California's Green Reality Check
A new Energy Department study shows the state's carbon emissions goals are unattainable.
WSJ Editorial, Nov. 11, 2013
Governor Jerry Brown ought to be canonized as the patron saint of hopeless environmental causes. Consider a new U.S. Department of Energy study that finds that California will fall far short of its 2050 emissions goal even under the most ambitious (i.e., unrealistic) policies.
The California Air Resources Board asked the Energy Department's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to analyze how various environmental policies help achieve the state's goal of reducing statewide emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. The lab's conclusion: Dream on.
Assuming California's implausible and economically damaging policies were implemented in totality—cap and trade, low carbon fuel and renewable electricity standards, zero-emissions-vehicle mandate, and more—emissions in 2050 would be virtually unchanged from today. Even if the state were to adopt more aggressive measures, emissions would exceed the state's target by 100%.
For example, the state could obtain 50% of its electricity from wind, solar, geothermal and biomass; grow its fleet of zero-emission vehicles to 17 million from 50,000 today; increase fuel efficiency to 78 miles per gallon, and expand rooftop solar generation by 800%. It would still miss its target by a green mile.
According to the study's lead researcher, Jeffery Greenblatt, California would in effect have to squeeze 90% of emissions out of every corner of its economy to meet its goal. That can't be done purely with more renewable energy, electric cars or high-speed rail. Demand for energy must also significantly be reduced. But demand is primarily driven by population and economic growth, which Sacramento can't control, try as the politicians might to reduce both.
Meantime, California is spending billions every year on electric car and rooftop solar subsidies, energy efficiency upgrades and alternative fuel development to achieve its pie-in-the-sky emissions goal. And don't forget the Governor's $100 billion bullet train, which during its first few decades will increase emissions. All of which underscores how modern environmental policies are less about solving problems than they are about indulging faith-based dreams.