With the recent passage of AB 327, which reformed the rate structure for energy consumers in California, along with the current public debate on the feasibility of fracking in the state, California lawmakers and energy representatives had much to discuss in the Independent Voter Project panel discussion on Energy at last week's conference.
The panel on Energy was one of a series of 5 panels at the IVP Conference focusing on major issues facing California. The purpose of the panels was to have a substantive conversation about real issues, beyond the larger public dialogue that often reduces serious issues to superficial talking points.
"The goal of the panel was to create more awareness from the policy makers about the current status of the low carbon fuel standard and the current concerns that the industry has and the significant problems it sees with the program over the next 12 months. Establishing awareness and an understanding for a sense of urgency," a public affairs officer in the energy industry stated.
Within the first 5 minutes of the panel, legislators and panel leaders were engaged in a heated conversation about increasing energy rates.
There is a misconception about what we pay for when we pay our electricity bills, one senator stated. "Most of the costs that occur at the residential level are not consumption," he continued.
In response, a government affairs representative in the energy industry pointed to recent legislation that, in his opinion, will help ease energy rates on Californians.
"AB327 went a long way to get some reform into those rates," he responded. "You won't see economic growth if you don't have this energy rate discussion."
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The discussion shifted to a conversation about the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fracking is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks.
This year, fracking has become a prominent issue in California energy policy, with the media taking on an important role in the shaping of public perception on the practice.
In all areas of energy policy, fracking especially, there is a need for transparency, energy representatives and lawmakers agreed.
"The California State Legislator passed and Governor Jerry Brown signed the toughest fracking regulations in the country. Fracking in California has gone on for decades without oversight or transparency. With the passage of Senate Bill 4, California will now know the when, where and how fracking," a California lawmaker added.
What California needs is a comprehensive and innovative energy policy, something that will only be possible through cooperation and compromise by both lawmakers and major energy industries.