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Democrats: Cut gas use in half by 2030

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POSTED February 10, 2015 6:34 p.m.

SACRAMENTO (AP) — Senate Democrats embraced new climate change goals Tuesday by adopting Gov. Jerry Brown’s call to increase the use of renewable energy to 50 percent in 15 years and adding their own initiatives.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon and fellow Democrats said they want to increase statewide renewable electricity use to 50 percent, use half as much gasoline on the road, and make buildings twice as energy efficient by 2030.

The legislation also would require the state’s two major pension funds to divest from coal companies and establish a committee to advise the governor and Legislature on how to create clean energy jobs.

De Leon, of Los Angeles, is trying to jumpstart negotiations among oil producers, utilities, state regulators and Brown’s administration that will likely take months.

De Leon and his staff characterized the proposals as the beginning of a conversation, but Republicans and industry lobbyists criticized the package for threatening jobs.

Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, said the proposals would artificially create green jobs while eliminating middle-class jobs.

The state auditor reported Tuesday that two of the state’s energy-saving initiatives — to increase the use of solar panels and clean air vehicles — have benefited the wealthy the most because they can afford to make such investments.

However, de Leon said, “choosing between climate change policies and policies that build on economic growth is a false choice.”

“California has proven that we can create job, lower utility bills rebuild our infrastructure while cleaning up the air we breathe into our lungs,” he said.

Brown said in his inaugural address last month that California is already a leader in far-reaching environmental laws, but the state should do its part to meet a United Nations goal to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius by 2050.

Current law calls for 33 percent of energy use to come from renewable sources by 2020. California utilities already derive about 25 percent of their energy from renewable sources, and that figure is expected to reach 40 percent by 2024.

“The pro tem and I share a strong commitment to dealing with climate change in an aggressive and imaginative way,” Brown said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the Legislature to hammer out the details.”

The broad proposals raised concerns among some about effects on the economy.

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of Western States Petroleum Association, called the legislative mandate to reduce petroleum consumption by 50 percent “an impossibly unrealistic goal.”

Utilities also want flexibility to meet carbon reduction goals through less costly means.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System said they share lawmakers’ concern for climate change but have to balance investment decisions against environmental responsibility.

Senate Democrats said the two funds would have to divest about $300 million, a nominal portion of the billions of dollars controlled by the funds.

“CalSTRS is a patient, long-term investor, and the ultimate impact of our investment in coal is something that we will be assessing in the coming year,” Chief Executive Officer Jack Ehnes said in a statement.

The Democrats’ package includes SB32 by Sen. Fran Pavley of Agoura Hills, SB350 by de Leon and Sen. Mark Leno of San Francisco, SB189 by Sen. Ben Hueso of San Diego, and SB185 by de Leon.

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