Schwarzenegger’s Renewable Energy Vision

From the sweeping wind turbines at Altamont Pass to the thousands of solar-electric systems installed on homes and businesses, California has been a hotbed for renewable energy. If Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger holds true to his campaign promises, California’s dedication to a diverse, clean energy supply from renewable energy sources will only continue.

Sacramento, California – October 10, 2003 [] In statements Schwarzenegger has made both in public and on his Web site, the new governor consistently mentions renewable energy, and alternative fuels. The transition towards a hydrogen economy is clearly one of Schwarzenegger’s goals. At a recent press conference, the governor-elect responded to a reporter’s question regarding the America’s dependence on oil from the Middle East. “It doesn’t matter where the oil comes from,” Schwarzenegger said. “The bottom line is that we need alternative fuel, hydrogen fuel. We need to clean our air, we have to clean our pollution. I campaigned on that issue. I said that everybody wants to enjoy clean air and clean water. And so I think we can fight for that. I don’t believe in what people say that you can only fight for the environment or for jobs. I think we can fight for both. I think that we can create jobs, more jobs, and at the same time and provide a clean environment.” Schwarzenegger’s envisioned mix of alternative fuels and hydrogen has yet to be determined. So too the source for the hydrogen, which many say has simply become a “greenwash” buzzword of empty sustainable energy promises. While most experts agree that “cracking” hydrogen from natural gas is the most economical method, many question whether it is really a model of sustainability, since it relies on an already overburdened, expensive fossil fuel. Many professionals in other renewable energy industries (solar, wind, biofuels, geothermal, etc.) would rather see their technologies used to directly offset fossil fuel power generation. From mandating that half of all new homes include solar PV systems, to a goal of setting the state on course to derive 33 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2020, Schwarzenegger might just give the renewable energy industries the support they need to get out from the shadow of fossil fuels — if he holds true to his ambitious promises. The following are excerpts from Schwarzenegger’s Web site, which sheds more light on how the new California Governor plans to incorporate renewable energy into the state’s energy mix. These excerpts are limited to issues that would either directly or indirectly involve renewable energy: Does Schwarzenegger support ending air-pollution exemptions for agriculture, as outlined in California Senate Bill (SB) 700, which passed the Legislature this year? “Everyone must do their fair share to reduce air pollution, but farmers have been unfairly caught in the middle of competing bureaucratic demands,” said Schwarzenegger. “For example, dairy farmers have tried to build methane digesters on their farms to convert manure and organic waste to natural gas, thus reducing both air and water pollution and simultaneously creating renewable energy that our state urgently needs. These projects are tied up by competing permit processes and fought by special interests, who don’t want farmers competing in the energy business. As Governor, I will bring farmers together with state agencies, community groups, energy providers, and other stakeholders to facilitate these types of innovative solutions to complex problems.” How does Schwarzenegger plan to protect California’s environment? “California’s economic future depends significantly on the quality of our environment,” said Schwarzenegger. “We face serious environmental challenges, which have a profound impact on public health and the economy.” Schwarzenegger added, “‘Jobs versus the environment’ is a false choice. Overwhelming evidence demonstrates that clean air and water result in a more productive workforce, and a healthier economy, which will contribute to a balanced state budget. Therefore, my administration will protect and restore California’s air, water and landscapes with several new initiatives, including cutting air pollution statewide by up to 50 percent, significantly reducing California’s dependence upon foreign oil, protecting California’s rivers, bays and coastline by opposing oil drilling, and solving the energy crisis.” Schwarzenegger (who drives a GM Hummer) said, “California law will require cars, trucks and SUVs sold in the state in the future to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, a gas linked to global warming. The auto industry and Bush administration says this issue should be left to the federal government. Who is right? California has always led the nation in clean air programs, and federal law gives us the right to adopt standards more stringent than those in other states. Over 30 percent of carbon dioxide emissions come from automobiles and as temperatures rise, our air quality worsens. California’s landmark legislation to cut greenhouse gases is now law, and I will work to implement it and to win the expected challenges in court along the way. As