Californians Deserve Climate Policies That People Can Actually Afford

Ivanpah solar energyIn a recently published interview, Paul Hawken, an environmentalist, and Executive Director of Project Drawdown, a global coalition of researchers, scientists, and economists that models the impacts of global warming, made a spot-on observation about the pitfalls of seeking a simple, single solution to climate change.

Hawken observed that “people who are earnestly guiding us to climatic stability have not done the math.” Instead, he says “sincere, well-meaning people profess their beliefs.”

Nowhere is this truer than in California. In recent years, policymakers have increasingly aligned with advocacy groups pushing for one-track solutions to climate change, like 100 percent renewable electricity or all-electric buildings.

Two weeks ago, Assembly Bill 3232 – legislation that aims to electrify homes and businesses in the state – passed through the Assembly Utilities and Energy Committee with little fanfare.

There is a certain seductive simplicity to many of the single solutions aimed at addressing climate change. But, the math just doesn’t work. Moreover, the single solution policies that advocacy groups like Sierra Club are churning into new laws don’t take into account important considerations like affordability and the preferences of Californians.

Take 100 percent renewable electricity, for example. A recent Black and Veatch analysis showed 100 percent renewable electricity could cost California $3 trillion and require 900 square miles of solar panels and another 900 square miles of depletable and unrenewable battery storage.

That’s an area almost four times the size of the City of Los Angeles dedicated to disposable batteries and solar panels. For the price tag, you could buy Apple and have $2 trillion left over, eliminate a sizeable chunk of the US federal debt, or pay for private college tuition for about 25 million high school seniors.

AB 3232 seeks to move California toward another one-track solution – all electric buildings. A report released earlier this month by the California Building Industry Association (CBIA) found that replacing natural gas in every home would cost California families up to $6 billion annually and require most buildings to undergo expensive retrofits. That’s an almost $900 increase in annual energy costs for every California family. As Hawken points out, people seeking a single solution to climate change simply haven’t done the math.

Importantly, they also haven’t considered the preferences of California’s families and businesses. A separate CBIA study recently found that only 10 percent of voters would consider purchasing an all-electric home and 80 percent oppose laws that would take away their natural gas appliances.

Does it make sense to charge Californians a lot more for something they don’t want in the first place? Moreover, would the increased burden on families and businesses address climate change?

Hawken argues that most people trying to address climate change simply don’t know what the solution is. “If you had asked every person at COP21 in Paris (us included) to name the top 10 solutions in any order, I don’t believe anyone would have gotten it even close. That is still true. After 50 years of global warming being in the public sphere, we didn’t know the top solutions to reversing it. And there’s a reason: We never measured and modeled the top solutions.”

In California, a lot of work has been done to measure and model emissions linked to climate change. According to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), about 40 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the state come from the transportation sector, with heavy duty trucks being the single greatest source. Consistent with Project Drawdown’s analysis, agriculture and waste are also significant contributors in California. More than 80 percent of methane emissions in the state come from farms, dairies and landfills. In contrast, natural gas end uses in residential buildings account for about 5 percent of emissions statewide, according to CARB.

Make no mistake about it, renewable electricity will play a crucial role in reducing emissions and reversing the effects of climate change. But, if California is serious about achieving the state’s ambitious climate goals we need all options on the table, including policies that reduce emissions from transportation and investments in technology that capture methane from farms and landfills for use as affordable and renewable energy.

Doing the math shows us that California needs a balanced strategy – one that achieves climate goals, but considers the impacts on families and businesses. Affordability and choice matter.

resident & Chief Operating Officer for Southern California Gas Co.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Fossil Fuels Witchhunt is a Quest for Cash

natural gas1The oil and gas industry was born in Pennsylvania on Aug. 27, 1859, when Edwin L. Drake drilled the world’s first commercial oil well. A critic said Drake should leave the oil underground because it was needed to fuel the fires of hell, and to pump it out would protect the wicked from their eternal punishment.

That’s how long some people have believed oil companies are in league with the devil.

Today’s anti-petroleum alarmists warn of the hellish climate that someday will result from civilization’s reliance on fossil fuels. Fortunately they’ve hit on a solution: cash payments. 

