California Moving Toward Ban On Little Shampoo, Conditioner Bottles From Hotels

California is moving toward banning those little bottles of shampoo you get in hotel rooms.

“In California alone hotels use hundreds of millions of single use plastic bottles every year,” said Assembly Member Ash Kalra of San Jose.

Kalra is co-authoring a bill that would ban the tiny plastic bottles at almost 10,000 hotels state wide.

“We can get those bottles out of the waste stream, but also cut the production of them, which is also harmful to the environment,” he said.

Last year Santa Cruz County became the first jurisdiction in California to ban the small bottles. …

Click here to read the full article from CBS Local

California Is Not Its Own Nation-state

My local publicly run electric utility district is represented by an elected board of directors, none of whose names I know or care to know. The lights always go on and the monthly bill never is awful. Is the district run as efficiently as possible? That’s doubtful, but who cares? Economists call this “rational ignorance.” It’s simply not worth the time and effort to learn much more about it given the limited payback such knowledge would yield.

That’s my view toward the waste-disposal district, road district and levee board. It’s also a model for what the state and feds should strive for. The founders envisioned a national government where it wouldn’t matter if you didn’t know the name of the president because the position’s power was so limited that even a buffoon could handle it.

That train left the station more than 150 years ago. Now, every American not only knows the name of the president, but every half-baked and misspelled thought that pops into his head as he broadcasts it on Twitter. His enemies fume, and everyone argues endlessly about the latest nonsense. Other politicians grab the limelight to oppose the policies of the president. It’s a never-ending cycle, especially for those of us living in California, the heart of the Resistance.

“Gov. Gavin Newsom has crystallized his vision of what California will look like in the Trump era: It won’t just be the hub of the resistance against the president; it will be its own nation-state,” wrote the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Joe Garofoli in February. This is the worst of all worlds. We not only have to put up with a publicity-seeking narcissist in the White House, we have to put up with one in the state Capitol, too. It was bad enough living in only one nation-state.

Two months later, we see that Garofoli was correct. Our new California government even has its own foreign policy now. Newsom just went to El Salvador to learn about the reasons so many Salvadorans make the dangerous trek to the California border. Columnist George Skelton offered an appropriately snarky answer: “Escaping poverty and bullies…have been root motivators forever.” Newsom could maybe, he suggested, “read a book or do a little Googling.” Or he could talk to some of the many Salvadorans living in California.

But these days, everything is about publicity, which confirms the old saw that politics is show business for ugly people. That quip applies better to the dowdy Trump than the dapper Newsom, but the point is accurate. And I write as someone who isn’t totally opposed to either politician. Trump strikes me as morally reprehensible, but his judicial selections and de-regulatory policies are praiseworthy. Newsom is smart and likeable—and I agree with a few of his policies. But can’t both men spend more time governing and less time posturing?

It keeps getting worse. Last week, California joined five other states and the District of Columbia in suing the Trump administration over its softening of federal nutritional standards to allow schools to provide fewer whole grains and more salt in their cafeteria meals. Real. Slowly. Now. School-lunch contents are the business of local school boards and principals, not presidents, governors, and attorneys general. This is not a state or federal issue.

That’s at least the 47th lawsuit that the state of California has filed or joined against the Trump administration on issues ranging from ObamaCare to vehicle-mileage standards to the border “emergency.” Some are legit, and others aren’t, but it’s hard to believe these are being filed mainly for constitutional reasons rather than to elevate California politicians to leading national political roles.

“I don’t want to be a sparring partner with President Trump,” Newsom said in February. “(B)ut he makes it all but impossible when he plays these games.” I agree with Newsom on that border issue, but he should stick to the many state issues that require attention.

And I mean our state. Attorney General Xavier Becerra recently announced a California state-funded travel ban to South Carolina because of its new rule allowing publicly funded faith-based foster agencies to base decisions on religious belief. Whether one views the rule as discriminatory to gay parents or supportive of religious liberty, it’s none of California’s business. Nation-states have their own “foreign” policy, but they should never be too interventionist.

