Lately, there’s been a growing contrarian view of California’s proposed renewable energy future. Instead of clean energy flowing seamlessly from solar, wind, and geothermal plants through a smart grid to California homes and businesses, these contrarians see a system doomed to fail, soaring energy prices, businesses leaving the state, and huge profits made by those who gamed the system with the help of compliant, overzealous state bureaucracies. As you can see, these contrarians are not embracing the green future.
New Geography says California’s “green theology” is similar to radical religion, almost jihad-like, and utterly unbending. The state must be remade to fit the vision of the Wise Ones, even as unemployment remains high and neighboring states back out of plans for climate change agreements. At the very least, embarking on hyper-ambitious plans like these in the middle of a bad recession seems an unwise choice. The obvious choice is that some businesses, especially those in sectors that are highly regulated, will simply leave the state. Nevada and Utah are happy to welcome them.
As always, follow the money. Who gains from huge wind and solar farms in deserts that cover tens of thousands of acres? Why the companies who built them and sell the power, of course. Their position will be even more secure when California bans importing electricity from other states and mandates that 33% of energy must be from renewable sources by 2020. When that happens, Californians will be forced to buy power from the desert sites. It won’t be cheap. In fact, power prices are expected to rise at least 20% by then, and California already has some of the highest rates in the nation. I’m guessing this could lead to peasants with pitchforks in the streets.
Crony capitalism is the problem, New Geography suggests. Wind, solar, electric vehicles, and high speed rail have big money corporations and venture capital behind them, and they want a hammerlock on California.
Cal Watchdog blows a gasket over a report from the California Council on Science and Technology entitled, “California’s Energy Future – the View to 2050,” calling it Khmer Green (after Pol Pot’s agrarian socialism in Cambodia that sent the country backwards in time and killed millions of people.) Okay, that seems a bit of a stretch, but the report does have some gasket-blowing elements. To reach the goals set by the Wise Ones, every building in the state will be retrofitted with electric appliances and electric power. Natural gas will not be allowed. Vehicles will be mostly electric. This includes trucks, buses, and rail as well as cars. This accounts for 60% of California future energy plan. Unspecified new technologies will result in another 20% while buttoning up, lowering the thermostat, eating less red meat, and other behavioral changes make up the final 20%. And don’t you go fiddling with your thermostat either. The smart grid will know if you raise it above 65 on a chilly winter day and will report you. I’m hoping they won’t send Robocop after me if I eat a cheeseburger.
One problem with this ambitious plan is that much of the technology for it does not exist. Electric cars have been around since 1890. The range then was about 100 miles and that hasn’t changed much. Nor is there any technology on the horizon which will improve EV range dramatically. Another problem is that once vehicles and buildings are electric-powered only, then vast new amounts of power will be needed. Yet, California is proposing that coastal power plants, including nuclear (which generates prodigious amounts of power), be banned from using ocean water. And just how will this switchover to non-ocean water occur without the lights going out all over California?
Their primary point is that crony capitalism is using green theology to force the price of non-renewable energy up to what renewable energy costs now. Then, with the state increasingly mandating that renewable energy be used, they will profit hugely from their new captive buyers, the citizens of California.