Cap and Trade for HSR: Scientifically Worthless

TRANSDEF released its analysis today of the CHSRA’s Contribution of the High-Speed Rail Program to Reducing California's Greenhouse Gas Emission Levels (June 2013). In short, the construction of HSR would generate more greenhouse gases (GHGs) than it would reduce, for at least 2 decades. Because of this, it would be illegal to use cap and trade funds, which are intended to reduce GHGs, to build HSR.

What’s especially surprising about the CHSRA’s report is its overtly deceitful manner of hiding its construction emissions, and its failure to provide comprehensive emissions numbers, despite being tasked by the Legislature with identifying the project’s net GHG benefits. Perhaps not so surprising are the two high-level Administration officials that gave their unqualified endorsements to the report.

Senate President Pro Tem Steinberg has
announced a new plan to allocate cap and trade funds to support SB 375 Sustainable Communities. That plan proposes to devote 20% of revenues to HSR. The proposal is troubling above and beyond its inclusion of HSR in the grab bag. It politicizes the use of cap and trade funds, departing from ARB’s strict approach of maximally reducing GHGs with the funds. The proposal would encourage the gaming of the evaluation of project GHG emissions, which could gravely harm the state’s climate change efforts.