Doubling Down on California’s Climate Commitment

Back in 2006, California lawmakers passed Assembly Bill 32 (AB32), its first-in-the-nation climate mitigation legislation. State officials were either, depending on one's viewpoint, making a commitment to rescue the state from a bleak environmental future or sending its economy off a cliff. "There's no way to get to the targets except by stopping the use of energy," Dorothy Rothrock, vice president of the California Manufacturers and Technology Association, said at the time. Opponents ran ads warning of job losses, reduced investment and energy rationing.

Despite those dire predictions, California has survived the last 10 years quite well: It tied with Oregon last year as having the strongest state economy. And, already on track to meet AB32's 2020 emissions reduction target, California doubled down this month on its climate commitment with the enactment of Senate Bill 32 (SB32), which will require the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. READ MORE

Electric Utilities and the Future They Need to Embrace

It shouldn't come as a surprise that "net metering" has become such a contentious issue, especially in states like Arizona and Nevada. Where there's lots of sunshine and growing numbers of solar-power installations at homes and businesses, whose owners expect to be compensated for the excess electricity they generate, huge potential exists to disrupt the income stream of electric utilities.

The utilities are by no means awaiting that disruption placidly. Under lobbying pressure, Nevada has approved new charges for net metering (also called "net energy metering," or NEM), and Arizona is looking at completely eliminating its net metering program. Whether sunny or cloudy, states are the battlegrounds because there is no overarching federal net metering policy. Forty-six of the 50 states have some form of net metering in place with varying types of regulation. READ MORE

Where Are the P3s We Need?

Public-private partnerships may seem like the latest innovative way to finance crucial public needs, but P3s have been around for a while -- quite a long while. In a recent Governing Guide to Financial Literacy, Justin Marlowe describes a Revolutionary War public-private partnership as a key factor in George Washington's defeat of the British. After a grim winter spent at Valley Forge, where soldiers starved and died of disease, the Continental Congress authorized a reorganization of the army's supply system and gave private contractors wide latitude in managing the logistics.

As successful as this arrangement was early in our history, we make far less use of such partnerships today than many other developed countries do. A study by the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee found that while more than $61 billion was spent on highway P3s in this country from 1989 to 2013, that amount represented just 1.5 percent of the costs of all highway projects completed during that period. READ MORE

A Desert City's Sustainability Turnaround

From a sustainable city perspective, historians may someday note November 2011 as a pivotal point in Phoenix's history. It marked the publication of the book Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World's Least Sustainable City, Andrew Ross's scathing narrative disparaging Phoenix's public- and private-sector leadership for fast-growth/low-density policies that created an unsustainable urban environment.

That same month, former city council member Greg Stanton won election as Phoenix's mayor. Among the many challenges he accepted when taking office was repairing the city's environmental-sustainability image. "My personal conviction led me to only one course of action," Stanton explained, "and that was to change our direction." READ MORE

Are We on the Way to 100 Percent Renewable Energy?

Americans may be divided on partisan and ideological lines, but on at least one issue they agree: Support for clean renewable energy just keeps growing. In a March 2015 Gallup Poll, for example, 79 percent said they wanted the nation to use more solar energy, while 70 percent wanted to see more of the energy we use come from wind.