Feb 16, 2023

A new California Air Resources Board (CARB) analysis has some troubling news for Sacramento: the state’s energy policies will hurt household budgets and the state economy.

CARB’s 2022 Scoping Plan Update outlines the state’s path to achieving its carbon neutrality and emission reduction goals. Published late last year, the Scoping Plan Update included an unequivocal statement that “California households will see increased costs” due to the state’s energy policies.

But the pain won’t end there.

CARB economists also found that the policies will slow employment statewide by 0.4%, and low-income households will get hit the hardest, further increasing income inequality in the nation’s most inequitable state:

“Households in lower income groups are anticipated to see negative impacts, while households in higher income groups are anticipated to see positive impacts from the Scoping Plan … [Black and Hispanic] populations are likely to experience reduced income.”

The Scoping Plan estimates that in 2035 California energy policies will cause incomes for households earning less than $100,000 annually to be $4.1 billion lower than they would be otherwise.

Unfortunately, these findings are nothing new. For years, agency economists have warned that state energy policies are directly raising costs on Californians.

For example, in 2018, the California Department of Finance cautioned that amendments to the state’s cap-and-trade program would lead households to “face higher prices for fuels, electricity, and other products.”

Separately the same year, the Department of Finance found that new regulations for the Low Carbon Fuel Standard program would increase prices at the pump:

“This will indirectly affect individuals in California that purchase transportation fuel, as staff assumes increased costs associated with production or import of high carbon intensity fuels will be passed on to consumers in the form of higher fuel prices.”

Similar warnings of increased costs for households were also provided by state agency economists in 2016 and 2014.

That’s right: for nearly a decade, Sacramento policymakers have focused narrowly on emission reductions while disregarding concerns that their policies will raise costs for consumers and businesses. No wonder Californians pay some of the highest prices in the country for transportation fuels, home heating, and electricity.

While some politicians may now try to pass the buck for higher energy costs, the record is clear: they were warned.