The strategy was hatched in 2012 at a two-day meeting in La Jolla organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Climate Accountability Institute. It brought together 23 experts on law, science and public opinion for a workshop titled, “Establishing Accountability for Climate Change Damages.”

The idea was to compare “public attitudes and legal strategies related to tobacco control” to those related to climate change, according to a report of the meeting.

The group found a few problems with the comparison to tobacco. For one thing, they couldn’t identify a specific harm from climate change that had damaged anybody.

“What is the ‘cancer’ of climate change that we need to focus on?” asked one attendee.

And there was a bigger problem. “The fact is, we do need some form of energy,” one participant said. Another lamented, “The activities that contribute to climate change are highly beneficial to us.”

Oh, that.

Originally published in the Los Angeles Daily News. For the remainder of the column please go here.

Time for a Real Debate on the Cost of Climate Programs

Finally, it’s here. A spirited, inclusive, and extremely critical debate over the true costs of California’s climate programs to our economy, small businesses, and working families.

On the heels of an abysmal voter turnout in this month’s election, the emergence of a growing chorus of diverse voices on a vital public policy issue should be welcomed news. It turns out, however, that certain state officials and other vested interests are not interested in debating the costs imposed on small business by California’s broad environmental policies.

But their actions have awoken a sleeping giant. Although CARB made no effort to hear concerns, and debate was shut down in the state legislature, people who are learning about the “hidden gas tax” have started speaking up and working together. From small business owners in the Bay Area to farmers in the Central Valley, religious leaders in San Diego to a mobile health clinic operator in the Inland Empire, consumers from throughout the state are banding together. This movement of drivers and fuel users has serious questions and concerns about the unilateral process used to increase household costs, particularly at a time of high unemployment and economic uncertainty.

To date, the cost of California’s programs to reduce greenhouse gases, subsidize the development of alternative energy, and change consumers’ purchasing choices and modes of transportation has been perceived by many to be someone else’s problem: large industrial energy users.

In this dynamic, the cost to real people – and the disproportionate burden on the low-income – has been mostly invisible, but still very real. As a result, everyday voters have been left out of the debate, which has been limited to just a few interests: industry, government, the environmental lobby, and those who benefit financially from cap-and-trade revenue.

Enter the “hidden gas tax,” the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) plan to expand its cap-and-trade program to gasoline and diesel next January. For the first time, state government is knowingly imposing the cost of its climate programs onto consumers in the form of higher fuel prices.

In response…CARB offered no response at all. They denied that their program was intended to raise costs or that fuel prices would increase next year, despite the fact that their own expert advisors were stating publically that prices at the pump would go up significantly.

What’s more, CARB claimed this wasn’t an issue of consumers. Rather, it was an “oil industry” issue. They went one step further and claimed that drivers didn’t need a public forum on the “hidden gas tax” because the board had held various workshops over the years attended by…you guessed it…environmental groups, bureaucrats, and big business and industry.

In short, CARB only wants to debate “Sacramento insiders,” not the millions of impacted Californians.

So it goes with the environmental lobby. At every turn, the organizations voicing concerns about the hit on jobs and working families have been dismissed as “front groups” and marginalized as “Astroturf”—all part of an elaborate oil industry “conspiracy.”

To their way of thinking, there are only two points of view: theirs and the oil industry. Either you buy into their worldview lock-stock-and-barrel or you are just a puppet on a string. If you’re looking to create your own space in the debate, they are not about to oblige. Unfortunately, every person in the state is impacted by their policies every time they make a purchase or drive their car.

These groups could promote the benefits and the costs of programs to combat climate change and welcome a vigorous debate. Instead, they would prefer to shoot the messenger and silence those with whom they do not agree.

Doubling down on ad hominem attacks may make for salacious blogs and sensational news copy, but it won’t keep the debate at bay for long. It is time for every Californian to ask questions and fight for their right to be heard by those charged with representing them, and not accept being told “it’s in your best interest”. So bring on the debate!

John Kabateck is California Executive Director, National Federation of Independent Business

This article was originally published on Fox and Hounds Daily