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Tuesday, January 20 at 8 p.m. NOVA: The Big Energy Gamble

(Rochester, NY) Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is leading the way with a dramatic and controversial program to slash carbon dioxide emissions and promote energy efficiency. NOVA explores the pros and cons of California’s bold approach on The Big Energy Gamble, airing Tuesday, January 20 at 8 p.m. on WXXI-TV 21 (cable 11) and WXXI-HD (cable 1011 and DT 21.1).

Probing the California initiative in unprecedented detail, NOVA conducts in-depth interviews with Governor Schwarzenegger, skeptics and supporters of the plan, and ordinary citizens and business people whose lives will change significantly when the new regulations take effect.

Known as AB 32 (Assembly Bill No. 32), the 2006 law mandates a statewide rollback of carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and a further 80 percent reduction by 2050—a goal also shared by President-elect Obama. If implemented in full, California’s effort will be one of the most ambitious to address global warming by any political entity in the world.

The sense of urgency is acute, because California is unusually susceptible to the effects of climate change, notably from drought, which has already resulted in devastating wildfires and chronic water shortages in large sections of the state. California’s major population centers are also threatened by rising sea level—another problem linked to increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

NOVA details the three-pronged approach that Governor Schwarzenegger is promoting, which calls for improvements in energy efficiency in homes and commercial buildings; increased reliance on renewable power sources, primarily solar and wind; and capping the amount of emissions that cars can emit.

But skeptics such as Marlo Lewis of the Competitive Enterprise Institute believe that the program will be disastrous for California’s economy, as businesses move out of state to escape the inevitable increases in energy costs. NOVA interviews a mattress factory owner near San Diego who is contemplating just that.

Meanwhile, others revel in the challenge, including actor Ed Begley, Jr. and science educator Bill Nye—aka “Bill Nye the Science Guy.” NOVA captures these two Los Angeles neighbors in the midst of a friendly, technology-fueled competition to see who can have the lowest carbon footprint.

Many of their gadgets are destined to play an important role in California’s energy future, including compact fluorescent bulbs, low-energy appliances, solar power cells, and electric vehicles. However, such efficiency upgrades are out of reach for many poorer citizens, who will have to be subsidized by the state to comply with the new law.

No one denies that the price tag for AB 32 will be substantial, but state officials argue that the savings from more efficient energy use will mean that the program will eventually pay for itself. Furthermore, California’s investment in new technologies holds the potential for sparking impressive new economic
growth.

For more information, visit http://www.pbs.org/nova/energy.

Pictured: Wind turbines at Oak Creek Energy Systems Wind Farm, Mojave, California.
Photo Credit: Cass Sapir

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