New ‘Green’ Law Is Union Giveaway

New ‘Green’ Law Is Union Giveaway

OCT. 4, 2010

By WAYNE LUSVARDI

Will a new law mandating green power storage facilities along green pathway electric transmission lines paradoxically result in short circuiting green power in California?

Or is this new law mostly symbolic to help Jerry Brown’s campaign for governor with help from an energy storage company that is pushing for government help for an uncompetitive technology?

This new law may also be a classic test of whether environmental lawsuits are used to eliminate market competition to the advantage of one energy storage technology over another at the expense of the larger public good and have little to do with the environment.

For sure, this new law will create massive subsidies for green power and energy storage technologies employed by union workers that will replace non-union jobs in the conventional energy industry.

AB2514 Mandates Storage

Recently, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a new bill (AB2514) mandating storage of renewable power from wind and solar farms in facilities integrated into the transmission grid system for use when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. This new law will be initially imposed on public regulated utilities (Edison, PG&E) but will eventually be mandated for municipal electrical utilities as well.

The reason for storage of green power is that it is so variable that the entire southwestern U.S. would have to become one huge regional electric grid to make it work. If wind is not blowing in Edison’s massive proposed new wind farm in Kern County but it is blowing in, say, Oregon, then that is where wind power will come from (via the Pacific Intertie). But then the advertisement that green power will create jobs in California becomes tricky. Without storage capacity, Texas, Idaho or Oregon may be generating wind or solar power for California and vice versa depending on weather factors.  But with in-line grid storage California can supposedly generate its own green power, green union jobs, and green taxes to reduce its seemingly perpetual state budget deficit. But Californians have learned that for every energy utopia promised by politicians there is an energy crisis out there lurking.

FERC: A Battery is a Transmission Line

What’s behind California’s new energy storage law is an order by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), in response to California-based Western Grid Development’s request, that batteries used to store electricity from the transmission system be considered transmission facilities themselves.  Western Grid had proposed to install many small energy storage facilities along the path of new green transmission lines that would add up to a large amount of overall storage.

Following FERC’s order in July of this year, the U.S. Senate introduced the Storage 2010 Act that will provide up to $1.5 billion in tax credits to energy storage projects connected with intermittent power sources such as wind and solar.  California’s AB2514 is just conforming to Federal mandates and incentives.

Storage Makes Green Power Green (as in money)

The stored electricity could be used to meet peak time demands, to charge electric car batteries, or to help regulate the grid. But its primary use is to allow wind and solar power developers to sell their expensive power at peak times for many more times the price thus making green power competitive in the wholesale peak and spot energy markets.

Obama Rate Hike in Face of Prop 23

The FERC order could compel the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) to pay a 195 basis point adder to Western Grid’s rate of return conditional upon receiving joint approval of CAISO.  In other words, the Obama-controlled FERC is ordering a rate increase to pay for green power storage to be passed through to California electricity ratepayers at the same time that Prop 23 is on the ballot to suspend green power in California as a jobs killer and electricity rate escalator during a prolonged economic depression. And for the most part the public isn’t being informed.

The CAISO opposed the order on the grounds that FERC had rejected a similar request by the Nevada Hydro Company for its proposed Lake Elsinore Advanced Pump Storage Project in Riverside County.

Greens Blocked Hydropower Projects

FERC, the CPUC, and environmentalists have shot down many of California’s energy storage projects.  A proposal for a pump-back water reservoir energy storage project in the City of Industry in the Los Angeles area has been tried since 1972. In 2000, the City of Industry bought 5,700 acres in Tonner Canyon near the Metro Water District’s Diemer Filtration Plant in Yorba Linda.  But the project has never been able to gain any momentum due to environmental opposition.

In Lake Elsinore in Riverside County, the proposal to build a pumped storage facility has been in the works since 1987.  The CPUC rejected the proposed 32-mile power line from the proposed reservoir through the Cleveland National Forest to Escondido and the Camp Pendleton Marine Base. The Center for Biological Diversity is strongly opposed to this project.  Oddly, however, the center is also opposed to Prop 23 that would put a halt to green power projects blighting the deserts with ugly wind farms and green-path transmission lines that go through pristine deserts or national forests.

