Conventional Fuels Still of Vital Importance to California

Gas-Pump-blue-generic+flippedThe American Society of Civil Engineers recognized oil as an element of “infrastructure” in California in its 2016 Infrastructure Report Card. That report card clearly documents the fact that there are no easy answers to our complex energy and transportation challenges for the future.

Fossil fuel permeates every aspect of our daily lives. It has driven an exponential increase in human numbers and civilizations from the horse-and-buggy days. It enables us to easily get to work, school and medical facilities as well as the freedom to travel for family and recreational purposes. It supports the quality of life Californians take for granted. We need more – not less – fossil fuels to develop economies and basic infrastructures for the people of developing and third world countries.

This has been lost on the part of many lawmakers and regulators who have come under intense pressure from the powerful anti-oil lobby to eliminate fossil fuel production and use at the local and state level in California, primarily to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with climate change. Wind and solar are only able to provide intermittent electricity to the grid, but cannot provide the oil or the oil by-products that are the basis of every component of modern civilizations’ industries and infrastructures. This is an overly simplistic approach to addressing the complex international challenge of forestalling global warming.

The fact is, oil is the only energy source that is technically able to power about 95 percent of our state’s 32 million vehicles with transportation fuel demands of 40 million gallons per day. It’s just common sense to produce as much of that crude oil and manufacture the transportation fuels as much as possible in California for its 38 million citizens who live on an “energy island” for several reasons: First, our state has the nation’s strictest environmental laws, generating far lower greenhouse gas emissions than those associated with producing and transporting oil from countries with weaker rules. Second, it would provide California consumers with the energy security necessary to protect us from disruptive and costly supply interruptions. Third, it would be good for our economy, providing jobs and revenues right here in California instead of in other states and countries.

Despite this reality, regulators continue to recklessly forge ahead with schemes to force an immediate move away from reliable fossil fuels in favor of alternatives and renewables. With both in-state crude oil production and shipments from Alaska on the decline, shipments from foreign countries, already at 52 percent of California’s needs, will be increasing. An alternative to reduce dependency on foreign crude is approval of crude transport by rail from the Midwest or Canada to meet the demands on the California energy island.

One scenario under consideration by the Air Resources Board would mandate that the number of electric, plug-in hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles increase from the current 300,000 to 5 million and 40 percent of new car sales by 2030, regardless of cost or feasibility.

There are local efforts underway as well. For example, here in the Valley area, two of three planned phases to expand access to the San Fernando Road bike path have been completed, and the third is underway. But is it intellectually honest to think that Valley commuters will be able to use a roughly three-mile bike path to get to jobs throughout the more than 4,000 square miles of Los Angeles County alone?

A recent traffic study concluded that six of the most congested stretches of highway in the United States are in the Los Angeles area. The101 Freeway in the Valley earned the dubious distinction as the worst highway in the country, where during rush hour it can take 91 minutes to travel 26 miles at an average speed of 17 miles an hour.

So how do we reconcile the desire to fight global warming with the real-life transportation needs of Valley motorists and our counterparts throughout the state? First, some perspective may be helpful: according to the California Energy Commission, our state contributes a miniscule 1 percent of total worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. It’s been a decade since the passage of the flagship climate change policy AB 32, yet, the state has not been transparent with the results of its emission crusade, and remains on a go-it-alone path to micromanage the California emissions that generates billions of dollars for the government at the expense of businesses and the financially challenged. So no matter how much inconvenience and cost we impose on drivers, we are likely to see a return that is purely symbolic, not substantive.

And no matter how many electric cars we put on the road, they will still be stuck in the same maddening traffic jams that increasingly enrage users of more conventional vehicles.

Let’s hope that future generations will be up to the challenge facing humanity to mitigate climate change responsibly and cost-effectively. Meanwhile, as the society of civil engineers report card suggests, California might do well to focus more attention and resources on improving transportation infrastructure to make commuting easier and cleaner for the folks in the Valley and elsewhere.

ounder of PTS Staffing Solutions, a technical staffing agency headquartered in Irvine

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.

War on Soda Continues in S.F.

On Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to pass legislation that would require posted advertisements for sodas and other beverages to include health warnings. Additional legislation bans the use of city funds to purchase sodas and sugar-sweetened beverages. The placement of ads for such beverages is also prohibited on city-owned property.

“Today, San Francisco has sent a clear message that we need to do more to protect our community’s health,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener, in a prepared statement. “These health warnings will help provide people information they need to make informed decisions about what beverages they consume. Requiring health warnings on soda ads also makes clear that these drinks aren’t harmless – indeed, quite the opposite – and that the puppies, unicorns, and rainbows depicted in soda ads aren’t reality. These drinks are making people sick, and we need to make that clear to the public. All three pieces of legislation passed today will improve the health of our community.”

“This prohibition on advertisements for sugar sweetened beverages will align our city’s policies closer with our existing public health goals,” Supervisor Malia Cohen said in the same release. “Our residents, particularly our youth, deserve to be in an environment where residents are exposed to messages and advertisements that promote health, not harmful substances.”

The three ordinances and their requirements are detailed below:

  • “Supervisor Wiener’s legislation requiring health warnings on all posted advertisements for sugar-sweetened beverages with 25 or more calories per 12 ounces. The warning will read the following “WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. This is a message from the City and County of San Francisco.” The size of the warnings will be at least 20 percent of the ad space, which is the standard required by the FDA on tobacco warnings. The warnings will only apply to advertisements posted after the effective date of the legislation.
  • “Supervisor Cohen’s legislation will prohibit the placement of advertisements for sodas and sugar-sweetened beverages on city owned property. Currently, tobacco and alcohol advertisements are subject to this prohibition. There will be an exception for permitted events in public spaces, like Outside Lands in Golden Gate Park, where the permit and lease can grant separate rules.
  • “Supervisor Mar will introduce legislation that bans the use of city funds, whether by city departments or city contractor, on the purchase of sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages.”

The ordinances do not require warning labels on individual bottles or cans.

“The new warning label requirement on sugary drink ads does exactly what the beverage industry has long called for: provides consumers with education. Now, for every advertising message saying ‘live for now’ or ‘open happiness,’ consumers will also receive a science-based reminder that these products contribute to diabetes, obesity and tooth decay,” Dr. Harold Goldstein, executive director of California Center for Public Health Advocacy, said in a prepared statement.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors previously passed a resolution in support of Senate Bill 203, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Bill Monning, D-Carmel. SB203 would have made California “the first state to require health warning labels to be placed on sugary drinks, including sodas, sports drinks, and energy drinks.” The bill failed to clear the Senate health committee and will be eligible for reconsideration on January 2016.

In 2014, The Field Poll released survey results revealing “broad voter support for posting a health warning label on sodas and sugary drinks and taxing their sale to provide funds for school nutrition and physical activity programs.”

But opponents to the ban say it isn’t fair to penalize sugary drinks and advertising.

“It’s unfortunate the Board of Supervisors is choosing the politically expedient route of scapegoating instead of finding a genuine and comprehensive solution to the complex issues of obesity and diabetes,” Roger Salazar, a spokesman for CalBev,told the AP.

“The beverage industry already provides consumer-friendly labels on the front of every can, bottle and pack we produce,” American Beverage Association vice president William Dermody wrote in an email to NPR. “A misleading warning label that singles out one industry for complex health challenges will not change behaviors or educate people about healthy lifestyles.”

All three ordinances go into effect 30 days after the mayor has signed the legislation.

Originally published on CalWatchdog.com