With the world’s fifth-largest economy, California can seem like its own country. But its leaders should spend more time dealing with our own pension debts, crumbling roads, poor-performing schools, sky-high poverty rates, housing shortages and homeless crises, and less time with foreign visits and federal lawsuits. The president should pipe down, too, and deal with the nation’s sprawling debt and spending problems. Maybe both men can learn from my local utilities district by just doing their jobs and leaving us alone.

This column was first published by the Orange County Register.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. He was a Register editorial writer from 1998-2009. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

‘Job Killer’ Bills May be More Difficult to Kill

For two decades, the California Chamber of Commerce’s annual descriptions of certain legislative bills as “job killers” have framed the Capitol’s sharpest economic conflicts.

The chamber, working in concert with other business and employer groups, has been remarkably successful in modifying or killing the two or three dozen measures that find their way onto the list each year.

Even though most of the bills are carried by the Legislature’s dominant Democrats and are sponsored by some of the party’s most influential allies, such as labor unions and personal injury lawyers, the chamber has rung up about a 90 percent kill ratio.

Only rarely do the targeted bills die in formal legislative votes. Most simply disappear when their sponsors and legislative leaders realize that they don’t have the votes.

Last year, just one of the designated “job killers” reached outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk and he vetoed it, saying it violated federal law. That measure, which would have prohibited arbitration agreements as a condition of employment, is back this year, one of the 24 bills on the 2019 list released last week.

The revived arbitration bill, Assembly Bill 51, is being carried again this year by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, a San Diego Democrat who is one of the few legislators to score wins against the chamber in past years.

“These bills represent some of the worst policy proposals affecting California employers and our economy currently being considered by the Legislature,” the chamber’s president, Allan Zaremberg, said in a statement that accompanied the release. “Some of these bills have been rejected time and again by the Legislature or vetoed by the previous governor. Legislators should, instead, focus on removing impediments to economic growth and creating upward mobility for all Californians.”

The chamber’s success, at least in part, has reflected the cultivation of a bloc of moderate Democrats by it and other business groups, and dubbed the “mod squad” by Capitol insiders. Business lobbyists could also count on sympathetic support from recent governors, including Brown, who would quietly advise legislators not to send them measures that they were unwilling to sign.

However, the Capitol’s ideological ambiance has undergone a shift to the left, not only because Democratic legislative supermajorities became even larger in last year’s election, but because California voters also elected a new governor, Gavin Newsom, who is outwardly more liberal than Brown.

Moreover, there’s a big psychological impetus among the Capitol’s Democrats to reinforce California’s status as the leader of the “resistance” to President Donald Trump.

That attitude is reflected in one of the most contentious of the 2019 “job-killer” bills, Senate Bill 1, carried by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, a San Diego Democrat. It would give state regulators broad authority to adopt new environmental and worker standards to replace those being weakened by the Trump administration.

Finally, a couple of the bills on the chamber’s new list – both relating to protecting private data – are being carried by Republicans, which is another new wrinkle in the annual ritual.

Those changing conditions seemingly give sponsors of bills on the 2019 list more cause for optimism, and will probably make it tougher for the chamber and other business groups to continue to score wins as they go head-to-head with unions, lawyers, consumer advocates and environmental groups.

What happens to these 24 bills, and others that may be added later will reveal much about the practical effect of last year’s elections.

Dan Walters is a columnist for CALmatters.

This article was originally published by CalMatters.org

How Large Is the Bay Area’s Homeless Population?

In recent years, journalists and advocates have tried to capture the scope of the Bay Area’s homelessness crisis — a problem that often feels unfathomable in its depth and complexity.

Still, much of the discussion has centered on San Francisco, or on the efforts of individual cities throughout the region.

[Read about a debate over a homeless services center proposed for a waterfront location in San Francisco.]