John Buse, the Bio-Diversity Center’s attorney, is quoted as saying “Certainly, I think the public can tolerate some of these transmission lines on public land if they’re needed, but here we have pretty good evidence that this isn’t needed,” he said. “We’re pretty skeptical of the stated need for these facilities.” But then where is their support for Prop 23 that would at least temporarily stop such projects?

Will environmental organizations be rushing to vote YES on Prop 23 to stop the environmental degradation from energy storage projects? Don’t hold your breath.  Environmental organizations are all about political power and union jobs not green power or environmental protection.

Energy Storage Technologies

Because of environmental opposition to reservoir energy storage projects, Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAE) technology is being considered as an alternative.  The Federal Energy Administration has awarded $25 million in federal stimulus funds for a 300-megawatt compressed air energy storage project using a salt porous rock formation near Bakersfield for storage.

But compressed air energy projects use a peaking gas turbine plant that environmentalists typically don’t like.  And if there were no mines or caverns to store compressed air in, such underground storage basins would have to be excavated along with any impacts to underground water supplies and habitats.

Although actual costs to store green power are unknowable, all the other storage technologies out there are many times the cost of either reservoir storage or compressed air systems.  But the two cheapest technologies are the most environmentally unfriendly and conversely all the others are more environmentally friendly but are the most costly. See chart.

Is Brown Green?

Attorney General Jerry Brown has been attributing AB2514 to efforts by he and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Oakland, who authored the bill and touts herself as an environmentalist.  However, the largest contributors to her last re-election campaign unsurprisingly were electrical workers unions and general trade unions. Environmentalism serves as a cover for union labor interests.

According to online sources, AB2514 came into being due to lobbying by Edward G. Cazalet, head of Megawatt Energy Farms, which proposes to develop an inside-the-fence Independent Storage Provider Concept system.

But will green energy storage work?  Reportedly, the best battery system out there today costs about $0.80 per kilowatt hour. So the U.S. Department of Energy, FERC, the CPUC, Gubernatorial Candidate Jerry Brown, State Assemblywomen Nancy Skinner and the state Legislature have to reduce costs by a factor of eight to make it work.  That $0.70 per kilowatt-hour cost spread is a subsidy to unions that electricity ratepayers will be paying for all in the name of green power.  To make it work the real cost of peak time power including all subsidies and stimuli will have to rise to levels not seen since the California Energy Crisis of 2001.  Green power and green power storage are being made to work no matter the cost.

Stop Dirty Coal or Dirty Pol?

A slogan for the anti-Prop 23 campaigns is: “Stop Dirty Coal.”  But those proponents of Prop 23 to halt Green Power might use their own counter slogan: “Stop Dirty Pols.”

To make affordable power you don’t have to pump hydro or build complex air compressor-gas turbine plants that store compressed air in massive underground caverns or man-made subsurface basins that alter the environment.  More dams and hydro-power should be built for peak energy load times, especially when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. Hydro is nearly instantaneous and can respond to energy volatilities.  A federal study indicated that of the 800 federal dams a significant number have untapped hydro storage capacity. Exploiting existing dams for energy storage might lessen environmental impacts. But hydro-power still doesn’t count as green power in California.

If the process were understood by the public, they would realize that California electricity could be made far cheaper if it continued to rely on scheduled use of coal-fired power imported from other states that create no air pollution in highly dense cities along the coast with peaking demands met by hydro-power.  The very expensive and dirty option of natural gas would be eventually mothballed and Californians would be able to make their house payments and use their air conditioners.

On Oct. 2, a mortgage firm sponsored the Help and Hope Foreclosure Prevention and Home Buyer Fair with 30,000 in attendance with manufactured scenes out of the 1930s depression optimally timed before elections. If you asked those distressed homeowners who attended if they would rather have cheap coal power that pollutes air in Utah but allows them to run their air conditioner and make their mortgage payment or very expensive green power that cleans the air in the desert and ends up so that they can’t run their A/C or make their mortgage payment in the remote chance of a union job, what do you think they would vote for?

