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EPA proposal on coal power plants creates hot air

Opinions and rhetoric were breaking largely among the usual party lines Monday after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced its plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal plants by nearly a third by 2030, compared with 2005 levels.

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

John Boehner“The president’s plan is nuts, there’s really no more succinct way to describe it. Americans are still asking ‘where are the jobs?’ and here he is proposing rules to ship jobs overseas for years to come. Americans are already paying more for everything and here he is condemning them to higher bills and lower incomes long after he leaves office.

“In many ways, this national energy tax is actually worse than the scheme Americans rejected four years ago. While the president may have kept his promise to make prices ‘skyrocket,’ it doesn’t have to be inevitable. The House has already passed legislation to prevent these rules from taking effect without the approval of the people’s representatives. The question now is: will Senate Democrats listen to the American people and stop this disaster or will they back the president all the way?”

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

Nancy Pelosi“Climate change is one of the most pressing dangers facing us today. This accelerating crisis threatens our coasts, our crops and our communities – and its damaging and destabilizing effects are already being felt across our nation and around the world.

“The destructive effect of unrestrained carbon pollution is felt not only in rising temperatures and increased, more powerful natural disasters, but also in higher asthma rates in our children. We already restrict mercury and arsenic pollution – it’s time we did the same for toxic carbon pollution. These new standards will strengthen public health, create new jobs, spur innovation and lower electricity rates.

“Like the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act, these actions by the Administration send a resounding message to the world that the United States is serious about dealing with climate change. The Clean Air Act is an appropriate, bipartisan approach to protect people from pollution, and today’s standards build on a foundation of decades of bipartisan laws, including the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, signed by President Bush.

“We have a moral obligation to act to preserve the beauty of God’s creation for future generations. With these flexible plans to cut carbon pollution, our nation is taking a bold and serious step towards securing a sustainable future for all of us.”

Lots more from familiar California and Bay Area figures, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, June 2nd, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, economy, energy, Environment, George Miller, Global warming, John Boehner, Kevin McCarthy, Mike Honda, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 8 Comments »

Jerry Brown will lead trade mission to Mexico

Gov. Jerry Brown will lead a trade and investment mission to Mexico – California’s largest export market – in the last week of July, he announced Tuesday.

California’s neighbor has a role to play in the Golden State’s push to address its energy and environmental needs, Brown had said in his State of the State address in January.

“Reducing our oil consumption, two-thirds of which is imported by ships and tank cars, will take time, breakthrough technologies and steadfast commitment. It will also require that the countries which burn the most fossil fuel join with us,” he said at the time. “We’ve started building those partnerships with other states and countries like China. We will go to Mexico next. California can’t do this alone.”

A delegation of California government, business, economic development, investment and policy leaders will join Brown on this mission, which is being organized by the California Chamber of Commerce. The focus will be on boosting direct investment in the state, expanding bilateral economic and environmental cooperation, and connecting California businesses with new opportunities and partnerships.

Brown met last month with Mexican consuls general from cities across California.

The governor one year ago led a similar mission to China, during which he met with government leaders including China Premier Li Keqiang, opened the California-China Office of Trade and Investment in Shanghai and signed the first economic and environmental agreements ever between a subnational entity and Chinese Ministries. Brown later last year met with China’s President Xi Jinping in California to sign a climate-change pact; he also has signed pacts in the past year with leaders from Canada, Israel and Peru to combat climate change, strengthen economic ties and cooperate on research.

Posted on Tuesday, April 29th, 2014
Under: economy, energy, Environment, Gov. Jerry Brown, International politics, Jerry Brown | No Comments »

Reich visits Capitol on CEO pay, oil extraction tax

It’s Robert Reich day at California’s State Capitol.

No, there hasn’t been an official proclamation. But the former U.S. Secretary of Labor, now a UC-Berkeley public policy professor, will be under the dome Thursday to speak on behalf of two bills introduced by Bay Area lawmakers.

Reich is doing a news conference with state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley; and California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski in support of DeSaulnier’s SB 1372, which would create a new corporate tax table that increases taxes on businesses with big disparities between the salaries of their workers and their CEOs. The bill is being heard Thursday morning by the State Governance and Finance Committee.

“For example, if the CEO makes 100 times the median worker in the company, the company’s tax rate drops from the current 8.8 percent down to 8 percent. If the CEO makes 25 times the pay of the typical worker, the tax rate goes down to 7 percent,” Reich wrote on his blog Monday. “On the other hand, corporations with big disparities face higher taxes. If the CEO makes 200 times the typical employee, the tax rate goes to 9.5 percent; 400 times, to 13 percent.”

