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Study: California saves by fighting global warming

Hot on the heels of Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner’s energy-efficiency event yesterday and the running battle between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and would-be governor Meg Whitman over whether to halt California’s work toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a new study suggests California will save money and jobs by fighting climate change.

Using price forecasts from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Annual Energy Outlook, the study estimates that without diversifying California’s energy portfolio toward more renewable fuels and energy efficiency, the state risks losing more than $80 billion in Gross State Product and more than a half million jobs by 2020. But implementing 33 percent renewable energy, combined with 1 percent annual improvement in energy efficiency, shields the economy from higher energy prices and yields a growth dividend, increasing GSP by $20 billion and generating 112,000 jobs, the report says.

Energy Prices & California’s Economic Security” was authored by University of California, Berkeley Adjunct Professor David Roland-Holst for Next 10, an independent, nonpartisan nonprofit aimed at educating and engaging Californians to brighten the state’s future; it’s the same group that runs the online “Budget Challenge” each year.

“There has been considerable public debate over the projected economic impacts of California’s first-in-the-nation climate policies,” Next 10 founder F. Noel Perry said in a news release. “To date, no one has modeled the economic impact of doing nothing to change our energy mix. Today’s report clearly reveals the economic risk inherent in over-reliance on fossil fuels.”

Said Roland-Holst: “The global financial crisis has hit hard in California, where unemployment, mortgage foreclosures and an unprecedented state budget deficit are among the highest in the nation. But the current decline in demand in global energy markets is temporary and risks lulling policymakers and the public into a state of denial about long-term fossil fuel price trends.

“Even using conservative official estimates, we find that California risks far greater economic peril by remaining heavily dependent upon fossil fuels,” he said. “Energy efficiency and renewables offer a valuable hedge against the risks of higher energy prices.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    Duh,uh. We lose jobs by depending on fossil fuels. How about creating more jobs by exploring our seas for MORE fossil fuels? Dare we risk losing abalone and sand dabs?

  • Ralph Hoffmann, Guest Columnist

    Fossil fuels are depleting; not renewable. We lost the sources that created them during the dinosaur age a few years ago. Read the studies. Duh.

  • Tom

    Perry errs when claiming nobody has modeled the “do nothing” approach. Actually there’s been many, several of which indicate that cost is less than the cost of ab32. The more important aspect is what to do with “models”—they should be used to inform, not to command. Models indentify RISKs but ONLY wrt repsect to the magnitude of the event, not its probability. W/O probability, there is NO risk management. Next10 may be non-partisan, but they’re certainly not unbiased. EVERY historical/empirical case has shown the approach being taken in California (see Spain, Denmark and Michigan) will ONLY lead to inefficient, ineffectier government boondoggles,fewer jobs and less economic growth.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    NO source of natural energy will replace fossil fuels in the foreseeable future, so let’s keep exploring. Geothermal energy is still years away as a primary source in most places. We haven’t “lost” oil/gas sources, we haven’t found them all yet.

  • Ralph Hoffmann, Guest Columnist

    Nuclear power for electric generation is replacing natural gas as we write.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    Nuclear power? Californians think Jane Fonda is a scientist. Her greatest contribution– “China Syndrome.”