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  1. Jeff Gallagher
    Jeff Gallagher 4 October, 2010, 12:18

    Letter sent to my members regarding this article:

    Members:

    Read: New Green Law is Union Giveaway

    This article is a prime example of the far Right grasping at straws when it come to bashing public employees. The article, is hosted on the Cal Watchdog website. The website is a startup, much like the Voice OC. Steve Greenhut, former editorial board member of the Orange County Register, left his job (before he was terminated due to downsizing) and, with the help of other notable libertarian zealots Tibor Machan and Fred Smoller, started this public employee bashing website.

    “For sure, this new law will create massive subsidies for green power and energy storage technologies employed by union workers that will replace non-union jobs in the conventional energy industry.”

    This standalone statement has absolutely no verification other than what Wayne Lusvardi and his team can dream up. The article goes on to infer that all jobs will be “union” jobs and, therefore, bad for the economy. They also seem to think that the government will have something do with the employees and we all know that, if there is one thing worse than a union employee, it is a public union employee.

    The diatribe goes on for some length, discussing the pros and cons of green power and generally discounting anything that costs more. Apprently, libertarians are all about taking as much from the earth today and not worrying about what is left for future generations. We finally get down to the union tie. Here it is, drumroll, please:

    “That $0.70 per kilowatt-hour cost spread is a subsidy to unions that electricity ratepayers will be paying for all in the name of green power.”

    Now, if that is not enough to convince you of the green power – union power conspiracy, I don’t know what is.

    Keep reading Cal Watchdog. It’s good for a laugh every now and then. Just don’t drink the koolaid.

    Regards,


    Jeff Gallagher
    SCOPO Webmaster

    Reply this comment
  2. Tylerle13
    Tylerle13 4 October, 2010, 13:28

    Stick to smashing watermelons jeff. Its probably not something that “Webmasters” normally encounter, but out here in the real world, almost every project that involves tax dollars, public land, public, use, or the influence of a public employee who has been bought off, requires the latest union scame, known as a PLA (Project Labor Agreement). These PLA’s are one of the most obvious Union money grab that our country has ever seen. Union representatives get together in a little room and bicker about which unions gets control over every aspect of a project, right down to who will restock the toilet paper in the port-a-pottys. The sole purpose of these PLA’s is to make sure that the unions get a piece of every single cent the government spends.

    Aside from the fact that this money is not going toward the benefits of the union members, these unions are actually forcing companies to FIRE their own union members because these PLA’s include stipulations that require companies to hire local workers. If you have a worker that does not live in a designated area code, you have to fire that worker and replace them with another union member that lives right where the work is being done. They just play a shell game with their members, they really could not care less about the individual members well being.

    The owners of these projects get screwed just about as bad as the workers do. The additional red tape & hurdles that people have to go through is crippling. These jobs require so much more administrative work & so many additional costs that it ends up costing atleast 2x as much time money to finish the projects as it would without the PLA’s.

    So, if your trying to use government land to build these transfer stations & New “Green Energy” Storage facilities, you had better bet that every single one of them will be bound by a Union Pork PLA. Unions will clean house on all of these projects, the politicians will then tout that they “Created” thousands of “New Green Jobs” simply because companies have to play the union shell game and are forced to fire their current workers and hire new ones. The unions will turn around and send a big chunk of their PLA money grab profits to the politicians who arranged the payoff. All of this money shuffling with be funded by the taxpayers of California (the few that are left).

    Its must be wonderful to live in a fictional Government created Utopia, where new “Green Energy Jobs” are going to rush into California and make up for the 1,000,000 blue collar jobs that CARB kills under the guise of a token gesture law that will make absolutely no impact on the environment or global warming. If only all of the rest of us knuckle draggers could live without the curse of common sense & the damned ability to think on our own, what a better place the world would be. Unfortunately, its the workers of California that have to suffer the consequences of CARB’s failed Social Engineering experiments. Jeff, please tell us how you have become so enlightened!

