Why Can’t Sacramento’s Financial Reporting Match Private Sector Standards?

If you want current financial information on California’s state government, you won’t find it. The most recent consolidated annual financial report for California’s state agencies is for the fiscal year ended 6/30/2018. That’s over two years, or nine quarters ago.

To put this in perspective, America’s publicly traded multinational corporations, with operations spread all over the globe, are required to submit to the IRS detailed 10K reports within 90 days of filing their tax returns, which in-turn are due “the 15th day of the fourth month following the close of the fiscal year.”

This means that Walmart, with $514 billion in revenue, or ExxonMobil, with $290 billion in revenue, along with dozens of other mega corporations, have at most 195 days, or just over six months, to pull together and submit a comprehensive financial report on their operations.

In reality, corporations rarely need 195 days. Walmart released its annual report for their fiscal year ended 1/31/2020 on 4/23/2020, eighty four days later. ExxonMobil’s most recent fiscal year ended 12/31/19, and their 2019 annual report was issued prior to their annual meeting of shareholders on 5/27/2020, 148 days later.

So why is it that the State of California, where “the expenses of the primary government totaled $300.7 billion for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2018,” still cannot convey similar information for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2019? Corporations of comparable size do it in 195 days or less. As of 9/24/2020, California’s 2018-19 fiscal year ended 452 days ago.

What anyone concerned about the California’s state government’s entire system of financial management should wonder is not only why there’s still no report for the fiscal year ended 6/30/2019, but when will the report be produced for the fiscal year ended 6/30/2020. If they could pull together their numbers with efficiency merely matching what corporations have been doing for years, we would see financial reports for the 2019-20 fiscal year by January 15th, if not sooner.

recent article in the California Globe discussed these delays, noting that “California is the only state that has not yet published a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the fiscal year that ended more than 12 months ago.” In terms of meeting deadlines to file financial reports, the ongoing superior performance of not only corporations, but every other state in America, should put to rest any claims that the COVID pandemic is responsible for this slowdown.

So why does it take California’s state government so long to let taxpayers know how they’re doing? State Senator Moorlach, the only licensed CPA in the state legislature, looked into the reasons for the delay. Also courtesy of the Globe, here’s what he learned:

“We were informed that the Secretary of State’s office and the State Water Resources Control Board have not yet given their data to the Controller. Can you imagine? The Secretary of State? A department run by an independently elected statewide official is late? The same department that had faulty software in place when motor voter was initiated? The same department that will be overseeing the state’s first all mail-in ballot process in November?”

It’s easy enough for the state controller to assign blame to another department, and it is certainly ominous that yet another example of incompetence is directed at the Secretary of State’s office, which we must trust to oversee our election integrity. But the Office of the State Controller has faltered in ways going well beyond delinquent financials.

Back in 2013, the California Policy Center published our first assessment of California’s total state and local government debt.  At that time, we were able to rely on Consolidated Annual Financial Reports not only for all state agencies, but for cities, counties, and special districts. Up until 2002, even California’s school districts had a consolidated annual report. There was even a consolidated annual financial report for the state’s public employee pension systems. All of those reports, with the exception of the one for state agencies, have been discontinued.

These consolidated annual reports, released as PDF documents, contained readable, useful information that made it relatively easy to compile total a debt profile for California’s state and local government agencies. But they have since been scrapped in favor of a “By the Numbers” website that offers superficial analysis in the form of interactive graphs and charts, along with downloadable Excel files that contain an overwhelming amount of data.

To be fair, both of these forms of data are useful. It’s good to see topline data on revenues and expenditures, and it’s good to have a mountain of raw data to pick through. But what’s missing – kind of like California’s disappearing middle class – is a mid-level written analysis where someone has done the work to analyze what’s beneath the topline numbers. Anyone who thinks this mid-tier of explanatory material is not invaluable is invited to download one of these Excel spreadsheets.

