California Forum

Costs of climate-change regulations should be focus of concern

Dorothy Rothrock
Dorothy Rothrock

Sound science and rational economics should guide our environmental policies, so it is disappointing that the Union of Concerned Scientists supports a flawed approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, putting California’s jobs at risk.

In the op-ed “Don’t be fooled by Big Oil’s kinder, gentler rhetoric” (Viewpoints, Feb. 21), the Union of Concerned Scientists wrote in support of the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard. But low carbon biofuels required for compliance are in short supply. Gasoline refiners will either incur tremendous costs or shift sales to more lenient markets outside California, reducing local supplies and hitting consumers in the wallet.

The Low Carbon Fuel Standard program compliance costs are already nearly 10 times more than cap and trade for the same amount of greenhouse gas emission reductions, and we are only one-fifth of the way toward the 2020 goal.

California has a well-deserved reputation for environmental leadership with our groundbreaking climate-change laws. Our collective policies must be cost-effective and technologically feasible to ensure that California’s climate-change program is economically sustainable and repeatable.

For this reason, we recommend reliance on the state’s cap-and-trade program to achieve emission-reduction goals rather than heavy-handed mandates like the Low Carbon Fuel Standard. Cap and trade ensures that refiners and others have the ability to fund the most cost-effective projects to reduce emissions, at their own facilities or elsewhere in the state.

Emissions from petroleum-fueled vehicles are already covered by cap and trade. There is no need for the Low Carbon Fuel Standard to meet AB 32 goals. The standard effectively makes Californians pay twice for the same emissions reductions.

California manufacturers, who have embraced many energy-efficiency measures, recognize that transforming our economy to rely on alternative and renewable energy sources will not be easy or cheap, but there is a limit to costs that can be imposed. Industrial electricity rates are up to 70 percent higher than the national average.

There is reason to be concerned. We are getting outpaced in manufacturing job growth and attracting less than 2 percent of U.S. manufacturing investments. Our economy is improving, but it is not happening fast enough for more than a million unemployed Californians.

Aligning our energy policies to meet our environmental and economic goals will make our transition to clean energy truly pay off for California. Interest groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists should engage in robust evaluation of the costs and benefits of various regulations and support policies that keep our economy moving.

Dorothy Rothrock is president of the California Manufacturers & Technology Association.