California: A Two-Headed Snake
April 18, 2011
By Katy Grimes
It’s difficult to ignore the two-headed snake that has become California’s political process — and it’s not just the Democrats fighting the Republicans. Today, Republicans fight each other while Democrats are passing laws that hamstring California’s future.
Gov. Jerry Brown just signed into law a bill requiring utility companies to increase purchases of renewable energy so that, by 2020, at least 33 percent of retail sales must be from renewable energy resources. And while this may seem like only another notch on the belt for global-warming enthusiasts, it’s a very big problem for California residents, utility ratepayers and taxpayers.
California’s regulatory climate prevents new construction of just about any facility, including power plants and transmission lines. The same environmentalist extremists who for decades pushed for solar and wind power are now preventing wind farms from operating because of harm to the condor and several other raptors which have been killed in the big turbines. Environmental groups have fought solar plants and transmission lines, using regulations that largely favor those opposed to projects. If renewable energy projects are blocked, then supply will be reduced and rates will go up.
The Democrats have won. They have managed to set up a system to halt to any future growth in California through legislative gridlock — alternative energy mandates on one side, and environmentalist restrictions on the other. Competing and conflicting laws, passed by through committees controlled by Democratic legislators, are now being signed by Gov. Brown, in his third term after a 30-year break in between terms.
Rules for Radicals
Jamming the bureaucratic gears into gridlock in order to bring the entire system crashing down is a tactic right out of the 1971 book Rules For Radicals, by Saul Alinsky. He was a “transformational Marxist” who promoted the strategy of capturing the culture and turning it inside out as the most effective means of overturning western society, through stealth and deception. By cultivating an image of centrism and pragmatism, and a master of infiltration, Alinsky successfully won over Chicago mobsters and Wall Street financiers alike. And successive Democratic politicians fell under his spell.
Examples of this can be found in the actions and bills being promoted by lawmakers.
“This bill establishes California as the national leader in clean energy, improving the environment and stimulating the economy while protecting ratepayers from excessive costs,” state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Santa Cruz, said about his SB X 1 2.
However, even the California Public Utilities Commission has warned that increasing the renewable standard would cost utility companies in the state “tens of billions of dollars” and increase electricity costs to ratepayers. In its 2009 Legislative Summary, the CPUC wrote about Simitian’s previous renewable bill, SB 14, “[A]s drafted this measure would make it more difficult and costly to achieve this very important goal,” and “adds new regulatory hurdles to permitting renewable resources in the state, at the same time limiting the importation of cost-effective renewable energy from other states in the West.”
With the restrictions in the bill on how much renewable energy can be purchased out of state, several energy company representatives recently testified in legislative committee hearings that it is a violation of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress, not the state governments, control over interstate commerce; that violation could cause the need for a judicial remedy.
New Policies, Old Technologies
The other problem with creating more renewable energy is using old technology. An energy expert I recently spoke with said that California’s electricity plants are like old machinery — they still run, but are not as efficient as the new technology. Most electricity plants in the state were built between 1947 and 1978.
He said it’s like an old car needing to be warmed up before driving, where a new car can be started right up and driven immediately. The energy produced in the old plants is not produced efficiently or cost effectively. And ramping up the clean-energy demand will only further strain the old energy plants.
But new plant start-ups are difficult and, in California, take exorbitant amounts of time to build. Construction faces built-in timetables and extra costs for litigation, California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) restrictions and permitting for every layer of government (local, state and federal). Thus far, California has built no new energy plants in at least 10 years.
He added that we know that wind and solar doesn’t always work, and cannot be counted on. At best, solar and wind work intermittently, when there is wind or sun. For every megawatt of wind or solar power, there needs to be plenty of traditional electrical backup, costing ratepayers far more than if we just counted on traditional energy production.
And the same environmentalists who for decades pushed for solar and wind power are trying to stop wind farms from operating because the California condor and several other native raptors can be killed in the big turbines.
Oil vs. Renewable Funding
As justification for creating a false demand for renewable energy, Democrats relish claiming that oil companies receive billion-dollar subsidies. But according to Lawrence McQuillan, Ph.D., with the Pacific Research Institute (CalWatchdog’s parent think tank), “While oil and gas receive slightly more than 1 percent of government energy R&D funding, renewables receive 22 times as much funding.”
And, McQuillan says that oil and gas supplies more than 60 percent of all U.S. energy needs, compared to just 8 percent for renewable energy production. “While renewables are expected to grow in coming years, analysts say that even by 2035, more than half of the nation’s energy demand will still be met by oil and gas,” said McQuillan.
Where do the subsidies for wind and solar projects go? The energy companies have already run through the $2 billion subsidy allotted for commercial solar projects, leaving nothing for homeowners.
The latest pet project of the California do-gooder crowd is putting solar on the roofs of affordable housing projects. And the companies even provide financing, such as that by Borrego Solar:
We’ve secured funds to finance more than $100 million of solar power installations for customers with good credit and high energy bills. We’ve also established strategic partnerships with financial institutions that allow us to bring the latest solar financing options to customers looking to eliminate the upfront cost of installing solar.
While energy plant construction is at a halt, the government money available for clean energy subsidies is moving around to other government entities, or “public” projects as they prefer to be called.
Government and municipal buildings, water authorities and public housing are all being built with the latest in green technology. But the average homeowner can’t afford this.
It’s a terrifying notion that our elected lawmakers are creating legislated gridlock. And while doing so, they are also moving public money around to other public entities. Much of the subsidy for renewable energy has gone to government entities and municipalities. They were even named as a “priority” in how the money was to be used in the California Solar Initiative.
While preventing the sources of energy from being produced, and at the same time mandating higher and higher clean energy standards, Democrats are realizing the fruits of their strategies. And the more entitlements they hand out, the more entitlement voters they get.
Spain already found out the hard way that every subsidized green job cost more than three private-sector jobs. And the billions spent on wind power in Denmark have not helped to lower their carbon output because of the constant backup energy needed to cover intermittent wind energy output.
This would be a good time, given California’s history, to start up a moving company to handle the coming exodus from California. Business would be booming. But I couldn’t afford the time it would take for two-year permitting process to start up such a company. Nor could I afford the excessive diesel regulations imposed on the trucks — or the expensive workers compensation insurance for the employees.
Californians are just going to have to rent their own U-Haul trailers on the way out of the state.
I recently read this observation:
A limited government can better protect the economic health of its citizens by policing corruption from the private sector, under the direction of term-limited representatives who will never become worth the risk of buying off. The larger government becomes, the more its arrogant ruling class believe themselves worthy of royal treatment … and the more justified they feel about lying to the public for their own good.
We are there already.
- Katy Grimes