Last month, I wrote about the impact of Assembly Bill 32, the legislation signed by former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that requires California to reduce its emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The piece provided some background on the legislation and how it is being implemented. A portion of it centered on the fact that vehicle fuels are slated to be placed under the restrictions at the first of the year. Doing so, it is estimated, would raise fuel prices by about 15 cents a gallon. Last month, the average price of a gallon of gas in San Mateo was $4.24.
However, adding vehicle fuel costs is causing some stir among legislators, particularly those with constituents still feeling the effects of the recession. Legislation by Assemblyman Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno, seeks a delay of the implementation until 2018. In late June, 16 Assembly Democrats urged the delay or a change to the state’s requirements that transportation fuels be included in the cap-and-trade program in a letter to the California Air Resources Board, which oversees the program.
The rationale behind the legislation, Assembly Bill 69, is that the cap-and-trade program would raise billions of dollars and likely come from the pockets from among those just making it back on their feet and who must travel far distances for work, particularly in the Central Valley.
Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, was one of 32 legislators who urged the governor to stay the course on the long-range plan for the cap-and-trade legislation. For Gordon, the effort is integrated across many sectors and removing one sector for a brief period of time, three years, unravels much of what California is trying to accomplish in clean air and reduced greenhouse gases.
“These goals are widely embraced,” he said, adding he respectfully disagrees with the legislators asking for a delay. “It’s time to stay the course.”
State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, also signed the letter and said he understands the desire to assist those still feeling the impact of the recession but pointed to the greater impact of our state’s reliance on fossil fuels with the drought, wildfires and air quality that does not meet federal health standards.
He added there is no evidence the fuel price increase will be 15 cents and pointed to an earlier analysis that said it would be 12 cents and likely less.
And both Hill and Gordon said the price increase is largely up to oil companies, whose executives could choose not to pass on the costs to customers. However, this sentiment falls short of understanding how business operates. Oil companies sell a product people currently need and also have a responsibility to their shareholders to ensure profit. Oil companies also use those profits to explore alternative sources of energy. So to suggest that somehow they are going to simply absorb the cost of the new fees is wishful thinking.
Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, did not sign the letter but also did not get back to me about his feelings on Perea’s legislation.
The bill is a gut-and-amend of previous legislation that made it into the state Senate. Up next is a hearing in the Senate Rules Committee, where it will likely die, considering the level of opposition to it.
But even if the legislation passed the Senate and went back to the Assembly for concurrence, it is also unlikely the governor would sign it. So should we all get ready for higher prices at the pump in January? I think we all know the answer.
I was surprised but not shocked by the recent departure of Jessica Evans as executive director of the Downtown San Mateo Association. Evans was a hard worker and did a lot to reinvigorate the association in her two years here. Her energy and smarts were apparent in all which she was involved — whether it be taking the demise of Festa Italiana and turning it into SummerFest and revamping Wine Walk or having her fingers on the pulse of merchants to drawing new public art downtown.
Evans was often seen with her two small children in tow at various events — it definitely is not a 9-5 job — and that can take a toll. So it wasn’t surprising she took an offer that would allow her more time for her family.
It’s also at times thankless in that one of its key roles (among many others) is that of a liaison between the city and downtown merchants and making sure both’s interests are not competing. She did, however, leave a solid path forward into the future and I’m hopeful the association finds someone new with equal energy and aplomb. And I wish her well on whatever her future holds.
Jon Mays is the editor in chief of the Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Jon on Twitter @jonmays.