Two years ago, a bill that would have required California to get more power from clean, renewable sources such as the sun and wind stalled in the Legislature. Last year, lawmakers whiffed again. If they get a third strike on this overwhelmingly popular measure in the coming weeks, let's say we throw the bums out.
Currently, investor-owned utilities in California are required to obtain 20% of their power from renewable sources by the end of 2010. That's a good start, but it doesn't go far enough. The state is under a mandate to cut its greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020, and in order to accomplish that, it must get at least a third of its electricity from clean sources, according to the Air Resources Board. You'd be hard-pressed to find a Democrat in the Legislature who doesn't embrace the 33% by 2020 goal, along with Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the California Public Utilities Commission, the green lobby and, according to polls, the state's voters. So why is it so hard to accomplish politically?
Two bills before the Legislature -- SB 14 and AB 64 -- would set the 33% standard. They're very similar to a bill that was passed last year by the state Senate but that fell victim to end-of-session political infighting and never reached a vote in the Assembly. With lawmakers distracted by the state's financial difficulties, the renewable-power standard could fall through the cracks again, even though it is widely considered this year's most important piece of environmental legislation and has been subjected to intense committee scrutiny since March.