Personnel Profile: Joseph Romm

[B]Tell me how you came to write this book.[/B]

Hurricane Katrina. My brother lived in probably the worst town to be in, Pass Christian, and got 22 feet of water a mile inland. I though I should be able to advise him on whether he should rebuild. I talked to a lot of the leading experts, and they certainly persuaded me we were going to see a lot more intense hurricanes in the Gulf. But they also persuaded me that the climate problem was more serious than I had thought.
You hold up California as a state that’s doing many things right.[/B]

California has long been a leader. California has been allowed to have tougher clean-air standards. The thing that California has done the best is to sustain over an aggressive energy-efficiency effort. That has enabled the state to keep per capita energy consumption flat over the last three decades, whereas it has gone up 60 percent in the rest of the country.

[B]But out capitas certainly have gone up. [/B]

On the other hand, I’ve had conversations with Art Rosenfeld, a California energy commissioner, that the state believes it can be more aggressive and achieve better than flat per capita. Within the last five years, California has again shown some real leadership on the climate issue, with the Pavley bill.
How big a deal do you think AB 32 is?

Originally, I thought it was mostly symbolic. I didn’t think the Bush administration would sign off on it. The 5-4 Supreme Court decision changed all that. Stephen Johnson, the head of the EPA, said they would not make a decision on this, and on whether the EPA would regulate emissions, until the end of next year. It essentially means this administration will take no action at all. I think almost anybody who gets elected president is going to be more open to letting California regulate.

[B]How close does California come to what we really need to be doing?[/B]

Governor Schwarzenegger has worked with the Legislature to embrace reducing emission to 1990 levels by 2020. It’s not a written-into-stone goal, but there’s an 80 percent reduction by 2050. The governor has not perhaps been as aggressive in figuring out how it would be implemented. There’s no escape from putting a hard cap on emissions that leads to a price increase for energy.

California’s energy-efficiency efforts can keep people’s energy bills from rising, and the state has been a leader on renewables. But one has to bear in mind it’s just a state. I’ve been critical of the hydrogen effort. But the state Legislature didn’t give Schwarzenegger very much money for it. It will die. It was disappointing when the state backed off of its electric vehicle mandate.
As in the famous movie [Who Killed the Electric Car?].[/B]

That I appear in. I got my opportunity to trash hydrogen in that movie.

[B]Would you like another opportunity?[/B]

The people who are still interested in hydrogen just aren’t paying enough attention. The miracles that you need to get hydrogen cars to be practical still remain. You have to solve the fuel cell costs, the durability problem, the hydrogen storage problem, the low-cost renewable hydrogen generation problem, the whose going to build the infrastructure problem, and then the competition problem. If the competition is plug-in hybrids, that’s going to be very hard for hydrogen cars to overcome.

[B]Hydrogen sounds like a failure at every level of competition. Why are people still pushing it?[/B]

Partly because the Bush administration is supporting it with money. I think that there are people at General Motors and in the Bush administration who are quite cynical. Because it is so far away, it was used to argue against nearer-term measures like fuel efficiency.

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