California governor pushes for 50 percent renewable energy by 2030

ByJudy Lin, Associated Press

California Gov. Jerry Brown, left, takes the oath of office from Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court Tani Cantil-Sakauye, right, as his wife, Anne Gust Brown, center, looks on during his inauguration at the state Capitol Monday, Jan. 5, 2015, in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, Pool)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — As he was sworn in for a record fourth term, Gov. Jerry Brown charted an ambitious new goal on Monday for California in its fight against climate change, challenging the nation's most populous state to increase renewable energy use to 50 percent in the next 15 years.

Brown, a Democrat, specifically called for the state to increase renewable electricity sources, reduce petroleum use in vehicles, double the energy efficiency of existing buildings and make heating fuels cleaner by 2030.

California already is known as a leader in far-reaching environmental laws, but Brown said existing efforts were not enough.

The current state goal calls for 33 percent of energy use to come from renewable sources by 2020. As of last year, nearly 25 percent of California's retail electricity came from renewable energy, not including large dams, the state energy commission said.

"We must demonstrate that reducing carbon is compatible with an abundant economy and human well-being," Brown said during his inauguration speech. "So far, we have been able to do that."

Former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, who attended the ceremony, called Brown a visionary who knows how to balance the books. He praised the environmental goals and said Brown likely based the targets on achievable science.

"Even if the rhetoric is slightly ahead of reality, he's always believed that our reach should exceed our grasp," Davis said.

Some environmental groups urged Brown to go further and ban fracking in California. They argue that tapping the state's oil reserve will greatly add to carbon pollution.

"The oil and gas boom threatens to undercut all the other progress that our state may make on climate change," said Kassie Siegel, a senior counsel on climate issues for the Center for Environmental Diversity, an environmental nonprofit.

A state oil-industry group, Western States Petroleum Association, said it was reviewing the governor's targets.

At 76, Brown is the state's longest-serving and the nation's oldest governor. He served from 1975 to 1983 before term limits were implemented and returned for his third term in 2011. He defeated Republican challenger Neel Kashkari in a landslide re-election victory in November.

Since his return as governor, Brown has been credited with helping stabilize state finances. California's general fund spending has grown 25 percent in the past four years, fueled by a statewide economic recovery and the passage of a temporary tax increase.

Brown told the audience at his inauguration in the Assembly chamber that California is at a crossroads for keeping its future golden. He explained that he wants to reduce methane, black carbon and other pollutants as well as manage farms, forests and wetlands to absorb more carbon dioxide.

"All of this is a very tall order," he said. "It means that we continue to transform our electrical grid, our transportation system and even our communities."

Brown recalled his father's first inauguration in 1959 and said many issues that Gov. Pat Brown raised haven't gone away, including discrimination; quality of education and the challenge of recruiting and training teachers; and a realistic water program.

He called for state employees to help start prefunding retiree health obligations. He also urged Republicans and Democrats to tackle the state's infrastructure needs and implement education, health care and public safety reforms.

Brown's wife, Anne Gust Brown, introduced her husband at the inauguration, saying his expansive mind and committed heart make him an ideal leader.

"He's someone that we know will enthusiastically and creatively forge a new and bold future for us," she said. "And yet, he will do so grounded enough in wisdom of the past that we won't drive off a cliff."

After the ceremony, the two shared a plate of hot dogs at a celebration hosted by labor outside the building.

Brown made no mention of one of his showcase proposals, a plan to run two giant tunnels under Central California's San Joaquin Delta to ferry water south to densely populated cities such as Los Angeles.

Assembly Minority Leader Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, said she was disappointed that Brown had not yet put forward a plan to spur economic growth or to ensure schools are preparing students for a 21st century economy.

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins said majority Democrats would like to see Brown add funding for social services, a comment that appeared to set up some budget friction with members of his own party. Brown indicated he will continue to focus on debt service and save for a rainy day.

"Not all Californians have come back from the recession," Atkins said after Brown's speech.

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