Today, the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, the think-tank arm of a business group, is set to release a report that examines the issue through a regional lens. …

Click here to read the full article from the New York Times

Kamala Harris: Candidate of Big Tech

In the free-form, roller derby race for the Democratic presidential nomination, few candidates are better positioned than California’s Senator Kamala Harris. She is a fresh and attractive mid-fifties face, compared with septuagenarian frontrunners Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, or the aging progressive Elizabeth Warren. Part Asian-Indian, part Afro-Caribbean, and female, Harris seems the frontrunner in the intersectionality sweepstakes that currently largely defines Democratic politics. Yet the national obsession with ethnicity and novelty obscures the more important reality: Harris is also the favored candidate of the tech and media oligarchy now almost uniformly aligned with the Democratic Party. She has been a hit in all the important places—the HamptonsHollywood, and Silicon Valley—that financed Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.

Unlike Warren and Sanders, or Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar, Harris has not called for curbs on, let alone for breaking up, the tech giants. As California’s attorney general, she did little to prevent the agglomeration of economic power that has increasingly turned California into a semi-feudal state dominated by a handful of large tech firms. These corporate behemoths now occupy 20 percent of Silicon Valley’s office space, and they have undermined the start-up culturethat once drove the area’s growth.

When I started covering Silicon Valley in the mid-1970s, most top executives—such as David Packard—tended to be middle-of-the-road Republicans, supportive of some government role in the economy, including providing for physical infrastructure, but strongly committed to the idea of competition-driven innovation. This pattern changed dramatically as the Valley began to move away from manufacturing products—often by shifting production to less-expensive states and then, ultimately, to Asia—toward a focus largely on media, advertising, and Internet search. These new companies, unlike, say, chip manufacturers, were less concerned with electricity prices, road conditions, or environmental regulations. Many of these “second wave” firms are essentially involved in “information peddling,” which requires a workforce divided between elite managers and a large, impermanent base of coders, many living only for a brief time in the Bay Area. Such firms, which don’t require as many longtime employees as traditional companies, have largely emerged from San Francisco, arguably the most progressive city in the United States.

The massive inequality that characterizes the region would seem to undercut the progressive narrative that sees California, and particularly the Bay Area, as a harbinger of a more enlightened future. Increasingly under fire from both left and right for abusing its power, Silicon Valley could find  Kamala Harris a convenient way to counter criticism while maintaining a tolerant, “woke” facade.

The shift in tech firms’ focus has fit perfectly with the trajectory of Harris’s career. As district attorney of San Francisco, Harris had the opportunity to cultivate the tech aristocracy. Her intermittently “tough on crime” positions would not offend corporate executives who find themselves in a city that even the New York Times has labelled “dystopia by the bay”—rife with petty crime, homelessness, and sometimes violent mentally-ill people.

Elected state attorney general in 2010, Harris got decidedly mixed results, with some notable abuses of office and a demonstrated disinterest in individual rightsand privacy protections—a record that alienated some on the left. On economics, she talked tough on energy companies and homebuilders, but when it came to privacy legislation, she supported policies favored by her tech backers.

By the time Harris ran for the Senate, she could count on massive support from Bay Area law firms, real-estate developers, and Hollywood. More important, she appealed, early on, to tech mavens such as Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and Sean Parker, Marc Benioff of Salesforce, Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, venture capitalist John Doerr, Steve Jobs’s widow Laurene Powell, and various executives at tech firms such as Airbnb, Google, and Nest, who have collectively poured money into her campaigns. Their investment was not ill-considered. Harris seems a sure bet for the tech leaders. Her husband, attorney Doug Emhoff, was a managing partner with Venable Partners, whose clients include Microsoft, Apple, Verizon, and trade associations opposing strict Internet regulations.

