When the Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger worked together to pass Assembly Bill 32, skeptics said we set naive and unrealistic targets and that the California Air Resources Board could not be trusted with its implementation. Yet here we are, well on our way to meeting our carbon reduction targets, with an economy that is stronger than ever.
Many of the same voices are now casting doubts about Senate Bill 350. Unsurprisingly, the loudest are led by the billion-dollar oil industry. Looking to the future, we know an economy built on fossil fuels is not sustainable. We have to aim high to change the way we do business, or else we lose ground in building the new economy.
Understandably, there are questions of how we will get there, including from The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board (“A few questions about big climate change measure,” Editorials, April 10), which asked about our goal of reducing petroleum use by 50 percent in the next 15 years.
We will do so with cleaner fuels, more efficient cars and trucks, and reductions in traffic. Encouraging production of cleaner, low-carbon fuels such as reformulated gasoline and biofuels will reduce the proportion of fuels that consist of petroleum.
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There will be more fuel-efficient cars on the road because of legislative efforts such as SB 1275, the Charge Ahead initiative. New cars sold today are 90 percent cleaner and more efficient than cars sold in the 1990s. Utilities, car companies and others are also close to replacing gas- and diesel-powered fleets with electric vehicles. This will make a huge dent in petroleum use statewide.
Lastly, California law requires regional housing and transportation agencies to achieve regional carbon reductions. New investments will put people closer to public transit, pedestrian and bike paths and other non-vehicle options to get to work, shopping and school. Fewer cars on the road means reduced gasoline consumption and less pollution.
All of these steps, along with continued innovation from automakers, will get us to 50 percent reduction in petroleum use. The costs to consumers will be negligible, and they will be liberated from the grip of volatile crude oil prices.
California is what the future of America looks like, and achieving significant reduction in petroleum use will be one of the greatest examples we set for the world. We are a global leader because we face challenges head-on. We cannot afford to stop now.
Kevin de Léon, D-Los Angeles, is Senate president pro tem and represents the 24th Senate District.