Archive: Jul 2015

  1. The High Cost of Getting High

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    We often write about the need to consider the equity, environmental and economic implications of our policies, advocacy and personal choices.  Even in seemingly unrelated policy areas, by asking the right questions we can see the interconnectedness of the three E’s.  For example, the debate over the decriminalization of marijuana use has been framed by health, civil liberty, public safety and tax revenue issues.  But, as our lead article details, the growing cultivation of pot indoors has real energy and greenhouse gas impacts.  On the flip side, the way California spends the revenue generated from its pioneering greenhouse gas emission reduction program (i.e., cap-and-trade) has enormous social equity concerns.  And in this time of smart phone apps and gee-whiz digital advances, we think a robust, equitable economy requires universal access to broadband – today’s equivalent of the public library, schoolhouse, encyclopedia, telephone, community center and employment office all rolled into one.  So as you embrace summer by reading the new old Harper Lee novel, enjoying the latest blockbuster, or reveling in the great outdoors, you might consider the interconnectedness of it all.  Or just take a deep breath and relax.

    Sincerely,

    Cecilia V. Estolano, Jennifer LeSar, Katherine A. Perez-Estolano

  2. The Cap-and-Trade Spigot Opens

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    While the efficacy of California’s cap-and-trade program in reducing the state’s overall greenhouse gas emissions continues to be a subject of debate, the program’s ability to generate revenue (almost $1 billion through 2014) has been impressive. And as the pot of cap-and-trade revenue grows, the state is seeing more competing proposals for funding. Over the past month or so, proceeds from the auction of emissions permits have been allocated to a host of new programs for some innovative projects. In addition, the state’s cap-and-trade program is focusing resources to serve more low-income and disadvantaged communities. Passed in 2012, SB 535 requires allocating a minimum of 25 percent of the state’s cap-and-trade revenues to projects that benefit disadvantaged communities; a minimum of ten percent of the proceeds must be used for projects located in disadvantaged communities. With this mandate in mind, we look at a few of the more innovative programs that were awarded funding to help improve our most vulnerable communities. (more…)

  3. The Herb Ain’t Green

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    Indoor agriculture is touted as a way to make urban farming more prevalent, and as a method to sustainably increase food production in arid climates. But the expense of providing artificial light and the relatively high cost of urban land have largely precluded this specialized type of agriculture from widespread adoption. However, there are niche markets where economic incentives make indoor growing appealing in spite of its extraordinarily high energy costs. In the U.S., marijuana production is perhaps the most prominent (and controversial) sector to embrace wholesale indoor cultivation. For the growing list of jurisdictions where cannabis can be grown legally, localities and utility providers are worried about the energy needs of this burgeoning industry. For policymakers, the highly regulated environment for legal marijuana producers presents an opportunity to mandate operational efficiencies. But do other energy-intensive sectors stand to learn a thing or two from sustainably grown pot? (more…)

  4. Narrowing the Digital Divide

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    According to the FCC’s 2015 Broadband Progress Report, 100 million American residents don’t have broadband internet service at home, even if their buildings are equipped with the necessary infrastructure. For many low-income households, the average monthly service cost of $42 is simply out of reach. The FCC recognizes that broadband “has become essential to participation in modern society, offering access to jobs, education, healthcare, government services and opportunity.” In spite of this recognized need, home internet is still not widely available for large segments of the population. But revised policies at the federal and state level may be helping to expand broadband internet service and narrow the nation’s digital divide. (more…)

  5. City of Woodland Houses Nation’s First Zero Net Energy Affordable Housing

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    Non-profit sustainable affordable housing developer Mutual Housing California built the nation’s first certified zero-net energy rental housing project in the City of Woodland. Certified by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Zero Energy Ready Home Program, the 3-acre Mutual Housing at Spring Lake project provides 62 affordable apartments and townhomes serving primarily low-income agricultural workers and their families in the community. (more…)