“Pushing companies to put less money into the hands of their CEOs and more into the hands of average employees creates more buying power among people who will buy, and therefore more jobs,” he wrote. “For the last thirty years, almost all the incentives operating on companies have been to lower the pay of their workers while increasing the pay of their CEOs and other top executives. It’s about time some incentives were applied in the other direction.”

And, Reich will testify to the Senate Public Education Committee in favor of SB 1017 by state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, which would create an oil extraction tax to fund higher education, health and human services, state parks and more.

Reich endorsed a similar student-organized ballot measure effort last year, saying that using oil severance tax revenue for education “should be a no-brainer. It will only improve our schools. The real question is why California hasn’t done this long before now.”

The California Chamber of Commerce this month put both bills on its list of “job killers,” arguing they create barriers to economic development.

“The economic recovery is still the number one issue for Californians,” Chamber President and CEO Allan Zaremberg said when announcing the list. “These bills pose a serious threat to our economy and, if enacted, would dampen job growth in the state.”

Of Evans’ bill, Zaremberg said “an oil extraction tax will drive up consumer prices, push jobs away and upset a fragile economy that is showing strong signs of life.”

Posted on Thursday, April 24th, 2014
Under: economy, education, state budget, taxes | 12 Comments »

Brown to meet with Netanyahu in Silicon Valley

Gov. Jerry Brown will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next week in Silicon Valley to sign a trade agreement expanding California’s partnership with Israel on economic development, research and trade.

Brown’s office says the agreement – to be signed Wednesday at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View “will boost economic, cultural and academic cooperation between California and Israel, with an emphasis on water conservation, alternative energy, cybersecurity, health and biotechnology, education and agricultural technology.”

The pact also will let Israeli companies access the state’s Innovation Hubs (iHUB), a network including 16 clusters of research parks, technology incubators, universities and federal laboratories, plus economic development organizations, business groups and venture capital funds.

Brown this past Wednesday met in San Francisco with Portugal’s President Cavaco Silva and with Harold Forsyth, Peru’s ambassador to the United States. In the latter meeting, he signed an agreement with Peru to strengthen cultural, economic and academic ties and tackle shared challenges, including climate change.

Posted on Friday, February 28th, 2014
Under: economy, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown | 1 Comment »

Neel Kashkari: Now isn’t the time to cut taxes

GOP gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari’s top priority isn’t cutting taxes, he told the San Jose State University College Republicans on Thursday night.

They’re too high, he agreed, but he called for first getting the state’s money’s worth from the taxes it does collect to foster new jobs and better education. Once the economy is strong again, he said, it’ll be time to reform the tax code to lower the overall taxation level.

“To be candid with you, I don’t think we start there; I think we start by putting people back to work,” he told about 20 students who’d gathered to hear him speak.

Kashkari & SJSU College Republicans, photo by Josh Richman

Because Kashkari’s speech occurred on our print deadline and due to limited space in the paper, here are a few other tidbits that didn’t make it into today’s story:

He’s “not comfortable with legalizing marijuana. … I’ve never smoked pot in my life,” he said. “But I also don’t think it makes sense to lock people up, to ruin their lives, to waste millions of dollars for a small amount of drugs,” he added, noting there must be a better approach than the “war on drugs” that has disproportionately hurt minorities.

Kashkari again called for opening the Monterey Shale to fracking for shale oil, saying it’ll be a key part of the job boom California desperately needs. The nation’s highest rents aren’t in San Francisco or New York, he noted, but actually in a small North Dakota town at the epicenter of that state’s fracking boom.

A true climate-change response must be national or international in order to have any effect, he said, and a robust state economy will bring more tax revenues that can be spent in part on basic research into clean energy sources and other climate-change solutions.

“I love our natural beauty, we have to protect the environment, but I believe we need to find the right balance,” he said.

Kashkari & Barr, photo by Josh RichmanKashkari got into a back-and-forth with Cheryl Barr, 22, an industrial-design student who disagreed with his environmental positions.

Barr after the meeting said Kashkari generally “seems like a decent guy,” and she likes that he has an engineering background – he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering and worked briefly as an aerospace engineer, before earning his M.B.A. and entering the financial sector. But his campaign mantra of “‘jobs and education’ is kind of vague,” she said, and she believes his support of fracking is misguided.

“There actually is room to create jobs that can help the environment at the same time,” she said.

Posted on Friday, February 21st, 2014
Under: economy, energy, Environment, marijuana, Neel Kashkari, taxes | No Comments »

Three locals to advise Obama on manufacturing

Several Bay Area people will serve on the new steering committee for President Barack Obama’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, the White House announced Thursday.

The president created the partnership in 2011 to bring industry, academia and government together to revitalize the manufacturing sector and boost the nation’s global competitiveness.