This year, Harris keynoted the Joint Venture Silicon Valley conference, and she is once again reaping large donations from tech and media giants. As the most significant California candidate in the race, she has a big advantage in harvesting the lion’s share of these riches: California donors collectively contributed over $500 million to the 2016 campaign. The largest benefactors so far to Harris’s 2020 campaign include employees at Alphabet (the parent of Google)—including its former chairman, Eric Schmidt—Cisco, and Apple, as well as many prominent media and entertainment interests. For these companies, with few non-Asian minorities or women in senior positions, and some executives implicated in #MeToo infractions, Harris offers a low-impact way to connect to contemporary progressive concerns.

Today’s Democratic Party is increasingly defined by the progressive Left, with competing factions focused on basic economic issues, on the one hand, and identity politics (greens, gays, feminists, racial identity, and legalizing undocumented migrants) on the other. Another vital faction is made up of employees of public-employee unions, which dominate the party in California. Harris has already maneuvered to appeal to this powerful sector, proposing legislation that would send  billions of dollars from Washington to pay teachers’ salaries. The more economically focused progressives like Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Warren, and Ohio’s Tim Ryan seek primarily to address income inequality. They see the tech giants, in control of much information media, as a danger both to the economy and to democracy. Whatever one thinks of their approach, the economic populists at least reflect a tradition that seeks to make capitalism more beneficial for working people. They don’t excuse the tech firms for their offshoring practices, lack of unionization, and stifling of competition.

Harris’s appeal to Silicon Valley is that she can appeal to restive progressive tech employees, who bristle against working for the Pentagon or ICE, while also connecting with the left-leaning (often tech-financed) nonprofits that sometimes hector the wealthy to engage in virtue-signaling. To appeal to middle-class voters, Harris favors a massive redistribution of income, through the tax system, a measure supported by many of her wealthy allies.

Harris’ alliance with the tech giants provides her with a potentially bottomless cash hoard, as well as the cooperation of skilled Obama-era operatives, many doing well in their new roles as top executives of tech firms. This cohort includes Chris Lehane, the Obama strategist who now heads global policy and public affairs at Airbnb, as well as other officials who have landed gigs at Uber, Netflix, and Amazon. Once politically disengaged, firms like Apple and Google enjoyed extensive access to the Obama administration—some 250 people moving back and forth from the company to the government—and they could expect similar treatment under a President Harris. Her proposals to underwrite massive spending on new government technology certainly please these backers.

Perhaps even more important, Harris is almost certain to be treated well by the mainstream media, so much of which is now owned directly by tech leaders or their heirs. (The Atlantic, owned by Laurene Powell, has already published a warm profile of Harris.) Those who threaten tech wealth, as Bernie Sanders did in 2016, will likely find themselves less positively regarded. More important still, firms like Facebook and Google, which control a growing percentage of the flow of news, will probably favor Harris over her more genuinely populist Democratic opponents—and certainly over President Trump.

Yet Harris’s liaison with the Valley could backfire, whether in the Democratic primaries or in the general election, if she gets that far. Warren and Sanders can cast her, with some justification, as too friendly to the tech giants, and Trump will have a field day linking her to San Francisco, a city with more drug addictsthan high school students, and which has so much feces on the street that one website has created a “poop map.” More than half of the Bay Area’s lower-income communities, notes a recent UC Berkeley study, are in danger of mass displacement because of rising costs. Nevertheless, Harris is a formidable opportunist and a focused campaigner. And her willingness to stretch the truth, for example, during the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation battle, might also prove useful in today’s partisan climate.

Given the media’s obsession with style, race, and gender, we would do well to understand what agenda lurks behind Harris’s atmospherics. The reality: if she wins, the tech oligarchy—titans of today’s Gilded Age—will have achieved commanding influence, not just in the information business and the media, but in the White House as well.

Joel Kotkin is the presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University and executive director of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His latest book is The Human City: Urbanism for the Rest of Us.

This article was originally published by City Journal Online.

