California Governor Jerry Brown has fought long and hard to give his state lasting “green” status. In early 2015, Brown implemented plans to generate half the state’s electricity from renewable sources, and reduce petroleum dependency of modern-day cars and trucks. He’s also hinted at expanding rooftop solar projects, micro-grids and safer battery storage.
“While we have not reached the Promised Land, we have much to be proud of,” he explained in a recent speech. “Taking significant amounts of carbon out of our economy without harming its vibrancy is exactly the sort of challenge at which California excels. This is exciting, it is bold, and it is absolutely necessary if we are to have any chance of stopping potentially catastrophic changes to our climate system.”
Now in his fourth term, Governor Brown is seeking to expand his environmental legacy by administering some of the strictest climate control regulations the state has ever seen, forcing oil companies to meet higher emissions standards. Those who can’t commit must literally pay the price. Through what’s known as a “cap-and-trade” program, oil and gas companies that cannot meet newly set emissions standards will be required to purchase permits to stay in business.
“California feeds on change and great undertakings, but the path of wisdom counsels us to ground ourselves and nurture carefully all that we have started,” the Governor said. “We must build on rock, not sand, so that when the storms come, our house stands.”
The plan has garnered negative reactions from some energy businesses. They question its constitutionality, and democratic legislators have also been slow to accept Brown’s proposals. A lawsuit has since emerged that claims the purported permit fees are nothing more than wrongful, illegal taxes.
“It’s going to have a tough time,” says Assemblyman Jim Cooper of Elk Grove, California. One of the biggest problems, he says, is that funds collected from the program won’t be evenly distributed throughout the state. “We all want clean air… I’m not sure if cap-and-trade is the best system to get us there.”
Environmental groups are also wary, saying that the project doesn’t offer enough stability for pollution credits. A May auction that saw only one-tenth of available credits purchased by energy companies left the state billions of dollars short, and lagging revenue is only likely to slow things down even further.
Despite some heavy criticism, the program has been the object of intense speculation, and has garnered a healthy audience of supporters over the last four years. The plan is slated to last through 2020, while the California Air Resources Board is seeking a ten-year expansion. A vote is expected sometime in 2017.
“The real source of climate action has to come from states and provinces,” the Governor says. “This is a call to arms.”
A former theology student, Brown has proven quite passionate when it comes to climate change. He attended the renowned Paris talks last December, and has consulted with Mexico, Canada and China to address related problems. He also delivered a historic speech on the subject during last year’s visit to the Vatican, stating that the world had gone “over the edge” regarding global warming.