Among those on the new committee are University of California, Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks; Ajit Manocha, CEO of Milpitas-based semiconductor manufacturer GLOBALFOUNDRIES; and Mike Splinter, executive board chairman of Santa Clara-based Applied Materials Inc.

The original steering committee issued a report last year, “Capturing Domestic Competitive Advantage in Advanced Manufacturing,” that called for sustaining U.S. investments in science, technology, and innovation; establishing a National Network of Manufacturing Innovation Institutes, a set of public-private partnerships to build shared high-tech facilities and advance U.S. leadership in emerging technologies; upgrading community-college workforce training programs and deploying the talent of returning veterans to meet critical manufacturing skills needs; and improving the business climate for manufacturing investment through tax, regulatory, energy, and trade reform.

The new steering committee will build on that work, functioning as a working group of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and in partnership with the National Economic Council, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the Commerce Department. It’s also going to hold regional working sessions and forums designed to find examples of innovative strategies to build manufacturing competitiveness.

Posted on Thursday, September 26th, 2013
Under: economy, Obama presidency | 4 Comments »

CoCo Supe Gioia named to Air Resources Board

Gov. Jerry Brown today named Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia to the California Air Resources Board.

John GioiaGioia, 55, of Richmond, has been a county supervisor since 1999 and served as the board’s chairman in 2002, 2006 and 2010. Earlier, he was in private law practice from 1986 to 1998, and was a legal researcher for another firm from 1984 to 1986.

He’s also a member of Bay Area Air Quality Management District Board of Directors, and was chairman in 2012. A Democrat, Gioia holds a law degree from the UC-Berkeley School of Law.

Brown also today named attorney and Rolling Hills Estates City Councilwoman Judith Mitchell, 71, to the Air Resources Board.

The 12-member board, appointed by the governor but subject to state Senate confirmation, is part of the California Environmental Protection Agency and has a mission to “promote and protect public health, welfare and ecological resources through the effective and efficient reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering the effects on the economy of the state.” The job carries no compensation.

UPDATE @ 4:06 P.M.: Gioia issued a statement saying he’s “greatly honored by being appointed to take on this new, important responsibility. I have deep respect for Governor Brown’s history of innovative and bold leadership on the environment, including on air quality issues.” He praised CARB Chairwoman Mary Nichols as “an amazing lifelong environmentalist who was just named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world,” and said he looks forward to working with her and other board members “in tackling critical upcoming issues, including investing the state’s cap-and-trade revenues, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, advancing clean energy, and improving community health.”

Posted on Tuesday, May 7th, 2013
Under: Contra Costa Board of Supervisors, economy, Environment, Jerry Brown | No Comments »

Mark DeSaulnier named ‘Regionalist of the Year’

The Bay Area Council, a public policy group consisting of the region’s 275 largest employers, has named state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier as its inaugural “Regionalist of the Year.”

Mark DeSaulnierThe council called DeSaulnier, D-Concord, a champion of regional cooperation and solutions on issues of transportation, healthcare, economic, housing, land-use planning and environmental protection, among others.

“Sen. DeSaulnier throughout his career of service at the city, county and state levels has exhibited his commitment to the Bay Area as a region and his commitment to serve the needs of the Bay Area and all the people of this region not just those who voted for him,” council president and CEO Jim Wunderman said in a news release. “Mark understands that cities and counties and districts cannot succeed unless the region as a whole is working together to accomplish common and mutually beneficial goals. Sometimes regionalism does not play well at home, but Mark has always exhibited the political courage to do what is right for our region.”

As a Contra Costa County supervisor, DeSaulnier served on the boards of all three of the Bay Area’s regional agencies: the Association of Bay Area Governments, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. He also served on the California Air Resources Board, and the council says he was “an early and ardent proponent of taking an integrated, regional approach to housing, land use and transportation planning – long before the approach was officially codified through the current Sustainable Communities Strategy.”

DeSaulnier played a key role in creating the Joint Policy Committee, a leadership group of the Bay Area’s main regional agencies aimed at improving their efficiency and integration. And he has championed several critical regional transportation projects, including the expansion of Highway 4, BART to eastern Contra Costa County, and the Caldecott Tunnel’s fourth bore.

Posted on Monday, April 29th, 2013
Under: California State Senate, economy, Environment, housing, Mark DeSaulnier, Transportation | 4 Comments »

Study: California can kiss its vineyards goodbye

Awful as some of the climate-change predictions are, this one might hit a lot of Northern California residents where it hurts (assuming their homes aren’t gobbled up by the sea first): Global warming will dramatically impact many of the world’s most famous wine-producing regions, according to a new study.

The first-ever worldwide analysis of climate change’s impact on wine production and conservation, appearing today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests wine production will shift to new areas as climate change makes the existing ones less hospitable.

