Climate Change to Social Injustice

by Alejandro Sandell-Gandara

A Wall Street Journal piece titled “California’s Climate Change Revolt” remarks on Jerry Brown’s attention towards re-branding California as a “Model of green virtue” through new anti-carbon regulations. However, these new regulations are creating a division in Brown’s party as 21 Democratic Assembly members argue against the bill on the grounds that it disproportionately harms middle- and low-income communities. Jerry Brown’s bill mandates a cut in state greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 1990 levels and reduction in state wide oil consumption in vehicles by 50% while maintaining a cap-and-trade program which requires oil refiners and power plants to purchase carbon emission permits.

Assemblyman Jim Cooper notes that the demand for the reduction in statewide oil consumption that will allow the California Air Resources Board to act without accountability will most likely raise gas prices. Higher gas taxes and state fuel regulations have instituted an increasing trend in gas prices as predicted by Jim Cooper. In 2006, increased regulations raised gas prices by 23 cents per gallon more than the national average. The gas price premium increased by 41 cents per gallon in 2014 and by $1.14 per gallon in May of 2015. The Western States Petroleum Association expects the cap-and-trade program to raise gas prices by 16 to 76 cents per gallon. Furthermore, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded that the cap-and-trade program has stagnated California’s manufacturing employment rate by 4% compared to the national average.

 

According to the author, Jerry Brown’s regulations place a significant burden on middle- and low-income Californians through the raised gas prices and stagnated unemployment rate. Low-income populations with less disposable income will suffer the most. The disproportionality of this social injustice becomes even more apparent when comparing the advantages and disadvantages of California’s ideal “green government”. Eighty percent of the state’s electric car rebates were in The Bay Area and Los Angeles in comparison to the 2% in the San Joaquin Valley. In addition, the employment rate in San Francisco and in Palo Alto remained under 4% while Fresno and Carson experienced unemployment of 10%. In essence, the benefits used to counteract the negative externalities of Brown’s regulations are only shown effective in areas where the benefits are needed least.

According to the editorial, Jerry Brown’s stance on pollution regulation and climate change is backfiring as his support in the state assembly has become divided on the grounds that Brown’s propositions are furthering social injustice.

 

Wall Street Journal Editorial Board. “California’s Climate Change Revolt.” WSJ. N.p., 11 Sept. 2015. Web. 23 Jan. 2016.

 

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