USC Sexual Assault Bill Threatens to Deny Victims Justice

The University of Southern California (USC) sexual assault scandal is back in the limelight thanks to a new bill introduced by California Assemblywoman Eloise Reyes (AB 1510) that gives victims a 12-month window to revive cases that are barred by the state’s statute of limitations. While the bill appears to offer victims a new chance to pursue justice, in reality, it jeopardizes their privacy and the financial compensation that is guaranteed by a recently offered class-action settlement.

In 2017, USC fired its gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall for complaints about inappropriate comments and conduct toward his patients. Since then, about 500 students have filed sexual assault lawsuits against Tyndall and the university.

This year, USC offered a $215 million class-action settlement for any Tyndall patient who chooses to participate. The settlement amounts to up to $250,000 per patient and requires the university to make several changes to the ways it handles sexual misconduct prevention and response.

The catch is that participating in the class-action lawsuit settlement would prevent women from filing lawsuits of their own in state court, which means many have an important decision to make — hope to earn justice and a better payout through an individual lawsuit or accept the justice and payment the USC settlement offers.

Reyes’ legislation makes this decision even more difficult. If passed, the bill would give Tyndall’s patients an extra year to decide whether to opt-out of the class-action lawsuit and file a lawsuit of their own. Such an extension combined with attorneys’ promises and the immense media pressure surrounding the USC case will incentivize patients to forego the class-action settlement. But in so doing, victims would gamble away their chances at justice, payment and privacy.

Unlike most sexual assault settlements, USC’s class-action settlement guarantees payment to all possible victims. Every patient of Dr. Tyndall’s — even those who have not yet alleged assault — will receive at least $2,500 unless they choose to opt out. Those willing to submit a written statement and conduct a private interview with a court-approved third-party specialist will receive up to $250,000. Although not as large as payouts in the Michigan State University assault case surrounding former sports doctor Larry Nassar, these payments are as large or larger than what many sexual assault victims receive.

“It is my considered judgement,” said sexual assault mediator and retired judge Layne Phillips in a sworn declaration, “that plaintiffs would be unlikely to have obtained more money and benefits without going through years of discovery and trial, where they would face substantial risks of a less favorable outcome.”

Even in famous sexual abuse cases, women often receive less than the settlement USC offers. In the Harvey Weinstein cases, for example, most women settled for between $80,000 and $150,000.

“Whenever you litigate, there’s a risk,” said Annika Martin, one of the attorneys leading the class-action settlement in the Tyndall case, “And, sure, you could have come up with a verdict of more than $250,000, but you could have come up with a jury verdict of zero.”

Acting on Reyes’ legislation also forces victims to undertake the painful and public process of proving to an unpredictable jury that Tyndall assaulted them — in many cases relying on evidence that is decades old, with witnesses that are missing, and with testimony marred by age and forgetfulness.

“I have grown weary of plaintiff’s lawyers and images of ambulance chasers who prey on victims with the hopes of big payouts,” wrote women’s advocate and attorney Cherylyn Lebon in the Los Angeles Daily News. “In the process, survivors are lost in the shuffle and are re-victimized again.”

Lebon noted that the USC settlement avoids the challenges individual lawsuits would raise, affording victims the payment and privacy they deserve.

Elisabeth Treadway, a victim of Tyndall’s from 1999 agrees in USA Today:

“The settlement holds USC accountable for their failure to protect female students under their care and supervision. The process for receiving compensation is straightforward and gives victims the choice on how much of their story they want to share. While I am ready to speak publicly about my experience, I understand many women are not. Importantly, this settlement acknowledges all of us.”

Lawmakers should not fall for the claim that this legislation will bring women justice — for many, it will jeopardize the justice they’ve already won. Instead, lawmakers should listen to women’s advocates, attorneys, and victims themselves and allow women to make their own decisions about whether to accept the USC settlement as it stands, without adding new caveats, exceptions, or confusions to the law.

Kristiana Bolzman is a contributor for Young Voices and writes on education policy issues for a San Francisco-based nonprofit. Follow her on Twitter @KristianaBolzmn.