    Reply this comment
  3. Bobnormal
    Bobnormal 4 October, 2010, 13:52

    Notice Mr. Gallagher gave us no links, Webmaster for which website? URL anyone?…anyone? No instead we get Lefty boiler plate, nice try, attempting to bash this website, which I find to be anything but Right wing, rather honest and newsworthy reportage for the state of California,
    Robert

    Reply this comment
  4. Jeff Gallagher
    Jeff Gallagher 4 October, 2010, 15:37

    Oh, sorry, here it is: http://www.scopo.org

    Tylerle13 – Well, the webmaster isn’t my real day job. My real job is union (as if you couldn’t guess) public safety employee.

    Regarding the rest of your discussion, while I can agree with much of it, where -anywhere- does AB2514 or Prop 23 say anything about requiring union labor or even PLAs? My point is, Cal Watchdog is continuing the tradition of it’s originators -who all hail from Orange County- to take every opportunity to bash union employees, even when there is no sign of unionism. Your assertions are baseless that union labor will be involved. If all contractors wanted to hire non-union labor, they would do so. But, many see the value in a skilled, well-paid work force that is properly trained. By the way, what’s wrong with using local work force if they are suited for the job?

    Bobnormal, don’t call it left if you don’t know what you are talking about. Like most “normal” Californians, I’m pretty much middle of the road when it comes to politics. I like my guns, but I don’t want someone to tell me I can’t join a union.

    Reply this comment
  5. Richard Markuson
    Richard Markuson 4 October, 2010, 16:15

    Great discussion but Jeff you should get in touch with “CURE” California Unions for Reliable Energy (http://www.sbctc.org/cure/) which you will note is run by the Cal Building Trades. They recently attended a workshop on green energy workforce needs and crowed about their success at “greenmailing” energy projects into PLAs. I work in the Capitol and see every day the efforts to force union only public works and it doesn’t take an explicit mention of “union” or “PLA” to know the the Building Trades and IBEW will do EVERYTHING in their power to make sure these projects are “Union only.” And the taxpayers/utility customers are left holding the bag – especially since the big utilities are union dominated (not to mention the big utility contractors like Bechtel) and most of the rest can’t tolerate a 12-18 month delay when CURE decides to intervene and raise “environmental concerns.” Take for instance four recent projects before the CEC – the two with a PLA had strong labor support but the two without had potential problems with “human remains” potentially on the job sites (maybe it was Jimmy Hoffa?).

    Reply this comment
  6. EastBayLarry
    EastBayLarry 5 October, 2010, 06:04

    Well Jeff, if your ‘real’ job is union, then you must be a communist like all the other union leaders are, (see signs at 10-2-10 rally).

    Reply this comment
  7. TheTruthSquad
    TheTruthSquad 5 October, 2010, 14:56

    Consumers Union, the Public Utilities Commission, and other consumer groups say NO on 23 because we are sick and tired of relying on dirty oil from foreign countries hostile to us.

    Reply this comment
  8. Tylerle13
    Tylerle13 5 October, 2010, 21:47

    Jeff you know as well as we do that the unions will weasle their way into any “Green” job or any job that even applied for $.01 of public funding. It never has to specifically be written into the AB or SB, they have it written into other blanket labor agreements & CBA’s.

    There is nothing wrong with hiring local people, but there is something wrong with a union telling you that you must fire one of your employees, who is a member of their union, and replace them with another one of their union members, simply because of the zip code that you happen to be working in. In the long run, that is not beneficial for anyone involved, except for the unions since they will receive more more supplemental dues because of the decreased productivity of having to train a new employee on every job.

    And since you get to see how the union sausage is made, maybe you can answer a few questions. Why is it that all of the unions have drastically increased the out of pocket costs for their members benefits while slashing member benefits to the point that they are bareley existant? Why is it that employers are paying an increased amount of money to the unions but the union members dont see any of it? How come the unions collect abusive amounts of money from employers and then turn around and take “Supplemental Dues” from their members? I guess you can sum all of the questions into one main question of; What the hell is being done with all the money the unions are taking, and how come almost all of the union reps are driving around in BMW’s?

