Environmentalists Increase Influence on Local Governments

In less than a year, three Orange County cities will be in the utility business. Fullerton, Costa Mesa, and Irvine have created a joint powers authority to purchase and distribute electricity to households and businesses in those cities, under what’s known as “community choice aggregation.”

It’s difficult to imagine how this model will result in lower electricity bills, although that’s one of the ways this program was sold to local elected officials who approved the plan. Southern California Edison will still be the primary supplier of electricity and will still manage the distribution. Since SCE only generates 19 percent of the power it distributes to customers, and purchases the other 89 percent, the costs to customers will only go down if this new joint powers authority outperforms SCE in their procurement efforts enough to offset the cost of the new bureaucracy.

As reported by the Orange County Register, “Unbound by long-term contracts many utilities hold, they can adjust the mix to take advantage of lower costs or to favor renewable energy — or both. Additionally, they can be more aggressive than private utilities in encouraging and developing clean local power generation and battery storage.” But which is it? Saving money? Or going green?

The problem with newly formed independent, city owned utilities being “more aggressive than private utilities” in developing clean renewable sources of energy is the existing state mandates are already the most aggressive in the nation, if not the world. California has mandated that public utilities deliver 100 percent carbon-free power by 2045. And SCE’s well on its way. In their 2019 Annual Report they claim they already deliver 48 percent carbon-free power to their customers.

There is a cost for “carbon-free power.” According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, California’s residential rates for electricity in October 2020 were 20.8 cents per kilowatt-hour, compared to a national average of 13.6 cents per kilowatt-hour. In Texas, residents only pay 11.9 cents/KWh, in Utah, 10.3 cents/KWh. Even progressive Oregon manages to keep rates lower than the national average, at 11.37/KWh.

By now most rational observers realize that even if global warming is caused by anthropogenic CO2 emissions, the U.S. is only responsible for 15 percent of that, and California’s share is less than 2 percent. Readers of the latest BP Statistical Review of World Energy know that for everyone on earth to consume half as much energy per capita as Americans, global energy production would have to more than double, and that renewables in 2020 accounted for less than 4 percent of all global energy production. This is why China, India, and every other rising economy in the world is developing additional sources of gas, oil and coal as fast as they can, and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

So why are California’s legislators hell-bent on developing renewables?

The most charitable answer to this question is their desire to make California an example of environmental sustainability for the world to follow, and a belief that innovations pioneered in California will be emulated worldwide, delivering fantastic profits to Californian entrepreneurs at the same time as the planet is saved.

The problem with this noble explanation is that to accomplish these high minded objectives, California has been turned into an expensive laboratory, with 40 million captive subjects. While policies that elevate costs for electricity benefit public utilities and tech entrepreneurs, millions of ordinary Californians are driven into poverty. And this ideal, to make California a green beacon for humanity, finds expensive expression in far more than just electricity.

The green lobby in California has not only made electricity barely affordable for low and middle income households, but they have declared war on natural gas. In a state where electricity is four times as expensive as natural gas on an energy-equivalent basis, and in a nation where natural gas has never been as cheap or abundant as it is today, the movement to ban natural gas quietly gathers momentum.

As of November 2020, thirty-nine California cities have already enacted new ordinances limiting natural gas in new construction. The California Energy Commission is considering enacting a statewide ban effective in 2022. With a mandate already in place that requires new vehicle sales to be all-electric by 2035, it is clear that policymakers are determined to turn California into an all-electric, carbon-free state before anyone else, no matter what the cost.

This goal of a carbon-free society in California is also evident in housing policies, based on the theory that the denser California’s urban areas become, the less need for energy to be spent on transportation. While this theory rests on dubious foundations, it is already the primary rationale for countless local and state restrictions on development, which in turn is the primary reason housing is unaffordable in California.

Open land along freeway corridors is plentiful in California, but when attempts to develop it are mired in prohibitively expensive regulations and endless litigation, the only logical place to increase housing stock is within existing cities. The efforts in Orange County by local activists to advocate for this are typical. One such activist organization, People for Housing, announces on their website “Cities that are now on a new path.” They claim recent victories for their city council candidates in Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Garden Grove, Santa Ana, and Tustin.

One of the goals of these local housing advocates, echoed in pending state legislation such as Assembly Bill 68, passed in 2019, is to stimulate a “backyard building boom,” whereby homeowners can build new smaller homes in their backyards. Additional state legislation abounds, all of it designed to densify neighborhoods, and absolutely none of it designed to facilitate construction of new single family neighborhoods on open land. Meanwhile, residents who relied on zoning laws to preserve the spacious ambience of their suburbs are stigmatized as NIMBYs, racists, and “deniers.”

There is no effective opposition to California’s drive to confine its residents to existing cities, nor to challenge the move to a carbon-free, all-electric society. Both goals are impractical and extremely expensive. Shorn of the supposedly enlightened motivations behind these goals, their impact is explicitly misanthropic, and it hurts everyone.

