Tuesday, September 30, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Per Capita Davis: Sustainability is not a four-letter word

JohnMott-SmithW

By
From page A4 | August 07, 2014 |

This column has, at various times, struggled with the question of whether individual action or broad governmental policies and regulations represent the best path to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Of course, it’s a false premise that we have to choose one or the other. We need both. But the interplay between the two continues to illuminate where an appropriate balance may lie.

Consider a spate of recent articles. First, a description of a report issued by the Public Policy Institute of California describing the results of a poll on how people respond to the upcoming (scheduled for January 2015) inclusion of fuel producers in California’s groundbreaking “cap and trade” program, the cornerstone of the state’s efforts to reduce emissions to reach statutorily required targets.

The good news is that, when asked, just over three out of four of us (76 percent) support the proposed regulation. The not-so-good news is that this support drops to 39 percent if it means individuals will have to pay a bit more for gas at the pump. This precipitous decline in support when individuals are actually asked to do something that could affect their pocketbook argues in favor of the policies and regulations path.

The bulk of progress to date toward reduced carbon emissions in the United States has resulted from actions taken by the federal and state governments, such as increased miles-per-gallon standards for cars, requirements for utilities to generate power from renewable sources, and energy-efficient standards for appliances, lights and homes.

Though these laws and regulations can result in increased costs, they don’t directly require individuals to do anything; we just buy more fuel-efficient cars, trucks, light bulbs, appliances and homes.

Not so with gasoline. Everyone not driving an electric vehicle knows when the price of gas goes up. State regulators say, for lots of reasons, adding fuel producers to the cap-and-trade program will not increase the cost at the pump. The Western States Petroleum Association, on the other hand, estimates an increase of anywhere from 14 cents to 69 cents a gallon, while a UC Davis economist predicts an increase of about 9 cents a gallon.

A couple of items were in the news about the possibility of an increase. Some state legislators, claiming they’re worried that an increase in gas prices will erode public support for climate change efforts across the board, want the state to delay adding fuel producers to the cap-and-trade program. Meanwhile, the petroleum association is one of many sponsors of the California Drivers Alliance that is taking out nearly full-page ads in newspapers with headlines that scream, “Stop the Hidden Gas Tax,” and urging readers to sign an online petition.

It’s worth considering how a couple of key words in the climate change discussion have come to be defined.

The word “tax,” rather than describing something we all contribute to the general good, has become freighted with negatives while a “hidden tax” is sneaky and even worse.

Consider something as simple as the “gas tax.” The effort to provide dollars to the Highway Trust Fund is mired in congressional distrust by some who reflexively consider anything that costs money a tax and a bad thing. The trust fund is scheduled to go bankrupt this month, even though the funds generated from this “tax” are used to maintain the roads on which cars and trucks that use gasoline are driving. It has not been raised, even to adjust for inflation, from the 18.5 cents per gallon established in 1993.

The term “sustainability” has become a part of the “green” lexicon. As currently used, it primarily describes a shift from a fossil fuel-dependent economy to one based on renewables in which “fuel” is virtually inexhaustible into the future.

Arguably, this is too narrow a definition. “Sustainability” also should apply to roads, schools, libraries and other pieces of the infrastructure of our lives. Just as we collectively need to come up with an estimated trillion dollars to sustain and enhance our streets and highways, we should expect to pay a share of the cost to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sustain a livable planet.

Absent broad public acceptance of such a notion, and given that “tax” has become a four-letter word in our public discussion, efforts to encourage individuals to reduce emissions are not only important on a person-by-person, house-by-house, business-by-business basis, it is also critical to building support for policies and regulations that can underpin large leaps toward “sustainability,” which is not a four letter word, so far.

The current drought also offers some insight into what works and what doesn’t work when resources get tight. The call for voluntary water conservation measures has thus far fallen on mostly deaf ears. It’s true that there are a lot of brown lawns around but, in general, statewide, requests for voluntary reductions in water use have resulted in a reported 4-percent increase instead of the desired 20-percent decrease.

Areas where water conservation is mandatory, on the other hand, reported an average 14-percent reduction.

— John Mott-Smith is a resident of Davis; his column is published on the first and third Thursdays of each month. Send comments to johnmottsmith@comcast.net

Comments

comments

John Mott-Smith

.

News

Sanity phase begins in Daniel Marsh trial

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

 
Council looks at granny-flat revision

By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

Man on a mission: Rob White seeks to transform Davis

By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Poppenga outlines ambitious agenda

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Cool Davis Festival is très chill

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Standing In: Is the therapy for them, or me?

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A2

California exhausts initial firefighting budget

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Find the perfect club or organization to join

By Enterprise staff | From Page: C2 | Gallery

Brown allows new local development financing tools

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Forum examines Props. 1 and 2 on November ballot

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Assembly candidates will be at Woodland forum

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Pets of the week

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
California approves landmark ‘yes means yes’ law

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

TSA bomb training may be noisy

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Try out basic yoga on Thursday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

DCC welcomes students with free lunch

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Gibson House hosts plant sale and garden event

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Register to vote by Oct. 20

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
UCD, University College Dublin will cooperate on food, health

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

 
Accessibility technology on exhibit at fair

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Covell Gardens breakfast benefits Komen Foundation

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Put your hoes down and celebrate the harvest

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

Panelists discuss raising children with special needs

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

 
Number of wheels: How many bicycles do you have in your household?

By Enterprise staff | From Page: C5 | Gallery

DCC hosts fair-trade gift sale on Oct. 11

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Downtown history tour planned in October

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Emerson gives away old textbooks

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

 
Fraud Awareness Fair set Oct. 15 in West Sac

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Woodland PD seeks volunteers for ViP program

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

DMTC makes musical theater accessible to everyone

By Bev Sykes | From Page: C9 | Gallery

 
Take home a wreath from Davis Flower Arrangers’ meeting

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

Snapshot: A night out with the neighbors

By Enterprise staff | From Page: C10

 
Davis school names reflect interesting history

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: C12

Snapshot: Plenty of places to park it

By Enterprise staff | From Page: C14

 
Snapshot: Dive into Davis fun

By Enterprise staff | From Page: C15

Snapshot: Kick garbage to the curb

By Enterprise staff | From Page: C16

 
Snapshot: Sounds like a party

By Enterprise staff | From Page: C17

.

Forum

It takes two to lambada

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
He seems happy at home

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

The great bedtime conspiracy

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
They’re best-prepared to lead

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

Vibrant and hard-working

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

Archer has the right stuff

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
Get on your bikes to meet Davis’ greenhouse gas goals

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

Marsh case shows need for ‘Maupin’s Law’

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

 
.

Sports

 
Only 15 months out of UCD, Runas off to LPGA Tour

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Davis golfers get teaching moments in forfeit win

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
‘Playoff game’ or missed chance? Either way the Aggies move on

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Devils move atop league standings with win

By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Two Junior Blue Devil squads emerge victorious

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

 
.

Features

.

Arts

 
Woodland artist hosts event at her new studio

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

I-House film series continues with ‘Monsieur Lazhar’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
‘Art Farm’ exhibition will open in Woodland

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

Pleasant Valley Boys cool down Picnic in the Park

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
Acclaimed guitarist Peppino D’Agostino to play The Palms

By Landon Christensen | From Page: A9

.

Business

.

Obituaries

Danelle Evelyn Watson

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Michael Allen Hanks Baxter

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Anne Elizabeth Elbrecht

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Comics: Tuesday, September 30, 2014 (set 1)

By Creator | From Page: B5

 
Comics: Tuesday, September 30, 2014 (set 2)

By Creator | From Page: B7