Recently I testified at the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors public hearing regarding the "Green New Deal".
I pointed out that in here in California, we already have the equivalent of a Green New Deal.
After all, who doubts or questions the fact that California leads the rest of the nation in environmental protection and green regulations?
What other state in the country has a stronger, deeper, or wider commitment to achieving a clean environment?
Supervisor Das Williams came pretty close to endorsing my testimony, calling it constructive. Thank you, Das, I try.
However, I also suggested that as we pursue new green regulations, we must always strive to balance environmental integrity with economic vitality.
I believe, unequivocally, the best way to do this is by unleashing market forces and pursuing carbon pricing...this will continue driving innovation through investments in new, clean energy technologies.
The kind of innovative technologies that will allow us to develop cleaner systems of energy transmission and production...systems that are not only more efficient and abundant, but more affordable too.
One of the ways this is already being done in California is through the State's Cap-and-Trade program. This is a market-driven approach, as opposed to a command and control driven approach to reducing the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that industry, especially the energy industry, is allowed to emit.
Indeed, by capping the permitted amount of GHG, while at the same time creating a market where businesses can purchase offsets, or in the case of businesses that emit a smaller amount, can trade their allowance with businesses that emit more.
Market-driven carbon pricing is a great example of balancing environmental integrity with economic vitality through the power of technology and innovation. And, ultimately, it is how California can continue to forge an economic opportunity society. And isn't that really the point?
This market-oriented, Cap-and-Trade approach to protecting our environment is how we are already achieving a win-win-win in California while abiding by the goals set out in AB-32.
With Cap-and-Trade, our environment wins; industry's win, and, perhaps most importantly, millions of blue-collar working families that industry employs, also win. But it doesn't end there.
Our state and local governments also win as they continue receiving billions of dollars in tax revenues from those industries operating under an incentive-based, market-driven, high-tech regulatory model.
But, and this is key, all of this only happens if industry is allowed to actually do business in California and particularly here in Santa Barbara County. But this isn't always the case.
Getting the permits needed to operate in Santa Barbara County is anything but easy or a certainty. The odds, politically, are low.
Cleaner and more efficient energy technologies are what will ultimately allow California to reduce the amount of carbon we release into our environment.
The great news for Santa Barbara County is there is a golden opportunity to address this global problem of Climate Change with a local solution. It won't ultimately make a difference globally, but it will make a profound difference locally.
We should leverage the economic engine contained in our local energy industry seeking permits to produce. I say go ahead and cap their emissions, and allow them to offset, acquire or trade away their emissions to remain at or below the allowable emission cap.
The County can then use the millions of new tax revenues, estimated at nearly $100 million over the next ten years (assuming all 5 projects are approved), to make the type of clean energy investments that will allow us to complete an energy transition from traditional sources to the cleaner energy sources of the future.
Santa Barbara County has a list of green priorities it supports to help address global climate change. But they currently lack the necessary funding to bring them to fruition. Some of these green priorities include:
Rebates for zero-emission vehicles
Expanded use of zero-emission school or transit buses
Expanding battery-electric and fuel-cell electric vehicle infrastructure
Planting urban forests
Conservation projects on working agricultural land
Retrofitting buildings for renewable energy, and battery storage
Expanding the vessel speed reduction incentive program
Renewable gas trucks
Taken together this list represents a multi-million dollar investment requiring the use of federal, state, and local tax dollars. But those dollars aren't exactly pouring in. So what better place to get all or most of those dollars than from our local energy industry?
For those who would rather cling to environmental purity over environmental pragmatism, they are not only denying our County from achieving its stated environmental goals, they are failing to understand the economic reality.
Transitioning to a new clean energy future will not only take time but will also require a substantial financial investment by the public. Meaning taxpayers.
However, taxpayers, at either the State or County level, shouldn’t be expected to dig even deeper into their mostly empty pockets to finance these investments when there is a willing local industry that is volunteering to do it for us.
Let's call it Santa Barbara County's Green New Deal.