California Energy Chief Calls Brown’s Fuel Target a ‘Moon Shot’

Source: By Mark Chediak and Lynn Doan, Bloomberg • Posted: Tuesday, March 3, 2015

(Bloomberg) — California Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to cut the state’s use of petroleum for transportation in half by 2030 will be “tough” to reach, the chair of the state’s energy policy and planning agency said on Friday.“The governor certainly envisioned this much more as a moon shot type of goal,” Robert Weisenmiller, chair of the California Energy Commission, said during an interview in Berkeley. “He didn’t set any of these as the no-brainer easy goals. If anything, the question is which is the toughest.”California has been setting the pace for U.S. policy on climate change and greenhouse gases. In January, Brown outlined environmental goals aimed at reducing carbon emissions in the next 15 years, including cutting petroleum use in cars and trucks by 50 percent, doubling the efficiency of existing buildings and increasing from one-third to 50 percent the electricity delivered from renewable sources.

The transportation goal would require that 6 million zero-emission vehicles be on the road in 2030, Weisenmiller said. The commission head said he was agnostic as to the type of alternative fuel used to reduce dependence on oil. He said he saw benefits to both hydrogen-powered cars and electric vehicles and the state would work to build out the infrastructure for both fuel types.

The state already has a goal of getting 1.5 million zero-emission cars on state roads in the next decade, and it would need another “pretty big jump” to cut its petroleum use in half by 2030, Weisenmiller said. “You have to really make progress on transportation.”

Financial Incentives

The state will encourage switching to cleaner car fuels through a combination of financial incentives, fuel-efficiency and low-carbon emission standards, he said.

The increased power demand from electric cars will need to be offset by energy conservation measures including the improved efficiency of existing buildings, Weisenmiller said. A lot of buildings in the state are occupied by renters who don’t necessarily have a financial incentive to invest in energy-saving upgrades, he said.

California is already making good progress on its renewable energy targets and will probably reach its goal of meeting 33 percent of demand with alternative energy sources by 2018, Weisenmiller said. The state may reach 40 percent by 2020, he said.