For cities, for example, the spreadsheet format consists of 482 rows of data, corresponding to each of California’s reporting cities, then there are 12 columns containing various categories of data. These columns list the name of the city, the estimated population, and other basic information. But that’s just the first tab. The “Cities Raw Data 2018” spreadsheet has 46 tabs containing data. These tabs have enigmatic names, such as “CIX_INTER_SERV_FUND” or “CI_FUNC_REV_EXP. Some of these tabs have several thousand rows of data, since many cities, for example, have several tranches of outstanding debt. Most of these tabs also have several dozen columns, and while these columns for the most part have reasonably explicable headers, no attempt is made to show the relationship between variables, i.e., which columns contain the subtotals and totals of amounts in other columns, and if so, of which other columns. The user is left to painstakingly infer every relationship.

What the California State Controller did, by eliminating these reports, was absolve their own office staff of the responsibility to analyze this data, something they had done for years. Instead they programmed an automated report generator that loads up pretty bar graphs with no explanation as to what is included or excluded in the totals, and no discussion about what any of it means. Then they offered access to the raw data as well, with the almost glib implication that if you don’t like our pretty graphs, dig through this.

To use the metaphor of an elephant to describe what has been lost, what we have today from the State Controller’s Office is a photograph of the elephant, along with a mountain of data describing each and every molecule in that elephant. What we used to have was a biology textbook, clearly explaining the various functioning parts of that elephant, and commenting on its overall health.

California’s state controller is not merely more delinquent than ever on delivering timely financial data on state and local agencies to taxpayers. For much of what it is tasked to analyze and report – cities, counties, special districts, and school districts – the office has cleverly created opacity in the name of transparency. For reporters looking for a quick number, or data miners with the time and the funding to do the state controller’s job for them, no problem. For anyone who wants to know how California’s state and local governments are doing without having to swim through a ocean of raw data, this is a disservice.

We must wonder how things would change if private sector standards were applied to the state controller’s office. How would they cope, if they were told to get their consolidated annual reports completed in six months instead of within 15 months, or more? It is a reasonable expectation.

There are profound differences between huge corporations and California’s state government agencies. But those differences shouldn’t be overstated. They are equally complex. Both contain huge bureaucracies. Both are subject to laws and incentives designed to create diversity in the workforce. Both have fiefdoms and infighting, waste and inefficiency. But there is one crucial difference.

The financial professionals working for the State Controller’s Office are represented by the various union affiliates of the California State Employees Association. Financial professionals working for ExxonMobil, or Walmart, or other mega corporations, do not belong to a union. It is left to the reader to speculate as to what impact union work rules have on the flexibility and accountability of unionized state agencies and their employees, including the Office of the California State Controller.

This article originally appeared in the California Globe.

California’s Energy Scorecard Fails on the World Stage

California, with 0.5 percent of the world’s population (40 million vs 8 billion) professes to be the leader of everything and through its dysfunctional energy policies imports more electricity than any other state – currently at 32 percent from the Northwest and Southwest – and has forced California to be the only state in contiguous America that imports most of its crude oil energy demands from foreign country suppliers to meet the energy demands of the state. 

State energy policies have made California electricity and fuel prices among the highest in the nation which have been contributory to the rapid growth of “energy poverty” for the 18 million (45 percent of the 40 million Californians) that represent the Hispanic and African American populations of the state.

Access to electricity is now an afterthought in most parts of the world, so it may come as a surprise to learn that 16 percent of the world’s population — an estimated 1.2 billion people — are still living without this basic necessity. Lack of access to electricity, or “energy poverty”, is the ultimate economic hindrance as it prevents people from participating in the modern economy.

Almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day. At least 80 percent of humanity, or almost 6 billion, lives on less than $10 a day. Other nations and continents living in abject poverty without electricity realize California, and large parts of the U.S. buying into green new deals, renewable futures, and zero-carbon societies are left with the dystopic reality of mass homelessness, filth and rampant inequality that increasingly characterize the GND core values.

Today, the current world population of 7.8 billion  is projected to reach 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100

Over the last 100 years, climate-related deaths in developed countries have decreased by 95 percent, mostly attributable to the use of fossil fuels and the products made from petroleum derivatives, that have lifted more than a billion people out of poverty in just the past twenty-five years. We can thank fossil fuels and capitalism for that and more. 