PG&E Moves Ahead with Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Pacific Gas & Electric’s decision to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January – coming after three years of deadly, destructive wildfires in its service areas and never-ending concerns about its safety record – hasn’t stopped the negative headlines.

The giant investor-owned utility’s proposal revealed last month to provide at least $235 million in bonusesto its employees drew incredulity both from attorneys for wildfire victims suing PG&E and from those closely monitoring its Chapter 11 bankruptcy. A decision on the request could come Tuesday from U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali.

Gov. Gavin Newsom also again made clear that he would not be nearly as accommodating as predecessor Jerry Brown, who said little about the utility even as its scandals mounted in recent years. Newsom took strong exception to a proposal by PG&E to fill some vacancies on its board of directors with hedge-fund executives, which goes against his demand that the board focus on safety, not protecting PG&E’s bottom line. PG&E proceeded with the plan last week despite the governor’s criticisms.

Bankruptcy judge: Will probation be revoked?

But this criticism didn’t keep the utility from scoring a court victory that’s crucial to its plan of using Chapter 11 proceedings to reorganize its assets, adequately compensate creditors, then emerge at some future date with relative fiscal and management stability. That’s what happened in 2004 after PG&E went through three years of Chapter 11 proceedings triggered by its inability to pay $9 billion in debt stemming from the winter 2000-01 state energy crisis, in which utilities were forced to pay far more on the spot energy market than they were allowed to charge customers because of a flawed 1996 energy deregulation law.

Montali recently decided to allow PG&E to access all the $5.5 billion in financing it had lined up from major banks to give it liquidity as it pursued bankruptcy. The decision normalized the Chapter 11 process – crucial to PG&E’s stock price and to its hope for a return to status-quo operations.

As recently as a month ago, this seemed far from a sure thing.

PG&E was convicted of sis federal felonies after an explosion caused by poorly maintained gas pipelines in the San Francisco suburb of San Bruno.

At a March 13 hearing on PG&E’s request to gain full use of the financing it hadlined up in January, the bankruptcy judge noted that the utility also faced the possibility of severe sanction from another judge in San Francisco’s federal courthouse. U.S. District Judge William Alsup is serving as PG&E’s de facto probation officer, overseeing the utility’s actions after its 2016 conviction on six federal felonies for its lax oversight and stonewalling of investigators after a 2010 gas pipeline explosion (pictured) in San Bruno killed eight people. PG&E has admitted to new problems with gas-line safety inspections – including records being falsified – since the 2010 disaster.

Montali raised the prospect that Alsup would appoint a trustee to run the utility. The observation raised the hopes of lawyers for wildfire victims, who believe that the circumstances of PG&E’s recent behavior require that it not get the usual Chapter 11 treatment. One key argument: Would JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Barclays and Citigroup ever have agreed to the loans had the banks known PG&E would lose effective control of its management?

Banks agree to go slow if trustee takes over utility

But after meeting with lawyers for those suing PG&E for a long variety of claims, the bankruptcy judge concluded that for now, PG&E’s Chapter 11 proceedings could unfold on the conventional track.

According to the Chronicle, a key to Montali’s decision was the reassurance offered by lenders that the appointment of a trustee by a federal judge would not trigger the banks to declare a default within seven days, as they could have done under the previous agreement. Instead, they will wait at least 21 days. This would give more breathing room for the loans to be renegotiated on terms more favorable to the banks.

PG&E stock closed at $19.37 a share on Friday. That’s down nearly 60 percent from November.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

California Gas Prices Climb 50 Cents in 1 Month Ahead of Gas Tax Increase Slated for Summer

Los Angeles County gas prices spiked again over the weekend, with the average price climbing about 10 cents a gallon to $3.88 as of Monday, the latest AAA figures show.

That’s higher than California’s statewide average of $3.80 for a gallon of regular unleaded, which also happens to be the most expensive of any state at the moment.

