Focus on California

Thomas Friedman, writing in the New York Times, states he is depending on California to help control Donald Trump’s reactionary ideas regarding the environment and health care. He has a point: The California market size, ability to legislate and environmental goals make it the most powerful opposition to Trump’s roll-back of federal programs in America today.

Size counts: If it were a country, the California economy would be the eighth largest among nations. With a population of 38.8-million people and a domestic product of $61,924 per capita, it actually props up most of the other states in the U.S. through federal taxes. California leads the nation in job-growth rate. California agriculture is the largest in the nation. It produces over a third of the U.S. vegetables and two-thirds of fruits and nuts. Farms and ranches over California brought in $47 billion in 2015. California Certification of Organic Farmers (CCOF) sets the strict regulation of “organic farming” under Chapter 403 of AB1826 and the USDA-accreditation. In its larger matter, AB1826 also sets the standard for “organic products” and “organic recycling.”

In terms of the Affordable Care Act and potential Trump-care acts, the California Department of Managed Health Care (created in 1999), the country’s first government agency solely dedicated to assisting consumers to resolve disputes with health plans, and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 strongly work to support Obamacare for California residents.

California clean-air standards, stronger than the federal government standards, have impacted the national standards since more than 33 percent of the vehicles sold in the United States are subject to the rules California sets. Here is an example, reported in the New York Times of May 7: The California Air Resources Board (CARB) demanded that Volkswagen provide the software code that governed the emissions control system in the 2016 models. Failure to comply would mean the 2016 models would not be approved for sale in California. The power of this request came from the fact that New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and many New England states follow California’s clean-air standards. Sales in this block of states are great enough that no vehicle can be a success in America if it is banned there. Providing the code revealed that Volkswagen was cheating on emissions tests and led to VW’s huge penalties and loss of sales.

In terms of the wider view, California has mandated 50 percent of all electricity to come from wind, solar and other renewables by 2030.

Since another 15 percent already comes from existing nuclear and hydroelectric power, the grid is set to be 65 percent “decarbonized” in 13 years. By way of example, Apple is now powering 96 percent of its operations around the world with renewable energy and has reached 100 percent in 24 countries, including the United States and China. As a result, there are more clean-energy jobs in California than there are coal jobs in all of America.

As has been shown recently, progressive decisions by the California legislature and our governor have directly countered decisions and “rollbacks” by the Trump Administration. Influencing decisions by the anti-environment right wing in Congress and the administration is difficult, compared to influencing progressives here in California. Fight Trump in California first and victories in the other states will follow.

This article first appeared in the May 24, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News. Author, Wayne Lanier

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