If the skies have seemed a little clearer lately, you're not imagining things. According to a new study, emissions of greenhouse gas pollution have fallen across California thanks to strong growth in the renewable energy industry.
California Air Resources Board Spokesman Dave Clegern says pollutants in the state have fallen below 1990 levels for the first time since emissions peaked in 2004.
"The emissions that are generated in state are declining. In fact, we've had enough of a decline now that we've gone below the 2020 target that we were shooting for, about four years early," said Clergern.
Environmental experts say that's equivalent to taking 12-million cars off the road, or saving six-billion gallons of gasoline every year. Carbon pollution has also fallen dramatically, dropping 13-percent since peaking in 2004.
Electricity generation had the steepest drop, declining 18-percent in 2016, reflecting strong growth in the renewable energy industry. The state mandated in 2006 that at least 33% of its energy come from renewable sources by 2020. Thanks to falling prices on solar panels, the state exceeded its goal and was getting at least 46-percent of its electricity from renewable electricity.
Greenhouse gases may be down, but the biggest source - emissions from cars and trucks - are still on the rise in the post-recession years. According to the climate report, transportation pollution was up 2-percent in 2016.
The Trump administration is expected to announce this week its plan to rollback several Obama-era fuel economy regulations and move to take away the authority granted to California under the Clean Air Act to legislate stricter fuel economy standards.
Clegern says there are several programs in place to incentivize people and industries to combat pollution in the state.
"We have a serious of programs that were put in place with the passage of AB 32, in 2006. Those include the cap-and-trade program, the low carbon fuel standard, the advanced clean car program, and the renewables portfolios standard," Clegern said.
In 2016, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that doubled down on the state's emission goals. The new climate goals require California to cut emissions 40-percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
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