Researchers found the area suitable for wine production will shrink by as much as 73 percent by 2050 in certain parts of the globe – about 70 percent in Californa – with high potential for stress on rivers and other freshwater ecosystems as vineyards use water to cool grapes or irrigate to compensate for rising temperatures and declining rainfall.

“Climate change is going to move potential wine-producing regions all over the map,” Lee Hannah, the study’s lead author and senior scientist for climate change biology at Conservation International’s new Betty and Gordon Moore Center for Ecosystem Science and Economics, said in a news release.

“These global changes put the squeeze on wildlife and nature’s capacity to sustain human life in some surprising places,” Hannah said. “Consumer awareness, industry and conservation actions are all needed to help keep high quality wine flowing without unintended consequences for nature and the flows of goods and services it provides people. This is just the tip of the iceberg – the same will be true for many other crops.”

The researchers looked at nine major wine producing areas: California, Western North America, Chile, Mediterranean Europe, Northern Europe, Cape Floristic region of South Africa, parts of Australia with Mediterranean climate, parts of Australia with non-Mediterranean climate and New Zealand.

“Chile and California are areas with traditions of irrigation and high Freshwater Impact Index values, indicating that their freshwater habitats may be most at risk as a result of climate change impacts on vineyard water use,” the study found. “Adaptation strategies involving viticulture, vinification, marketing, land use planning, and water management can all help avoid conflicts with conservation objectives in areas of declining as well as expanding suitability.”

Another key finding from the study is that new areas will become more productive, including parts of Western North America and Northern Europe. These places at higher latitudes and higher elevations will become increasingly suitable for wine making and sought after by vineyards as they search for the climatic conditions that are ideal for wine grape growing.

According to the study, the greatest area of increasing wine production suitability is in the Rocky Mountains near the Canadian-U.S. border, putting at risk species such as the grizzly bear, gray wolf and pronghorn.

“Climate change will set up competition for land between agricultural and wildlife – wine grapes are but one example,” said Rebecca Shaw, the study’s co-author and associate vice president for the Environmental Defense Fund’s Land, Water and Wildlife program. “This could have disastrous results for wildlife. Fortunately, there are pro-active solutions. We are creating incentive-based programs with private landowners to provide wildlife habitat as we expand our capacity to feed a growing planet in the future under a changing climate.”

Posted on Monday, April 8th, 2013
Under: economy, Global warming, water | 10 Comments »

Brown names Bay Area people to workforce board

Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday appointed 14 people to the , including four from the Bay Area, to help him set policies to develop the state’s workforce.

The California Workforce Investment Board helps the governor perform the duties and responsibilities required by the federal Workforce Investment Act of 1998. All of its members are appointed by the governor from the business, labor, public education, higher education, economic development, youth activity, employment and training sectors, as well as the Legislature.

Josh Becker, 43, of Menlo Park, is a founding general partner at New Cycle Capital and has been CEO at Lex Machina since 2011. He was founder and CEO at L7L MP Corporation from 2005 to 2007 and director of corporate development at Agile Software from 2001 to 2005. Becker was a founding team member at Redpoint Ventures from 1999 to 2001 and an associate at Brentwood Venture Capital in 1999. He holds a law degree and an MBA from Stanford University, and is a Democrat.

Karl Mehta, 42, of Fremont, has been a venture partner at Menlo Ventures since 2013 and was founder and CEO at Playspan from 2007 to 2012. He has been an advisory board member at the Ralph W. Leatherby Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Ethics at Chapman University, and Simpa Networks board of directors member since 2012. Mehta has been a White House Presidential Innovation Fellow for the 20 Percent Initiative since 2012 and has been an Intel Capital advisory board member since 2011. Mehta is a Democrat.

Floyd Trammell, 42, of Oakland, has been executive director of the West Bay Local Development Corporation since 2003 and senior pastor at the First Friendship Institutional Baptist Church since 2002. He was a business instructor at the City College of San Francisco from 2001 to 2005 and operations manager at the Third Baptist Church of San Francisco from 1996 to 2002. Trammell has been an Ella Hill Hutch Community Center board member since 2009 and was president of the Fillmore Community Jazz District from 2010 to 2012. He’s a Democrat.

Carol Zabin, 57, of Berkeley, is research director at the University of California, Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, where she has served in various positions since 1998, including chair. She was visiting professor at UCLA from 1994 to 1998 and assistant professor of economics at Tulane University from 1992 to 1994. She earned a doctorate in economics from Cal. Zabin is a Democrat.

These appointments don’t require Senate confirmation, and the compensation is $100 per diem.

Posted on Friday, March 29th, 2013
Under: economy, education, Jerry Brown | 1 Comment »