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More renewable energy could electrify state economy, job market, report says

August 19, 2008|Margot Roosevelt and Tami Abdollah | Times Staff Writers

If California requires its utilities to get one-third of their energy from solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable sources rather than coal or gas, will that help or hurt the state economically?

A struggle is underway to influence public opinion, with business interests saying it would cost consumers in higher electric bills, and environmental groups touting the jobs that clean-tech industry would bring to the state.

A report, "Harvesting California's Renewable Energy Resources: A Green Jobs Business Plan," was released Friday by the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies, a Sacramento-based nonprofit.

It surveys major studies and concludes that if California gets a third of its power from renewable sources by 2020, as pending legislation would require, as much as $60 billion would be pumped into the state economy. Manufacturing could increase by 200,000 jobs.

California is requiring utilities to reach 20% renewable energy by 2010.

But the Air Resources Board says that is not enough to reduce the state's greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels, as the law requires.

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Tackling tire piles

Environmental secretaries from all 10 U.S.-Mexico border states met last week for the binational Border Governors Conference in Hollywood. They signed a Tire Initiative Letter of Understanding, which includes "tire pile prevention measures" and tries to eliminate the public health risks.

So far, 4 million scrap tires have been removed from the U.S.-Mexico border area to decrease the risk of fires and disease that they pose to border residents, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Disease-carrying pests such as rodents often inhabit these tire piles.

After a rainfall, mosquitoes may breed in the stagnant water collected inside tires and may carry deadly diseases such as encephalitis, West Nile virus, dengue fever and malaria.

Scrap-tire fires are difficult to extinguish and can burn for months, releasing thick black smoke that can contaminate the soil with oily residue, generate significant liquid waste and contaminate ground and surface water.

The Tire Initiative is a partnership of the EPA and the Mexican Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.

State and local governments on both sides of the border and private industry such as the Rubber Manufacturers Assn. have joined in implementing Tire Initiative measures, according to the EPA.

Last month, the California Integrated Waste Management Board awarded $325,000 to Baldwin Park and El Cerrito in Contra Costa County to divert 21,000 waste tires from California landfills and use them to create rubberized asphalt concrete.

The EPA's U.S.-Mexico Border 2012 Program works to protect the environment and public health for the 10 states along the 2,000-mile border: California, Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

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margot.roosevelt@latimes.com

tami.abdollah@latimes.com

For more, go to Greenspace, The Times' environmental blog, at latimes.com/greenspace.

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