- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2015

California Gov. Jerry Brown put climate change at the center of his historic fourth inaugural address Monday, calling for more aggressive standards on gasoline use and renewable energy a day before launching construction on a $68 billion high-speed rail project.

Mr. Brown, a Democrat who becomes the first four-term governor in California history, laid out ambitious 2030 goals for combating global warming, led by a 50 percent drop in petroleum use by cars and trucks and an increase from one-third to 50 percent electricity from renewables.

“Taking significant amounts of carbon out of our economy without harming its vibrancy is exactly the sort of challenge at which California excels,” Mr. Brown said. “This is exciting, it is bold and it is absolutely necessary if we are to have any chance of stopping potentially catastrophic changes to our climate system.”

Mr. Brown’s decision to raise the ante on climate change drew fire from Republicans, but the governor also has to contend with global-warming activists still steamed over his continued refusal to support a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing.

Linda Capato, campaign manager for international climate-change group 350.org, recently announced that California would be the next target for a statewide ban. New York became the second state to impose a fracking ban last month.

“If fracking is dangerous for children in New York, then it’s equally dangerous for children in California,” Ms. Capato said in a statement after Mr. Cuomo’s Dec. 17 decision, adding, “With today’s win, we’re going to be intensifying our campaigning on Governor Brown.”

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Meanwhile, California Republicans blasted the governor’s proposals as job-killing drains on the state’s still-fragile economy. Republicans remain in the legislative minority, but they won enough seats in November to wipe out the Democrats’ two-thirds majorities in the state Assembly and Senate.

Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff argued that Californians already pay 50 percent more for their electricity than neighboring states due to the state’s goal of 33 percent from renewable energy by 2020, and that there are real questions as to whether solar and wind can reach 50 percent.

“You start having a problem because the sun doesn’t shine at night so solar doesn’t work and the wind doesn’t blow when you need it, it blows when it does, so you end up with an unstable grid if you get beyond a certain level, and many experts say that’s 40 percent,” Mr. Huff said in a video posted to Facebook.

Meanwhile, he said, renewable standards are hurting the middle class by discouraging business investment.

“So as we continue to amp up this feel good environmental policy, we price ourselves out of job growth that will actually help the middle class,” Mr. Huff said. “And then we find ourselves on the back end trying to subsidize more of their college education, trying to subsidize more of their child care, trying to do all these government subsidies, when we ought to have this rational policy in the first place that lifts all of us up economically instead of winners and losers.”

A key piece in Mr. Brown’s climate-change agenda is the California bullet train, the proposed $68 billion transportation project running from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The governor plans to attend Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting in Fresno on the first 29-mile leg of the project, despite warnings from House Republicans that federal funding is unlikely.

“I am disappointed that in his fifth year, Governor Brown is still off chasing tunnels and trains instead of putting forward a plan to spur economic growth in California or to ensure our schools are preparing students for a 21st century economy,” said Assembly Minority Leader Kristin Olsen in a Monday statement.

The 76-year-old Mr. Brown’s re-election win in November makes him the only four-term governor in California history. He was sworn in to his first term 40 years ago, succeeding Republican Ronald Reagan, and served two concurrent terms before being elected again in 2010.

In Monday’s inaugural address, which doubled as his State of the State speech, Mr. Brown emphasized his achievements in bucking up the state’s economy, noting that unemployment has dropped from 12.1 to 7.2 percent.

Mr. Brown highlighted his balanced budget and debt-reduction successes, as well as education and prison reforms, efforts to combat the drought, and granting driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.

“In 2011, we were handed a mess and through solid, steady work, we turned it around,” Mr. Brown said. “While we have not reached the Promised Land, we have much to be proud of.”

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