    And Fraudsquad my old friend, I thought your position was eliminated because of all of the budget cuts. Or did they just move you to an open position in a different department?

    Newsflash fraudsquad;
    Men, Women, Children, Gays, Straights, Bi-sexuals, Transgenders, North Americans, South Americans, Central Americans, Europeans, Africans, Asians, Middle Easterners, Austraillians, & Antarticans ALL say YES ON PROPOSITION 23!!! Because we are all tired of elitist public employees, Scumbag political consultants, “Greedy” VC Investors, and Radical Environmentalists acting like they know what is good for the working class when they only care about pushing their radical agenda.

    Reply this comment
  9. Paul Taylor Examiner
    Paul Taylor Examiner 6 October, 2010, 08:43

    ECOPOLITICS

    California has been a leader in American trends of entertainment, outdoor sports, cars, alternative lifestyles, environmentalism, and unfortunately of late, dysfunctional state government. Today, the once “Golden State” is deeply tarnished by massive annual budget deficits and political corruption where the partisan special interests of militant labor union, divisive immigrant and radical environmental lobbies reign supreme.

    Californians are suffering an unprecedented 12.5% unemployment rate as economic recession deepens. Californians, without any federal orders or proof of climate benefits, naively approved the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (Assembly Bill 32). AB 32 would impose costly 2012 reductions in state greenhouse gases for global warming benefits. All new environmental regulations increase the unit production costs and corresponding consumer prices of all goods, services, energies and activities. AB 32 would further punish California businesses and families with more taxes, energy expenses and unemployment as we enter the third year of an historic national economic recession.

    Proof of the punishing impacts of environmental regulations can be observed in records of U.S. unemployment rates. The massive and ubiquitous tangle of U.S. environmental regulations began to expand from the federal government level in the 1970s. Today, environmental regulations and their attendant mob of bureaucrats at local, state and federal governments cost us about 5% of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). Environmental regulations have also become a free-for-all of eco-group propaganda and gratuitous litigation. Rules are issued by green-obsessed government do-gooders without mention of long term costs, unemployment or proof of actual environmental benefits.

    Using U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) records of U.S. unemployment data, the impact of U.S. environmental regulations upon unemployment can be seen in the 30 years before, and after, the 1970 enviro-policy explosions:
    • The average U.S. unemployment rate from 1940 (excluding WWII) to 1970 was 4.5%;
    • The average U.S. unemployment rate from 1970 to 2000 was 6%;
    • As environmental regulations expanded after 1970, 30-year average unemployment increased by 33.3%.

    California voters can delay the California Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) by voting for Prop. 23 on November 2nd. Prop. 23 would suspend implementation of AB 32 greenhouse gas controls until the state’s unemployment rate is reduced to below an unemployment rate benchmark of 5.5%.

    California’s Prop. 23 benchmarking of future environmental regulations to economic performance (recovery) should be a model for U.S. Government environmental regulations. The “new” U.S. Congress should pass legislation to suspend all pending and future environmental regulations until U.S. unemployment recovers to the post-1970 average of 6.5%. The U.S., and each state, must reset the reckless pace of environmental regulation to an economic benchmark. The so-called ”new green economy” is a green fantasy that should not be a national (or state) priority.

    Reply this comment
  10. Marko
    Marko 11 January, 2011, 16:11

    Amazing how complicated we make the issue of energy storage. Using hydro or solar to convert water into it’s constituant components hydrogen and oxygen and storing this in underground storage would be far more efficient and use very little space. Do I dare say nuclear power and fuel cell technologies? How about replaceing corn as a means of produceing ethanol. It is well known that with bio engineering we are able to produce ethanol all year around from a common plant with no subsidies and costing about 50 cents per gallon to produce. Corruption runs deep and more often than not most of us have the wool pulled over our eyes for what we do not understand. It is my true belief that energy is used to make big pay offs and increase taxation. What we really need are some serious leaders with a brain and a will for good. Knowledge is there for those who seek it look and you will see.

    Reply this comment

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