California is the leading state in the nation when it comes to taking aggressive measures to combat climate change. Over the past few years, it has operated a program that offers incentives to low income families so they can get their dirty old clunkers off the road and purchase a low emissions car instead. To date, the program has enabled 150,000 Californians to drive clean.
One example is Gabriel Lua. He was spending several hundred dollars a month trying to keep a 30 year old Honda Civic on the road. Thanks to the state program for low income residents, he was able to unload the Civic and get a 2013 Chevy Volt instead. Now he no longer worries that his children are being poisoned by exhaust gasses.
“It saves me gas. It saves me money. I feel safer. And most important, it’s for my kids,” said Lua, a 31-year-old mail carrier for a San Joaquin Valley school district. In theory, Lua’s experience is exactly what the state is trying to create more of. But now, the money for the climate change program has dried up and new applicants are being told they will be placed on a waiting list.
The new annual budged for California passed recently includes no new funds for the program. It also fails to fund the heavy truck initiative designed to slash pollution from drayage trucks that haul containers from ports in Southern California to distribution hubs inland.
The issue isn’t money. The issue, according to the Los Angeles Times, is political wrangling about whether California’s controversial cap and trade program will be extended beyond its cutoff date in 2020. “I think it’s ridiculous to play politics with kids’ lungs,” said Dean Florez, a former state senator and member of the California Air Resources Board. “With the urgency of the climate crisis, we really shouldn’t delay in investing in projects that reduce emissions,” adds Bill Magavern, policy director for the Coalition for Clean Air.
Currently, 3% of all new cars sold in California are zero emissions vehicles. That’s the highest percentage in the nation, but still leave a long way to go to meed CARB’s goal of getting all fossil fuel cars off the roads in the state by 2050. That’s what CARB chair Mary Nichols says will be necessary to meet Governor Jerry Brown’s carbon reduction goals for the state.
The governor says that extending the climate change law is vital to his accomplishing his policies, but many in the business community oppose cap and trade as a waste of time and dollars.They haven’t come up with any counter proposals that would be nearly as effective, however. Most are content to continue stuffing their pockets with money while the environment teeters ever closer to disaster.
In the end, the California government is a mirror of the US federal government — it’s the best that money can buy.