This morning's paper reveals that California has made real progress in both reducing energy consumption and reducing greenhouse gas emissions since 1990, while at the same time enjoying overall growth in per capita GDP. The California Green Innovation Index, a report detailing the state's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, contains some stunning data:
-- The amount of greenhouse gases produced for every Californian has dropped since 1990. At the same time, California's per-capita gross domestic product - the value of the services and goods produced in the state - has risen. The state's economy, in other words, has been thriving despite the reduction in per-person emissions.
-- California emits less greenhouse gas per person than any other state except Rhode Island. California's economy produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions for every dollar of gross domestic product than Germany, Japan or the United Kingdom.
-- Californians pay less on their monthly electricity bills than do residents of many other states. In 2005, for example, California's average monthly electricity bill was $74, compared with $135 in Texas. Although mild weather plays a part, so do tough energy-efficiency standards adopted in the 1970s for buildings and appliances.
-- Those energy-efficiency standards saved California residents and businesses $56 billion between 1975 and 2003.
-- About 22,000 Californians were directly employed by green-tech companies in 2006. In the same year, California's green-tech businesses soaked up 36 percent of all the money venture capitalists spent on the industry within the United States.
My morning paper contains a stunning graph (not in the online version) showing that since 1990 per capita emissions have dropped almost 10 percent while per capita GDP growth has increased 20 percent, despite downturns in 1992-3 and 2001-2002. Other surprises: Californians drive less per person than the national average and miles driven per person has dropped since 2002.
In other words, solid public programs and creative but stringent and science-based, innovative regulation can have a salutary effect. It is not only possible to have solid economic growth and make progress on environmental issues, the two may just go hand in hand.
While the report notes that much more needs to be done to make a real dent in global warming, it should help reinforce the idea that improvements in emissions and energy usage can be good economically as well as environmentally.
Meanwhile, in another part of the forest, the natives are praying for rain. For those not aware of it, the southeast, not the west, is the region hardest hit by drought in the US.