Even well before the 45th U.S. president is sworn in on January 20th and the glittery Inaugural Balls have played host to a the gathering swarm of Trump celebrants and big-spenders, the New Yorker’s ascendancy as the free world’s leader is setting off alarm bells across the globe.
There is no lack of doomsday scenarios as we head into uncharted waters under a presidency that only Hollywood writers could have dreamed up.
Californians, the majority of whom rejected Trump’s seizure of the White House, would just as soon have done business with someone else. Hilary Clinton received 4 million more votes here—twice the number of more popular votes she garnered nation-wide over the constitutionally certified winner.
But even if the Trump campaign play board omitted us, being California we do not have the luxury of sitting out the next four years– nor can we be ignored.
As the planet’s 6th largest economy at $2.46 trillion in 2016, what happens in California does not stay in California.
However, when it comes to top level decision-making there are no Californians to be found in Trump’s cabinet-in-waiting. Rep. Duncan Hunter (San Diego-50th D) was mentioned as a possible Defense Secretary but that bubble has already burst when Marine Gen. James Mattis was tapped.
Still, if Trump owes nothing to America’s largest state whose 55 electoral votes showed up in the loser’s column, California’s Jerry Brown, the nation’s oldest (78) and currently longest serving governor (in a non-consecutive 4th term) has given no evidence he plans on playing ball with the Trump team.
As arguably the most powerful Democratic leader in the country with plenty of fight left in him although with only a year to go before what’s likely to be his retirement from public life, Brown has signaled he is not quite ready to hang up his gloves.
This is nowhere more apparent than in his disdain for the climate change resistors who have been given new life under Trump and are dead-set on unravelling the environmental safeguards that the current Administration has worked hard—though in some minds not hard enough— to erect.
However, Congress’s anemic response to Pres. Obama’s repeated calls for tougher environmental sanctions has shifted the onus to the states.
The chief architect of the strictest environmental regulations of any state, Brown has not minced words about his disapproval of the newly-empowered anti-climate control lobby in Washington which views climate change as a giant hoax perpetrated either by the Chinese and misguided ultra-liberal weather savants who live in a fairy land of rapidly melting icebergs and rising oceans.
Ignoring the skeptics, whether realistic or not, Brown convinced the legislature to set a carbon emission reduction target of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
Californians appear to support the Governor. In a July survey taken by the Public Policy Institute of California, 69 percent favored passage of the law that rolls back emissions.
Trump meanwhile is busy stocking his cabinet with people who must have flunked college science dispute the science of global warming and he has threatened to withdraw the United States from the landmark Paris Climate agreement which his buddy, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, has also debunked and refuses to sign.
While Trump may not have played well in California, there are powerful forces in the state that are not inclined to simply walk lockstep behind the governor’s bold efforts to assume the mantle of world climate leadership.
The California Chamber of Commerce, among others, has been outspoken in its criticism.
The laws “impose very severe caps on the emission of greenhouse gases in California, without requiring the regulatory agencies to give any consideration to the impacts on our economy, disruptions in everyone’s daily lives or the fact that California’s population will grow almost 50 percent between 1990 and 2030,” the Chamber declared.
Also, California’s much touted cap-and-trade program designed to limit greenhouse gas emissions, which the Chamber intends to challenge in the courts, has come under fire recently because of weak sales.
This past summer the legislature voted to extend green gas emission controls beyond 2030, but omitted cap and trade renewal against Brown’s wishes Democrats rebuffed.
Disappointing quarterly cap-and-trade auction sales has led to a surplus of unsold credits that has weakened a program whose revenues are counted upon to pay for “green” initiatives such as the high-speed rail project which has a current price tag approaching $70 billion!
As an example, the August auction raised over $390 million at a minimum price of $12.73 per ton that is set by the State Air Resources Board and can fluctuate depending upon demand.
However, only $8.4 million was earmarked for programs including high-speed rail. The balance is allocated to the state’s electric utilities to cushion customers from paying for carbon emissions. The latest November auction sales were not available at this time.
The Chamber and others groups see climate laws as “job killers”, a frequent claim by Trump during his campaign which became conflated with a larger message of job-related economic reversals that millions of voters could relate to.
Not so in California, which is investing millions in renewable energy research and technology that is creating new jobs and, given its lack of dependency on coal usage (the leading carbon dioxide emitter), it puts the state in the forefront of pollution-fighting entities.
According to a recent California Energy Commission report, “By the end of 2015, coal-fired electricity generation plants represented less than 6 percent of the energy used to serve California. About 97 percent of the energy was generated by power plants outside California.”
The report goes on to say, “coal-fired generation is expected to serve about 3 percent of California’s electricity consumption by 2024, and this generation is expected to decline to zero by 2026.”
While global warming dangers are non-partisan discriminators, a coal-alition of fossil fuel-reliant states (at least seventeen running from Wyoming to West Virginia) along with hardline anti-government regulation advocates and most of the big energy producers will get a friendly welcome in the White House.
Trump seems poised to gut much of the EPA’s authority that could weaken the Clean Air Act mandates which would play havoc with California’s pioneering vehicle emission standards.
However, he will find in Jerry Brown a formidable foe who has the backing of the electorate and legislative super-majorities that will complicate any efforts to emasculate popular environmental reforms that benefit not just the entire nation, but much of the world.