In one month, prices at the pump have soared in the Golden State, climbing from an average of $3.30 to $3.80, according to AAA.

L.A. County, meanwhile, has seen an even sharper spike, with the cost increasing by about 55 cents since March 8. …

Click here to read the full article from KTLA5

How China’s Debt, Slowing Economy and One-Child Policy Will Increase California Emissions

Nothing will move the world and California emissions negatively or positively more than China. Though China’s economy is 12 percent smaller than previously believed according to the Brookings Institution their research backed up longstanding suspicion that Beijing hasn’t been keeping accurate, publicly reported economic statistics. The study also found “real growth has been overstated by 2 percentage points annually for years.” What likely occurs is China builds the cheapest and most abundant, scalable, efficient and flexible energy they have: COAL. China and the United States (US) “emit more than 40 percent of the world’s carbon.” With continued friction over the trade war this doesn’t bode well for California meeting ambitious emission, environmental and climate goals.

The biggest troubles ahead for China, world economies and energy are that China has mounting debt problems. Trillions of dollars in debt has run up for years to gain a debt-fueled prosperity of buildings, infrastructure and exports, which has caused environmental degradation. China’s historically slowing economy has Chinese President Xi clamping down, and these economic problems will further Chinese use of cheaper coal, nuclear and natural gas as their main sources of energy moving forward. This massive scale of borrowing and debt is a looming reason China will increase global emissions: they need cheap energy and electricity to service debt and grow their economy. California will catch rising Chinese emissions in the global jet stream no matter the measures we take for cleaner air and lower emissions.

Other additional woes for China that will directly or indirectly counter the China narrative of being the leader in solar and wind power along with electric vehicles (EV) are: “Wage growth has cooled, surveys show the Chinese manufacturing sector have begun shedding jobs, imports are down, hurting other major exporting economies,” but other issues are more troubling for energy and China’s future. China’s true energy nature is revealed in its “rapidly aging population and a falling birth rate.”

Since China enacted their one-child policy and terminated over 300 million Chinese pregnancies this has decimated their productivity, child replacement rate, and will be a leading reason why they will continue using the dirtiest, cheapest forms of energy. The US has also devastated many parts of their economy – particularly, African-Americans – over using abortion as population and birth control measures. This has deep implications for how energy is extracted, imported, exported, used and the overall wellness for a nation lacking children. Nations that heavily abort their children like the US, Russia and China are usually more combative with neighboring countries and either invade them (think US in Iraq or Russia in Crimea) or take over entire regions (China in the South China Sea) in a quest for resources and workers for their unproductive economies. These could be major reasons why global emissions have begun rising again. Dirtier air is a source of unproductive societies caused by global abortion rates remaining steady; over 42 million abortions took place in 2018.

Beijing has also been globally combative since the Obama administration attempted diplomacy and an open-hand of friendship to China, but was rejected. What you have now is President’ Trump’s US-led trade war and the Europeans confronting China over destructive trade, military, technical and illegal intelligence surveillance coupled with corporate theft that benefits Chinese state-run firms. European diplomats are openly excoriating China’s unsavory advances in the South China Sea and its economic gains that seek to do away with liberal, economic openness and cooperation at Europe’s expense. The Europeans said about the Belt and Road Infrastructure Project Initiative:

“Europe’s Belt and Road sceptics charge that it is opaque, strategically aggressive and can impose crippling debts on recipient states – all allegations that China denies.”

The Europeans though are their own worse enemy with “Eurosceptic remainers,” before, after and during the Brexit debacle. China will exploit this geopolitical weakness to their advantage and their energy usage will become a dirtier commodity under Beijing’s leadership. China is currently building hundreds of new coal-fired power plants throughout their provinces and cities.