The influence of environmental activists is the reason for California’s unaffordable cost-of-living. It is a form of economic oppression, justified on environmental grounds, but also a convenient cover for opportunistic special interests. Along with the high tech industry, the clean power industry, public utilities, real estate investors, and subsidized housing developers, California’s powerful public sector unions are big winners.

With every new regulation, and every time a private enterprise is coopted by a new government agency, more jobs are created in the public sector. This translates into more dues paying union members which results in more political spending by union leadership on the candidates of their choice. At the same time, whenever environmentalist activists block public spending on new infrastructure that might enable more suburban development, that money is redirected to pay and benefit increases for public sector workers.

There is a tremendous symbiosis between California’s economic elite, its environmentalist activists and their allies in the social justice movement, and the unionized public sector. But despite all the rhetoric about helping the disadvantaged, the biggest victims are those Californians who can least afford to fund the bleeding edge.

This article originally appeared on the website California Globe.


  1. Just what we need, more government control? The government is SO efficient in all that it does, how can this possibly go wrong? California dimwits cut back on R&D support and then picked winners in the very expensive race to make green energy competitive. By ANY measure citizens are suffering financially under gross mismanagement by bureaucrats and politicians. Safe and inexpensive Nuclear and Natural Gas are being kicked to the curb, while inefficient energy costs are adding just one more thing to the mass exodus from the state. The science ain’t there yet!
    Planting millions of new TREES to eat the straw man enemy carbon, makes a lot more sense to me.

  2. They tried that SCAM here in the Coachella Valley. We saw through it and it was defeated. Sounds like us desert ratz are smarter than you city slickers!

  3. A well written explanation of what is going on in some areas of climate change in California. It leaves out the changes being made in land management, restrictions of humans in many areas and who the environmentalist and others pushing this agenda are. Many would be surprised to know. Also, why is it that the low income people are the ones that suffer the most while it seems that few care about them? They are the victims without a spokesperson except when they are pushed to vote for those supporting the liberal agenda. When they are considered at all it is to provide them with foolish housing that costs more than fancy housing for individuals while giving the unions, contractors, communities, etc. more income. There is also a constant effort to portray the conservatives as the party that does not care about them. The opposite is actually what is happening. “Barefoot and pregnant” is where the liberals seem to want them to be. Bringing in millions of people who will take away the poor’s opportunities to work is another huge area of abuse.

  4. In Humboldt County up north from most of you, we have such an organization that promises lower rates, but they can’t really show how that’s accomplished. Voters being about 75% democrat, no one dares to ask hard questions; it’s become something of a sacred cow around here. I’m probably one of the very people people not signed in to their program. They call here often, bugging me to join, and they are very aggressive.

  5. The dunderheads in Los Angeles can’t even recycle their recyclables and we are trusting them to use their green power rules to govern. They are inept and will drive ever person from this place except the compliant stupid progressives. If they leave they always follow to a red state to ruin it with their crappy vote. Stay here Democrats and live with your stupid voting selection of corrupt non-leadership like Newsom, Garcetti, Padilla, and all of the rest.

  6. Gotta Gedada Displace says

    Only within the last YEAR, near me on Dale Street near Katella in Stanton, construction HAS ONLY JUST BEEN COPLETED on the GAS FED 98 MW Stanton Energy Reliability Center perhaps as a remedy to the current shutdowns, interruptions and blackouts. Its cost is certainly in the MILLIONS. As stated above –

    The California Energy Commission is considering enacting a statewide ban effective in 2022

    Do the math – Apparently the FLOCK OF MORONS in Sacramento CAN’T !!!

    If we will (or not) ever be (or NEED to be ) Carbon Free, we are already BRAIN CELL FREE and SANITY FREE !

  7. My city here in Silicon Valley has created an “independent” electric utility.
    Of course, PGE provides the grid, does the billing and so on and so forth. There are 2 key points.
    1) Why are they doing it?
    They buy output from solar power establishments and wind farms. They contract enough that they can then claim the city is 100% non-carbon. Of course, that’s not true. We get whatever power is on the grid not the stuff that the city buys LOL. It’s a kind of bookkeeping “virtue signaling”.
    2) How can it be cost effective?
    Since PGE does all the work how can they give a rate at or slightly below PGE? Because the city is an “independent” utility now, they got themselves dropped from existing nuclear power cleanup efforts. By sticking the rest of the CA with the full cost, they create a cushion where they can hide the city’s overhead.

  8. Look, the rates have gone up in the L.A. area where this folly have longer time.

    Here is an interesting question if Slick gets banning of all but electric cars why would anyone force you to ride a bike to lower carbon use? Think about it. Cripple the transportation grid for what? Weather change based upon what will be illegal?

    Same thought pattern as this stupid energy grid plan. Cannot prove it, demand it, and threaten you if you do not back it.

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