California State Senator Josh Becker on vital issues affecting the Golden State

Ritu Jha–

Senator Josh Becker who represents California’s 13th Senate District recently spoke at the BITS Pilani Alumni Association Silicon Valley Chapter (BITSAA SVC) annual conference BITSync 23 in Palo Alto, California. During his keynote, he shed light light on several bills he has co-authored that are focused on accelerating California’s transition to 100 percent clean energy and net zero emissions, the Privacy Act and whether California is thinking about regulating AI.

California State Senator Josh Becker at the BITS Silicon Valley event

Becker, who was involved with President Obama on clean tech, said: “We had this effort on how can we rally the clean energy and green business community for President Obama. When he won, we realized how hard it was to get a clean energy policy done at the federal level. We could get it passed in the Senate. And, that’s why I started thinking more about California.” He said California has a budget of close to $15 billion for clean energy.

He added, “We’ve managed to reduce our emissions by 20% while growing the economy by 60 percent. Our next goal is to bring it down by 40% by 2030. We really need to be reducing emissions by 5 percent a year. Right now, we’re reducing emissions by 1% a year.”

Senator Becker spoke about tackling emissions from cement and concrete which account for 7 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, in addition to low carbon fuels for aircraft and shipping. “We’re trying to create a long-term particular market for carbon removal by requiring polluters to increasingly buy carbon removal over the next 20 years. I had six bills that became law in my first two years, I have seven more climate bills now. We now have a 2045 net-zero goal for the entire economy — 85% direct emissions reductions, 15% of that has been carbon removal, so that removing 65 million metric tons a year by 2045, we have to ramp up.”

When indica asked Senator Becker on the SB 362, the Privacy Act bill that proposes to let Californians take control of their personal information & require data brokers to delete data, he said, “Data brokers are third parties and they are not anyone you have a direct relationship with. When I talk to them, they say that people don’t want to be on their system. But right now, it’s incredibly complicated. We do have registration via our privacy act, but you have to go to 450 different sites to delete your data. Most people don’t have the time to help figure this out.”

When asked by a member of the audience asked whether California is thinking about regulating AI, the Senator said all the talk about the weaponization of AI is election disinformation. “There’s concern about election disinformation focused on how AI can be weaponized in 2024. That’s the number one concern about AI, while number two is copyright issues that have concerned the music industry. For example, people take different singers’ voices and create their own mashups.”

On California’s transition to an all-electric vehicle ecosystem, Senator Becker said: “I have a bill around that as well. It’s about holding the utilities accountable for when people electrify their homes and actually get plugged into the grid. And this has been a problem, not just for homes, but also for businesses, even hospitals, trying to get interconnection to the grid. So, I do have a bill on that to make them accountable.”

The next query the Senator fielded was about entrepreneurship and “the top three problems that they should be working on to help you”. His reply? “I would say clean energy, and healthcare perpetually. We spend twice as much as any other country in the world on healthcare per capita and yet have some of the worst outcomes. The three areas untouched by AI innovation are government, energy, and healthcare. We need to go ahead in some of these other areas like neurotech.”

The next question that was put to Senator Becker was: “What bill is keeping you up at night?”

He replied: “My carbon removal bill is the only bill that’s opposed by the oil industry, the chamber of commerce, the farm bureau, the  building trades, and the environmental justice groups. So, it’s the only thing they can agree on is they all hate this bill. And that’s because the environmental justice groups really, they don’t like any carbon removal, right on the carbon capture, they don’t like anything that’s not a direct emissions reduction, which I was trying to do as much as possible. And then the oil industry doesn’t want to pay for it. And that permeates through that other group I talked about. I got it out of the Senate because people know me, they have confidence in
me. They’ve got it off the floor of the Senate, but now it’s in the assembly and it’s more of a target there. The question now is, can we keep the financing mechanism? The goal is to create a bill that encourages entrepreneurs to invest in carbon removal. So that’s keeping me up at night.”

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