governor, I will work with other states and nations to move beyond existing technology towards rapid commercialization of the cleanest fuel supplies and vehicles possible. I will also get the dirtiest vehicles off the road so that California can obtain the maximum reduction of pollution and carbon dioxide for the lowest cost to the state.” Part of Schwarzenegger’s “Action Plan for California’s Environment” includes cutting Air Pollution Statewide by up to 50 percent and restoring independence from foreign oil. “Breathing clean and healthy air is a right of all Californians, especially our children, whose health suffers disproportionately when our air is polluted,” states Schwarzenegger. “The future health of California’s environment and economy depend on our taking action now.” Schwarzenegger said: “I will invest in Hydrogen Highways. Several leading auto manufacturers have stated that they can have tens of thousands of competitively priced hydrogen fuel cell cars on the road by the end of this decade if the fueling infrastructure were is available. I will create a public-private partnership to ensure that before 2010, California has a network of stations in place to allow motorists a real choice of cleaner fuels to put in their tank. These ‘Hydrogen Highways’ will ensure the availability of hydrogen fueling stations every 20 miles on California’s major interstate highways. I will challenge businesses to match the government’s investment in these new fueling stations. “(I will) fight for federal dollars for hydrogen fuel development. The federal government plans to spend more than one billion dollars over the next five years to support hydrogen fuel development. I will fight to make sure that a substantial portion of this money is invested in California, and I will seek the maximum benefit from any federal tax incentives. “(I will) expedite clean fuel transportation; expedite private efforts to build and mass market competitively priced cleaner fuel cars, buses, trucks and generators in California before 2010. I will direct all appropriate state agencies to accelerate use of the cleanest vehicles commercially available to meet the state’s transportation needs. I will also encourage municipal, county and federal government agencies in California to do the same. I will direct the California Energy Commission and California Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that California’s fuel marketplace offers producers and consumers a real choice of fuels that are more plentiful, cost-effective and at the same time reduce harmful pollutants and greenhouse gasses. Fuel choices should include compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG), ethanol, hydrogen, electric, low-sulfur and non-petroleum diesel blends. Regarding the solution to California’s electrical energy crisis Schwarzenegger said: “An unreliable energy system discourages businesses from locating or even remaining in California, resulting in lost jobs and state revenues, I will take action to prevent brownouts or blackouts, such as those experienced during the Davis Administration in California and this year on the East Coast. Almost one third of California’s entire in-state generation base is over 40 years old. I will immediately lay the groundwork to expand the state’s power supplies, with special emphasis on clean, renewable sources, through the following steps: “Promote Solar and Renewables. Increase California’s use of solar power in cooperation with developers, the Building Industry Association, labor, community organizations, and bi-partisan state legislators to provide incentives for new homes built in California to include solar photovoltaics (PV). The goal of this program would be that, starting in 2005, 50 percent of new homes would include solar PV. As Governor I will also support the extension of tax credits for businesses and commercial establishments, which install on-grid solar photovoltaic and other renewable generation systems. “Save Energy Through Green Buildings. A host of case studies demonstrate that retrofitting commercial buildings with energy-saving lighting and other technologies is repaid in five years or less based on electricity savings. Incentives will be established, including a Green Building Bank, using private financing and targeted public loan guarantees, to swiftly retrofit as many buildings as possible, reducing the need for new power plants, saving money for businesses and taxpayers alike, and preserving air quality. The Green Building Bank will also help finance the addition of solar PV on large flat rooftops, repaid over time by the value of the new energy generated. “Increase Renewable Energy. As Governor, I will fully endorse California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which requires that 20 percent of the state’s total power supplies be generated from renewable sources by 2017. My Administration will also direct the California Energy Commission to define incentives and implement strategies that will target achievement of the 20 percent standard a full seven years early — by 2010 — and set the state on course to derive 33 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2020.”
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