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Arnie pushed for stronger emissions control

Judgment day: Former Californian governor Arnold Schwarzenegger introduced a target of an 80 per cent reduction in emissions for the state by 2025.

Industry closure means Aus could follow California’s emission reduction campaign

19 Mar 2015

PAST success in improving air quality in Los Angeles and bi-partisan support today for a reduction in greenhouse emissions has seen California achieve some remarkable improvements in minimising carbon pollution, a Melbourne conference has heard.

And the strong regulations used to achieve the reductions have not hurt California’s economic growth, Californian activist John Boesel told the Cars of Tomorrow conference in Melbourne last week.

Mr Boesel said California had backed up the nation’s strongest vehicle emissions standards with a range of other policies, including a carbon tax paid by the top 440 emitters in the state.

“From January 1 this year, this cap and trade program was expanded when the oil refiners not only had to pay for allowances to cover the emissions from their own operations,” he said.

“Now they also have to pay for the greenhouse gases (GHG) from the fuel that passes through the refinery. That added an extra $US1 billion ($A1.31 billion) a year in funding for the cap and trade program,” said Mr Boesel, who is chief executive of Calstart.

Calstart is a member-funded agency that promotes clean, efficient transport solutions while also promoting economic development. Calstart members include 150 companies, fleets and agencies.

Mr Boesel said the $US1 billion extra from the refiners would lift the revenue from the cap and trade scheme to $US2.3 billion in the next California state budget, all of which will be invested in low-carbon transportation programs.

He said California legislators, including the former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, drew the confidence to legislate on GHG emissions from California’s success in tackling air quality from the 1960s.

Since the coining of the term smog (to describe a combination of smoke and fog) by two California professors in the 1950s, air quality programs in the state have reduced ozone levels by 80 per cent, while concentrations of particulate matter and black (solid) carbon in the air have reduced by a similar proportion.

“Meanwhile, gross State product has been increasing. So this is not an air quality versus economy trade-off. You can have both and that is what we have been successful in growing.

“It is that success in tackling air quality issues that gave the state the confidence to tackle GHG emissions and global warming.”

In 2006, governor Schwarzenegger, who was in power from 2003 to 2011, signed into law legislation that set a target of a 15 per cent reduction in GHG emissions from 1990 levels by 2020.

“You may remember governor Schwarzenegger, the Governator. He was a Republican, but he realised climate change was a serious problem and needed to be dealt with.

“So he signed that legislation and then, he on his own, issued an executive order to set a target of an 80 per cent reduction by 2025,” Mr Boesel said.

“This was a very important development for a Republican to come in and say this is what we need to do.”

Mr Boesel said president Barack Obama, a Democrat, also played a significant role in setting the targets by tightening the fuel consumption standards under the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations.

“For a while California had its own vehicle emission standards but then, under president Obama, a new deal was created to extend the standards out to 2025.

“Basically it is calling for a doubling of fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles, and California agreed to harmonise with the federal standard.”

That standard requires cars and light trucks to average 54.5 miles per US gallon by 2025.

Mr Boesel said there had been an element of luck in getting the tighter new standards through.

“These standards were established at a time when the auto companies – GM and Chrysler – were being bailed out. It is possible to say that their political clout was a bit weak at that time,” Mr Boesel said.

He pointed out that Australia would be in a good position to tighten its fuel consumption and/or emissions standards after the three local car-makers close their factories by the end of 2017.

“It’s just something to think about if Australia does not have vehicle manufacturers. It makes it easier to move ahead with new standards.”

Other measures adopted in California include a target to have 15 per cent of all new vehicles sold in 2025 to be zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs).

“We are at about two per cent of sales today, so to get to 15 per cent by 2025 is going to be a challenge.”

However, sales of plug-in hybrids plus battery electric vehicles (BEVs) were already exceeding regular hybrid vehicles.

Sales were encouraged by a system of rebates from the government. ZEVs qualify for a rebate of $US2500, while plug-in hybrids qualify for a rebate of $US1500.

Electric trucks receive a rebate of between $US40,000 and $US60,000.

Mr Boesel said that Tesla, which has already made a big impression with its electric vehicles, posed a threat to other car-makers with its plan to build a giant lithium-ion battery plant in Nevada.

“Tesla itself is great, but what it is causing other car companies to do is even greater.

“When Tesla reaches in and decides they want to own a huge part of the supply chain, the batteries, that is scary to the other car companies. They don’t own batteries. They own engines.

“This is really a competitive threat that Tesla is posing to the rest of the industry and it is encouraging innovation and more investment. It’s really a big thing.”

Mr Boesel said the plan by both General Motors and Tesla to introduce BEVs was “really exciting”.

“GM and Tesla have announced plans to produce cars for $30,000 more or less with a 200 miles range in the 2017 time-frame.

“That compares with the Nissan Leaf, which gets about 70 miles on a charge today and cost more than that when I got it.

“I would suggest that GM would not be offering a 200m range at that price in 2017 were it not for Tesla.”

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