California Stars: Lighting the Way to a Clean Energy Future

May 08, 2019

This report was authored with Charles Komanoff.

For the United States as a whole, economic growth has far outpaced increases in fossil fuel use for decades. Since 1975, this decoupling has been much larger in California than in the rest of the country. Thanks to innovative clean energy policies, the state saw massive statewide economic growth without a corresponding increase in fossil fuel usage. This report quantifies and dissects the impacts of California’s forward-looking policies and concludes that: a) had the other 49 states reduced fossil fuel use relative to economic activity over the past four decades at the same pace as California, nationwide carbon emissions would now be lower by 24 percent, or 1,200 million metric tons a year; and b) what enabled California to cut its fossil fuel use relative to economic activity faster than the rest of the country was a sustained, bipartisan commitment to efficiency and clean energy standards and incentives. The Golden State provides a compelling illustration of how we as a nation can protect our environment and grow our economy at the same time.