Brown: Transportation is lagging in climate fight

Source: Debra Kahn, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, November 5, 2018

PALO ALTO, Calif. — Outgoing California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) lamented the state’s slow pace on reducing greenhouse gases from cars.

“Our No. 1 challenge is transportation, and the only way that transportation will meet our goals is if we get the battery technology cheaper, lighter, more efficient,” he said yesterday at a conference at Stanford University. “At that rate, we’ll be able to meet our goals. That’s a function of investments here in Silicon Valley, in China, all over the world. So we are dependent. We can’t do that just in Sacramento.”

He said the state’s “success story” is its progress on renewable electricity. Compared to the state’s renewable portfolio standard, which Brown recently strengthened to 60 percent by 2030, “the regulation isn’t strong enough, in my opinion, to really push the electric cars,” he said.

When asked what he would focus on if he had another two years in office, Brown again cited transportation — in particular electric vehicles, and the Trump administration’s current effort to roll back the joint California-federal fuel economy standards that the Obama administration put in place.

“We’re constrained by the federal government in the adoption of the emissions standards,” he said. “We have to get a waiver, and that whole process is now under attack.”

“What I would like to do is get that transportation going,” Brown said, highlighting autonomous vehicles, which he called “a little spooky” but also “a no-brainer.” Regulators on Tuesday issued Google’s autonomous vehicle subsidiary, Waymo, the state’s first permit to test autonomous cars with no safety driver as backup.

“I just hope between now and the time I leave, there are no accidents,” Brown said.

He steered clear of commenting on his likely successor, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who is leading in polls ahead of next week’s election.

“The evidence, whether it’s the Arctic or Antarctica or tropical diseases or forest fires in California or intensity of hurricanes, the effects of a warming climate are becoming more obvious,” Brown said in response to a question on what his successor would do on climate. “Based on that, I would think that the next governor will continue along this path, and certainly I think the most probable next governor definitely shares that view.”

Brown’s remarks at Stanford came against a backdrop of enthusiasm for alternative energies as well as oil and gas. The university’s Global Energy Forum featured 34 startups in various stages of maturity, including:

  • Cuberg, a maker of rechargeable lithium batteries that use a stable electrolyte as a catalyst to improve safety and energy density. The company is aiming to sell initially to the oil and gas industry and the Navy.
  • Opus 12, which makes reactors that convert carbon dioxide and water into methane, ethylene and other usable chemicals. The company has received funding from NASA, the Energy Department, the California Energy Commission and the National Science Foundation.
  • OhmConnect Inc., a demand-response company that sends alerts to residential electricity customers when demand is high and pays them for curtailing usage. It has 300,000 users and saved 500 megawatt-hours this summer, paying out $2.5 million.
  • WeaveGrid, a 10-month-old company founded by alumni of Tesla and demand-response firm Opower and aimed at helping utilities manage electric vehicles’ effects on the distribution grid by controlling their rates of charging.
  • Sunfolding, a manufacturer of solar panel trackers that take up less space than existing infrastructure. It installed its equipment at 12 sites last year and employs 25 people.