roadmap for meeting the state’s climate goals every five years since 2008.

The latest version of the plan looked at how California will meet a state law mandating a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 from 1990 levels. Some observers of the process had called for a solid analysis of the state’s progress toward the 2030 goal, including the role that California’s signature cap-and-trade program should play.

However, the more than 200-page document released on Tuesday includes only a small section on the state’s progress toward 2030 and does not spell out directly what level of emissions reductions are expected from the various programs the state has already put in place. It says the role of cap and trade in achieving the state’s goals is likely to diminish. The program requires companies to buy credits that match the amount of CO2 they want to emit, with the goal of reducing overtime as the price of the credits increases.

The Air Board will not assess whether changes are needed to meet the 2030 goal until the scoping plan is finalized, the plan said.

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