Literally, China cannot afford to lose one bit of economic and social productivity and their aging population is what is causing their economy to begin grinding to a halt. The same problems of an aging population over rampant abortion-use are happening in the US, Russia, the entire European Union (EU) and Japan. This isn’t a Chinese phenomenon. What then occurs are other nations reliant on Chinese imports, their economies also slow, and renewable energy, transitioning to a carbon-free or low-carbon society and widespread adoption of electric vehicles all pause going into affect? The Chinese clean energy transition – even in the form of expansive use of natural gas – will fade in importance to debt and economy woes. China’s one-child policy that advanced their aging process decades ahead of time will take energy into a direction none of us can even quantify or imagine.

President Xi’s model for China, moreover doesn’t augur well for efficient Chinese energy usage since Xi made himself dictator-for-life leading to oppression within China, and environmental degradation will continue under his rule. Even US policymakers who hate President Trump are now tired of China’s overbearing style on the world stage. A possible takeover of Taiwan, a global trade war and Chinese pride on full display means more fossil fuels and higher emissions since militaries run on oil, natural gas, refined petroleum, aviation fuel and nuclear power – renewable energy in the form of wind turbines and solar panels – will always take a back seat when a country’s national security and foreign policy are on the line. Each of these geopolitical phenomenon means dirtier air and rising emissions for California – no matter the laws we pass – supposedly combating global warming/climate change (GWCC).

Add the takeover of the South China Sea, expanded influence in Asia, and it is not surprising China has increased their use of coal to fuel militarized activities. With China’s debt position wracking nerves globally it is not a far off to postulate the world will become dirtier through increased coal use over its “debt woes,” instead of using cleaner natural gas. Finding technological breakthroughs that are needed for renewable energy and energy battery storage systems to become scalable, reliable, affordable and flexible will not be at the forefront of Chinese forward-thinking. This system Xi ruminates over and contemplates has been tried before with disastrous results because it:

“Has a record of suboptimal performance that features despotic governance, long stagnation of economy, suffocation of science and technology, retardation of spiritual pursuits, irrational allocation of resources (oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear and renewable energy), great depreciation of human dignity and life, low and declining living standards for the masses, and mass death and destruction periodically and frequently.”

Is this the new normal for China or a return to Mao’s destructive big-red-time-machine? No one actually knows, but it likely results in overwhelming use of fossil fuels and higher emissions in Asia, California, and globally.

Countries will always choose their own self-interest rightly understood over energy policies and outcomes that don’t produce abundant, reliable, affordable, scalable and flexible energy results. California should pay attention to the societal, geopolitical rumblings coming from the second largest economy in the world.

Will California’s taxpayers ever pay enough?

Every day it seems like the California Legislature careens further off the rails, and we’re not just talking about the state’s infamous high speed rail project. The rapidity of tax increase proposals that would punish both citizen and business taxpayers is breathtaking. Particularly astounding is the fact that new revenue simply isn’t needed given our highest-in-the-nation income tax rate, state sales tax rate and a litany of other tax metrics that cause residents of other states to fall to their knees in gratitude that they don’t live here. (That is especially true for the millions of former Californians who have escaped to lower tax states).

Even more ironic is that these tax increase proposals are being advanced in a state with a massive $15 billion budget surplus and a recent series of corporate IPOs that will bring billions more into state coffers. When is enough enough?

Since January, new tax increase proposals include a tax on soda (AB138); car batteries (AB142); residential water use (AB217); firearms (AB18); automobile tires (AB755); pain medication (AB1468); oil severance (SB246); inheritances (SB378); and a sales tax on services (SB22). Combined, these proposals, plus several more, would impose hundreds of billions of dollars in higher taxes on Californians. If state politicians are trying to depopulate the state, they’ve come up with a pretty good plan. It is unknown how many of these tax hikes will advance all the way through the legislative process to enactment. A significant hurdle is Prop. 13’s requirement that taxes imposed at the state level receive a two-thirds vote of both the Assembly and Senate. But with Democrats having achieved that threshold in the 2018 elections, the odds are better now than they have been in 40 years.

To read the entire column, please click here.