Currently, underdeveloped countries, mostly from energy starved countries, are experiencing about 11,000,000 child deaths every year of which more than 70 per cent are attributable to six causes: diarrhea, malaria, neonatal infection, pneumonia, preterm delivery, or lack of oxygen at birth. About 29,000 children under the age of five – 21 each minute – die every day, mainly from preventable causes

When you include fatalities of “other than children” the world numbers get even worse…

After that slice of morbidity I’d like to present a tad of relatively good news as to why the world is looking at the safety of nuclear power reactors. The worldwide total of nuclear deaths  – not annually, but from inception of nuclear –  including Three Mile Island (March 1979), Chernobyl (April 1986) and Fukushima (March 2011) are LESS than 200.

As a result of safety and ability to provide continuous uninterruptable zero emission electricity, today there are about 440 nuclear reactors operating in 30 countries around the world with 50 more under construction. Significant further capacity is being created by plant upgrading of existing reactors.  Additionally, there are 140 nuclear powered ships that have accumulated 12,000 reactor years of “safe” marine operation. 

Even China, with thousands of coal-fired power plants, already has 46 nuclear reactors in operation and 11 more under construction to provide continuous uninterruptible zero-emission electricity.

  • California’s goal is ZERO nuclear power plants to generate zero emission electricity.

In 2016, natural gas-fired generators accounted for 42% of the operating electricity generating capacity in the United States with 200 more set to open.

  • California’s goal is ZERO natural gas power plants to generate continuous uninterruptable electricity.
  • California’s green goals are to only rely on intermittent electricity from wind and solar and hope that the Northwestern and Southwestern states can generate enough extra power to meet the electricity demands of the 5th largest economy in the world.

With countries around the world and other American states focused on providing continuous uninterruptable electricity, and the more than 6,000 products made from petroleum derivatives for use in the daily lives of their residents, we must give California a FAILING GRADE on the world stage for its energy policies.

If we continue to deny the growing poor populations the benefits of electricity, medicines, heating and countless other developments made possible by deep earth minerals and fuels, to ever achieve the lifestyle benefits afforded the climate activists, then we need to justify our reasoning for allowing those millions of preventable deaths from occurring every year in third world countries.

Ronald Stein is founder and ambassador for Energy & Infrastructure of PTS Advance, headquartered in Irvine, California.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily.

Recall Gavin Effort Booms Despite Media Blackout

When the history of the 2020 election in California is written, the prevailing question will be why didn’t the California Republican Party take advantage of one of the biggest populist movements in modern history, the ongoing campaign to recall Governor Gavin Newsom. The period this recall effort has been allocated for signature gathering overlaps neatly with the peak political season, hence there is a tremendous opportunity for CAGOP to capitalize on its momentum.

It’s easy enough to understand why, despite gathering hundreds of thousands of signatures, and being on track to gather more signed petitions than any volunteer effort, ever, there is virtually zero media coverage. California’s establishment radio, press, and television networks are determined to ignore the Recall Gavin 2020 campaign for the same reasons the CAGOP ought to embrace – it is a rebellion that has attracted millions of disillusioned Californian voters and it has the potential to fundamentally transform the political landscape of the state.

For California’s media, this blackout is merely malpractice. Their partisan bias – expressed in how they frame issues, what issues they choose to cover, what facts they choose to emphasize over others, and their many sins of omission – is well established and comes as no surprise. In the case of CAGOP, their lack of support is, to be charitable, due to an excess of caution.

To appreciate the weight of the populist uprising sweeping California, the media, and CAGOP, might choose to attend the next large event organized by the Recall Gavin 2020 campaign, a rally to be held on the north steps of the State Capitol on Saturday 9/19 from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m. They will witness not hundreds, but thousands of supporters, showing up in a “Rolling Thunder” vehicle caravan as well as congregating on the north lawn. Smaller crowds at the Capitol, often comprised mostly of people who were paid to attend, consistently manage to attract television cameras and reporters. But to be newsworthy, you have to further the Democrat narrative.

The ingenuity displayed by the Recall Gavin 2020 campaign could teach a lot to the CAGOP consultants and their donors, a tight-knit network that has displayed remarkable continuity while presiding over an unrelenting decline that has lasted for three decades. It comes down to this: If you support the people, the people will support you.

