Cutting carbon is cheaper than its costs, groups say

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A new report released by the Environmental Defense Fund and the American Lung Association concludes that it’s cheaper overall for California to cut greenhouse gases and switch to cleaner-burning fuels than to do nothing. 

The study’s release comes as regulatory disputes and court challenges continue over the state's efforts to reduce the "carbon intensity" of California's vehicle fleet -- a key part of efforts mandated by state law to combat climate change.

The study, prepared by the environmental consulting firm Tetra-Tech, says Californians could save more than $10 billion in carbon-related costs by 2020.

“As we decrease the carbon intensity of the fuels we produce, we get a real growth in economic opportunity here in California,” said Tim O’Connor, who directs the Environmental Defense Fund’s climate initiative. 

The report says the savings come largely from a drop in health costs associated with a reduction in the burning of fossil fuels. Particulate matter and smog-forming chemicals elevate the risks for chronic respiratory and cardiac illness and for deaths related to lung and heart related diseases, the report finds. 

The authors say those health costs, the money spent on foreign oil, and the costs of protecting populations against the effects of climate change could total $274 billion. The report say that's money Californians will have to spend if no action against climate change is taken.

“California cities dominate the list of worst polluted cities in the country,” said Bonnie Holmes-Gen with the American Lung Association of California. “That’s why this report is so important. These are important numbers that help us demonstrate the importance of California’s clean low carbon policies."

California’s landmark climate change law, AB 32, requires the state to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels within six years. A key part of that law is the so-called "low carbon fuel standard," which requires fuels distributors in California to cut by 10% by 2020 the amount of carbon their fuels produce.

The study estimates that using more alternative fuels and implementing the law's cap-and-trade system would cost nearly $263 billion.

Backers say the fuel standard will drive markets for alternative fuels in California, including biofuels. The petroleum industry and other opponents have challenged the rule every step of the way. Not all biofuel producers are on board either, especially the makers of corn ethanol. They disagree with the methods California uses to calculate the carbon footprint of their fuels. 

Cost of carbon report

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