Opponents take aim at climate change law

California's Global Warming Solutions Act, or AB 32, would require cities and counties to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Just how that's to be accomplished is unclear, and the measure's opponents are growing increasingly vocal as the next major election draws near.

A Wall Street Journal opinion piece this week paints the act as a boondoggle to business: "AB 32 creates a statewide cap-and-trade program and imposes numerous command-and-control mandates that CARB (California Air Resources Board) calls 'complementary measures' on businesses, such as low-carbon fuel standards and a goal of achieving 33 percent energy from renewable sources by 2020. Companies say compliance costs will force them to cut jobs and raise prices."

Under AB 32, cities would have to establish energy consumption baselines for their communities and work to reduce those levels through energy efficiency measures. That would mean retrofitting buildings by installing cool roofs, LED lighting, low-wattage fluorescents, variable frequency drive pumps and high-efficiency air conditioning systems, among other measures.

How this will work and what state agency will oversee the activity is uncertain. At this point, it appears the Air Resources Board will be in charge.

KQED's Climate Watch blog spelled out the AB 32 battle rather succinctly in a story Wednesday, with Craig Miller writing, "Lately the debate has escalated into full-scale PR warfare."

Miller itemizes some of the key players, including Republican candidate for governor Meg Whitman, who promises to repeal the law if elected; a proposed ballot initiative against the measure; and an online campaign against supporters of the initiative, specifically refiners Valero and Tesoro.

Whatever happens, energy efficiency is expected to continue to win believers. Not only does it remain an important tool in reducing energy costs, but those who reduce their energy footprint will reap continued benefits as the price of fossil fuels rises.