Where's the balance?

I believe all Californians are environmentalists. Who doesn't want clean air and clean water?

So I've always been troubled that single-issue advocacy groups have hijacked the term “environmentalist” and under that umbrella pushed specific agendas that do little more than swell the coffers of those advocacy groups, grow the size of government and ignore the economic impact on Californians.

I'm supportive of an integrated approach to energy policy including energy efficient or “green” buildings and retrofitting, more renewable energy, on-site smart technology and using clean-burning natural gas as a bridge until we have more technological breakthroughs.

Last year I attended a California Foundation for the Environment and Economy conference and was stunned to learn that California, which is the eighth largest economy in the world, only produces 1 percent of the global carbon emissions.

The challenges to the global environment emanate from emerging countries such as China, India and Brazil.

Like most Californians, I have no problem with government actions that will reduce the effects of greenhouse gas emissions through clean energy policies, so long as the approach and implementation is balanced.

However, California's 2006 landmark law, AB 32, mandating the reduction of greenhouses gases as proscribed, is the worst brand of social engineering.

What so concerns me about the proponents of AB 32 and measures like it, is the way they completely “lose it” when given the opportunity to balance the interests between (in this case) the legitimate need to address greenhouse gas emissions and the even more legitimate need to do it in a manner that doesn't cripple our economy.

Case in point: all of us are about to get pounded with dramatic increases in gas prices due to the California Air Resources Board's decision to expand the Cap-and-Trade Program to include transportation fuels beginning Jan. 1, 2015.

If Californians are not now happy with paying over $4 per gallon today, wait until they get a load of $4.91 per gallon.

And that is just the beginning. Food and consumer goods prices will all rise due to increased transportation costs.

And with our only barely recovering economy, this will hit low- and middle-income families hardest; they will be spending even more of their paychecks buying food, goods and gas.

I was somewhat heartened by the fact that two weeks ago, 16 of the 55 Democratic members in the state Assembly joined business, agriculture and taxpayer groups from across the state in asking Gov. Jerry Brown and the Air Resources Board to delay the expansion of the Cap-and-Trade Program to gasoline and diesel, citing not only its effect on their constituents, California businesses and the economy, but also the still-unknown impact it will have on fuel markets — the hidden tax could even be higher than expected — $5 a gallon, anybody?

Recently the Public Policy Institute of California released a poll clearly showing that while Californians overwhelmingly support clean energy policies and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the bottom of that support drops out when cap and trade is expanded to gasoline and diesel and the hidden gas tax is revealed.

And, while I am not surprised the Air Resources Board remains indifferent, I am a little surprised — and disappointed — that Gov. Brown, running for re-election, doesn't seem to care either.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the increases won't take place until January, when he believes he will be safely back in the governor's corner office for another four years and safe from ever having to face the voters again.

I ask my constituents — indeed, all Californians — to write to our governor and remind him that we already pay among the highest gas prices and gas taxes in the nation, and that the last thing our struggling economy needs right now is another crippling blow to our pocketbooks — no matter how good the cause.

When will our leaders stop with these self-inflicted wounds to our economy? When will they start to say “no” to the single-issue extremists and the bureaucracies they spawn in Sacramento?

You know, 16 Democrats plus 25 Republicans support a delay in the hidden gas tax. That's 41 votes in the 80-member Assembly.

Perhaps it's time for a new governing coalition in the Assembly that can bring balance to the demands of science, our business climate and the welfare of our citizens.