Friday, January 14, 2011

UCLA Report: Environment, Energy Focus Can Spur Economic Recovery

Budget cuts and slashing payrolls dominate the headlines but officials at UCLA School of Law are focusing on what they say is Gov. Jerry Brown's "tremendous opportunity" to build on California's environmental infrastructure.

"Environmental protection and fiscal prudence can be synergistic goals," says a just released report. "California's historic leadership in environmental protection has brought with it enormous benefits to our economy and public health. Only by continuing will the state continue to reap these benefits."

The report, jointly published by the Evan Frankel Environmental Law & Policy Program and Emmett Center on Climate Change and The Environment, is billed as an environmental blueprint for the governor. It urges Brown to strengthen programs in renewable energy and energy efficiency, environmental modeling, energy storage and livable communities.

The election of Brown, who has a strong green jobs platform, and the rejection of Prop. 23 in the November election, send a clear signal that Californians favor a future of clean energy, the authors said. Thus, California can lead the way in using clean energy to stimulate the economy and to improve public health.

The 22-page report has a host of recommendations. Here are just a few:

  • Establish an independent agency or council to compile, model and predict environmental data. That would allow for assessment of programs and promote efficient use of funding;

  • Streamline the environmental review process;

  • Support the Air Resources Board's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions;

  • Promote and expand renewable energy options;

  • Support renewable power payment programs, also known as feed-in tariffs;

  • Keep supporting Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs, which use property tax assessments to fund energy-efficiency projects;

  • Develop energy-storage projects;

  • Recognize that energy efficiency is the "free lunch" of the energy world, and encourage those types of programs;

  • Improve and upgrade energy-transmission systems.

If Brown focuses on Green, the rapidly growing San Joaquin Valley is perfectly positioned to benefit from and to play a key role in the development of clean-energy programs.

The Valley has ample solar, biofuel, biomass, wind and other resources; a large supply of flat vacant land accessible to transmission lines; the proximity of universities such as UCs Davis and Merced, Fresno State, Cal Poly and Cal State, Stanislaus; and high power bills and low incomes that would directly benefit from energy-conservation programs.

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