With gas prices hitting record highs, the effects of climate change ever more present, Russia making almost $1 billion a day from gas and oil while invading its neighbor, and air pollution killing 10 million people a year worldwide, including nearly 9,000 Californians, the need to transition from fossil fuels has never been greater.
Yet it’s almost always perceived as being too expensive for the average consumer — though with today’s prices, it is clearly cheaper to use clean technology. I believe we are at a unique point in time to make a clean energy transformation.
For example, if I drive round trip from the Bay Area to Sacramento in an electric car, the cost is $11 compared with $50 to fuel a gas-powered car. How do we help all Californians afford electric vehicles and other clean technology?
There is good news: Forty-two new EV models are coming out for 2023, providing more choices across the price spectrum for everyone. The new state budget invests more than $6 billion to accelerate our transition to electric vehicles with $76 million set aside to help low-income consumers buy EVs through Clean Cars for All and other equity programs. We also are working on laws to make charging infrastructure more equitable and reliable, efforts bolstered by $383 million in federal funds in our budget that are prioritized for infrastructure in underserved areas.
We also must consider that as California warms, more people will need to cool their homes. Our family house had no air conditioning when we moved in 20 years ago, and extremely hot days were rare. Now there are many more extremely hot days. This summer, we installed a high-efficiency heat pump that runs on electricity and provides greenhouse-gas-free heating and air conditioning with the same system.
California needs to help lower the upfront cost for these technologies as well, so they are accessible to more people. I introduced a bill this year to help unlock financing for building decarbonization. The legislation follows my bill signed into law last year to ease the path for electrification so property owners can more readily retrofit their homes and buildings to accommodate clean energy appliances. The goal behind both measures is to help California achieve 1 million electric buildings and drive down greenhouse gas emissions from our built environment. Menlo Park is helping lead the way on a local level with its new public-private partnership to electrify thousands of homes and buildings. They’ll start in Belle Haven, one of the city’s most climate-impacted communities.
With all these developments, our state government must also “walk the talk” in our operations — a move that will help bring down the cost of clean energy technologies for everyone. I have legislation to make that possible by requiring our government operations to target net-zero carbon emissions by 2035. The bill is part of the legislative package championed by Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins and the Climate Working Group she convened to firmly push the needle on climate action.
The dozen bills in the Senate climate package will drive adoption of clean technologies, bring down costs and speed our move to a 100% clean grid. They are critical to our future as Californians, and we are fast approaching the final month for legislative action on these measures. This will not be easy. Already some strong climate action bills, such as one to have the state divest from fossil fuels, have been defeated in the Legislature. I hope you join us in our efforts to ensure that all Californians can benefit from the clean energy transformation. Please contact my office if you’d like to help. Let’s make sure we harness our collective will to take full advantage of this unique opportunity.
Josh Becker represents the 13th Senate District in the California Legislature.
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