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Linking clean-energy laws to economic opportunity

A Bay Area nonprofit has launched a new campaign highlighting how California’s climate-change and clean-energy laws not only protect the environment and public health, but also bring jobs and consumer savings to communities of color and low-income neighborhoods across the state.

UpLiftCAThe Greenlining Institute – a Berkeley based group founded to fight redlining, the practice of denying economic opportunities to people of color – on Monday launched UpLiftCA.org, a site offering stories of real Californians already benefitting from the state’s burgeoning clean-energy economy. More stories will be added in coming months, and a Spanish-language version will be launched in January.

The campaign is being launched even as foes of California’s landmark climate law try to roll back a provision making gasoline subject to carbon-emission penalties starting in 2015, which will causes gas prices to rise somewhat.

“The oil industry and its front groups have shamelessly tried to mislead communities of color about California’s laws to fight global warming, masquerading as consumer advocates when all they want is to protect their own profits,” Greenlining Institute Executive Director Orson Aguilar said in a news release. “We’re going to make sure our communities hear the truth.”

State law requires that a quarter of the money raised by carbon permit sales under California’s cap-and-trade program must go to projects that benefit highly polluted and economically struggling communities. That’s about $272 million in this fiscal year for clean energy, energy efficiency, clean transportation, urban forestry and affordable housing near public transit.

The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery last month announced a series of grants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from solid waste disposal – projects that will bring new jobs and cleaner air to places like Perris, Oakland, Tulare and Fresno.

Leonard Robinson, who chairs the California Black Chamber of Commerce’s Energy and Environment Committee and is a former California Environmental Protection Agency Department of Toxic Substances official under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said California is thinking forward.

“Part of the fees that companies are charged for putting greenhouse gases into the air are being invested in California’s most vulnerable and underserved communities to improve health and create local jobs,” he said. “These jobs are real – California added over 3,500 solar power jobs last year alone.”

Greenlining’s website includes simple explanations of how the laws work, and practical information for people and businesses on energy efficiency, low-cost solar power, rebates for plug-in electric cars, and more.

“For too many decades, low income neighborhoods and communities of color were used as toxic dumping grounds,” said Vien Truong, Greenlining’s environmental equity director. “This is a huge chance to right a historical wrong and bring real benefits to our communities, and community advocates are working closely with the state to make sure these benefits are real and get to where they need to go.”

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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.

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Ricky Gill launches first general-election TV ad

Ricky Gill, the Lodi Republican challenging Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, in the newly drawn 9th Congressional District, has launched his first television ad of the general-election season:

Gill campaign spokesman Colin Hunter said Monday that the ad is running on network TV in the Sacramento market and cable systems in the Delta; he declined to say how much was spent on the ad buy.

“The stars of this ad are the local citizens who came out to stand up for their community,” Gill said in a news release. “Our campaign isn’t about party or ideology – it’s about uniting and empowering the community we proudly call home.”

Gill’s campaign said the ad draws upon a 2011 book in which McNerney argued that “morality” and “patriotism” require imposing immediate, across-the-board energy taxes. The campaign says the Congressional Budget Office has concluded those taxes “would impose the largest loss in purchasing power on households near the middle of the income distribution.”

“Jerry McNerney’s interjection of terms like ‘morality’ and ‘patriotism’ to push for higher energy taxes on middle-class families underscores how ideological he really is,” d Gill consultant James Fisfis said in the news release. “McNerney isn’t just pushing a higher gas tax – he literally wrote the book on it.”

Asked to respond to the ad, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokeswoman Amber Moon on Monday cited an Associated Press story from April which reported that Gill’s father gave $2,000 to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s campaign during the 2003 gubernatorial recall election – one year before Gov. Schwarzenegger appointed Gill to the state Board of Education. The elder Gill also gave $5,000 to Schwarzenegger’s 2006 re-election campaign, the article reported.

“Wherever Ricky Gill goes, his parents’ money follows,” Moon said Monday. “Gill’s father gave campaign donations to Governor Schwarzenegger and Ricky Gill was appointed as the student representative on the State Board of Education. Ricky Gill continues to inflate his resume to cover up the fact that he has never even held a full-time job.”

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Congressman flies GOP flag on energy in Bay Area

One day after President Obama was touting his energy record at Silicon Valley campaign stops – stronger fuel economy standards, increased clean energy production, foreign-oil imports at a 15-year low – a Central Valley congressman was in the Bay Area to say there’s a better approach.

Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, is a regional captain of the House Energy Action Team (HEAT), a Republican policy effort that mounted a “2012 American Energy and Jobs Tour” today. The theme is the GOP’s work “to reverse Administration policies that are causing unnecessary pain at the pump, on Valley farms and in grocery stores as well as costing our nation jobs,” his office said.

He toured the Valero refinery in Benicia and had an energy roundtable discussion with refining business representatives and community business leaders; later, he made a brief stop at an Oakland truck stop.

On his web page, Denham says that even as the nation explores “newer, cleaner energy sources, we must continue to utilize the rich resources within our own borders and on the Outer Continental Shelf, such as oil, coal, liquid, natural gas, and oil shale. One of the most promising outlets for new energy sources is nuclear energy, one of the cleanest forms of energy on the planet.”

For his full remarks as prepared for the Benicia event, read after the jump…
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Bipartisan effort paves way for Tracy solar project

Two Central Valley congressmen from opposite sides of the aisle agreed on something and got it done.

Stop the presses!

Both Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, and Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, issued statements today praising a bill that President Obama signed into law Tuesday to grease the wheels for a solar-energy project in Tracy.

Jerry McNerneyTracy wanted to buy 200 acres of government land on Schulte Road as the site of a solar electricity-generation project, but Congress had conveyed the land to the city with the condition that most of it be used for recreational or educational purposes – a provision that held up the solar project for years. McNerney’s bill waived any remaining restrictions on the land’s use once it’s bought by the city.

“The City of Tracy will now be able to build a solar energy project that will create nearly 200 local jobs,” McNerney said today. “I welcomed this opportunity to reach across the aisle to pass this commonsense bill, especially in the current climate in Washington. I have been fighting for the City of Tracy on this issue from the beginning, and I am proud that we were able to come together to pass this bill.”

Jeff DenhamDenham noted the bill, which he cosponsored, passed unanimously through the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and, Emergency Management, which he chairs.

“Investing in this type of job creation project is key to the Valley’s economic recovery. It’s not a Republican issue, it’s not a Democrat issue – it’s an American jobs issue,” Denham said. “Today’s accomplishment is the result of a collaborative effort by a bipartisan group of members who worked hard to see this bill become law. I’m proud to have worked with my colleagues in the House and Senate from both sides of the aisle to put people back to work. I’ll keep fighting for jobs in the Valley as the solar project continues to advance.”

In fact, it was actually the Senate version of the bill – introduced by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and cosponsored by Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. – which made it to the president’s desk. Boxer last week said she’s pleased that Tracy officials “will now be able to move forward with their plan to develop land that has been vacant and unused. This is a wonderful economic opportunity that will bring needed jobs to the area.”

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Biden: DOE money seeded Bay Area investments

Five institutions that got Energy Department seed money in 2009-2010 – including two in the Bay Area – since have attracted more than $100 million in outside private capital investment, Vice President Joe Biden said today.

The money came from the Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).

“America is at its best when we innovate – and ARPA-E supports the very best of American innovation,” said Biden, who spoke today at the National Clean Energy Summit 4.0 in Las Vegas.

“These five companies are swinging for the fences, pioneering new technologies that could help answer the energy challenge and create jobs,” he said. “They illustrate how a small but strategic investment by the federal government can pay big dividends down the road and bring into the market groundbreaking new technologies.”

Primus Power of Hayward received $2 million in ARPA-E seed funding in July 2010, and in May 2011 raised $11M in a round of financing. DBL Investors and I2BF Global Ventures joined existing investors Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. It’s developing a “flow battery” using high energy fluids pumped throughout the unit, capable of storing renewable energy such as wind and solar power and then releasing that energy into the grid during peak load times.

Stanford University received $1.5 million in ARPA-E seed funding million and since has secured $25 million in private investments to support Professor Fritz Prinz’s work on commercializing a new type of energy storage device that will perform many of the same jobs as a normal battery, but deliver greater energy and power and withstand thousands of charges without showing a significant drop in performance.

ARPA-E will be making its next round of awards in September, including some to projects to keep America’s manufacturers competitive by reducing the need for expensive “rare earth” materials from China. Rare earths are naturally-occurring minerals with unique magnetic properties, used for modern necessities such as laptops and lasers as well as in clean-energy technologies such as electric vehicles and wind turbines. Up to $30 million will be made available for this area, in addition to funding for projects in advanced biofuels, thermal storage, grid control technologies and solar power.