Full Speed Ahead in California

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Remember President Trump’s first visit to California? Probably not, because Air Force One has barely been west of the Mississippi. Not once has Trump set foot in California, even though he owns a perfectly good golf course in Los Angeles County. What’s he afraid of? Massive protests and withering public scorn from a state that he lost by more than 4 million votes and has done his best to alienate ever since?

If so, he’s misguided. Donald Trump should be grateful to California. As someone with no real interest in responsible governance (or responsible anything, for that matter), he should appreciate that California has real leaders doing real work on solving real problems. Somebody has to do it, right? At least, as the failing increasingly profitable New York Times put it in an op-ed last week, “until there are more responsible adults in the White House.”

Realistically, Californians shouldn’t expect a thank you note from the White House anytime soon. The rest of us, though, should be not only grateful but also encouraged by what’s happening in California. The state has been pushing the envelope on clean energy and climate action for more than a decade, and Trump’s election has inspired its leaders to push even harder — with real results.

In Sacramento, even before Trump’s election, Governor Jerry Brown and the legislature had enacted legislation that requires California to cut carbon emissions to at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, while also investing in the communities that are being hardest hit by climate change. When the legislature returns from its summer recess this year, though, Governor Brown will likely have an opportunity to get even more ambitious.

Senate Bill 100, which has already cleared several major hurdles in the legislature, would require California utilities to get at least half of their electricity from clean sources by 2026 instead of the current target of 2030. By 2030, the mandated percentage would be 60 percent. And by 2045, California would get all of its electricity from 100 percent clean, renewable sources. If Governor Brown signs the bill, California would be the second state in the nation (after Hawaii) to formally commit to getting all of its electricity from renewable sources.

Ambition, of course, is one thing — achieving that ambition is something else. Fortunately, Californians aren’t just talking about clean energy, they are aggressively pursuing it. For the latest example, look no further than Los Angeles. Last week, the directors of the city’s transit board approved a plan to electrify its entire fleet of buses by 2030. You may picture “freeways and cars” when you think of L.A., but the sprawling metropolis has the second-largest fleet of buses in the country, behind only New York City. More than 2,000 clean-running electric buses is a big deal — and the overwhelming majority of them will be built in right in Southern California.

“We have two choices,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti, who also chairs the transit board, when he introduced the 2030 goal. “We can wait for others, and follow, at the expense of residents’ health — or lead and innovate, and reduce emissions as quickly as possible.” Last week, Los Angeles chose to lead.

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