To support the people, CAGOP three choices: First, they can aggressively promote a visionary platform with a few revolutionary but very concrete objectives. Things have gotten so bad, this ought to be easy. Thin the forests. Round up the homeless and put them in supervised tent cities (saving billions). Permit expansion of suburbs on the perimeter of cities which is the only way home prices will ever come down. Keep Diablo Canyon open, along with clean natural gas power plants (saving billions). Widen the freeways. Fix the aqueducts. Build more reservoirs and underground water storage. Enact school choice, preferably by issuing vouchers (saving billions). Start prosecuting criminals and get drug addicts off the streets. Quit harassing businesses (adding billions).

To the naysayers: Stop relying on polling, which is merely a good way for legacy consulting firms to collect, say, $900,000 to compile increasingly unreliable data on voter sentiment. Voter sentiment changes. Leadership and vision change the minds of voters. Get out there, and listen to people. You will be astonished at how close California’s entire population is to embracing a completely new agenda. But not one powerful CAGOP politician or donor has the guts to not just promote a revolutionary agenda, but demand it.

Choice two for CAGOP is even easier. Fire a shot that will be heard around the world by supporting the Recall Gavin 2020 campaign, unequivocally and without reservations. This will serve notice to voters that the party means business, and it’s gone onto offense. Have every CAGOP candidate express their support for the recall, and make it the centerpiece of a statewide slate declaring the CAGOP position on the many ballot initiatives facing voters in November.

Opposing Gavin Newsom gives much needed coherence and excitement to everything else  CAGOP is fighting for in this state. For example, there is not one significant state ballot initiative Newsom is for, that CAGOP is not against, nor is there one that he is against, that CAGOP is not supporting. The votes on many of these initiatives will be close. Enlisting the support of the recall volunteers could make the difference.

Choice three is the strategy that CAGOP is currently pursuing. Their strategy is thus: “Vote for us because we are not Democrats, and therefore you should support us.” That strategy is adequate – not good, but adequate – with the 24 percent of voters who are still registered Republican in California. For the rest, not so much.

Reluctance on the part of CAGOP to support the Recall Gavin 2020 campaign is understandable only if you view grassroots activism as a zero sum game. There are literally tens of thousands of Californians currently circulating petitions to recall the governor. These are people who could be, to mention perhaps the most important variable, walking precincts to recapture battleground seats in the U.S. Congress. But it is not a zero sum game.

The field directors for those candidates in tight races should be delivering their campaign material to the volunteers who are coordinating the recall efforts in their counties. Supporters of the recall are not exclusively Republicans, in fact, in many counties they may not even be majority Republican. But Newsom personifies Democrats, and they’re already fighting Newsom. If CAGOP endorses the recall, these recall volunteers become ripe prospects for conversion.

This bears reflection. Consider this revealing map, prepared by the Public Policy Institute of California (below), that depicts the political geography of the state as if the number of voters in each county drove the size of the space in which they resided. See that tiny, tiny little red patch up in the great white north? That’s your base. Get real. Take a chance. Swing for the fences.

CAGOP strategists and donors have to ask themselves some tough questions: “Are the recall volunteers people who would have otherwise volunteered to help us?” Some of them would have, but the vast majority of them would not. With that in mind, the question then becomes “will these recall volunteers support our candidates?” And to that, one can only say why wouldn’t they? If they’ve had it with Newsom, they’ve had it with his party.

The final question to pose to CAGOP strategists and donors at this critical time is simply this: Why are you blasting out millions of emails deriding the governor, if we’re unwilling to support the recall effort? Emails with subject lines such as “King Newsom will stop at nothing” (9/17), “King Newsom’s Reign Must End” (9/16), or “King Newsom Has Gone Too Far,” (9/06)? Are you kidding? Or do you mean it?

When you stand up for what you believe in, people are attracted. When you say one thing, and do another, you don’t matter. This recall campaign was inevitable. It was unstoppable. From the beginning the opportunity for CAGOP was either to embrace the recall effort, which would unify the base and attract new followers, or ignore it, confirming their status as the residual irrelevancy exemplified by the PPIC political map.

The Recall Gavin 2020 campaign’s lead proponent, Orrin Heatlie, is a capable and determined campaigner who has, from scratch, mobilized an army. There is a path forward for this campaign to beat the odds and put this recall onto the ballot. As will be seen, they are likely to surpass any similar sort of volunteer signature gathering effort in the history of California. Should they come tantalizingly close to success, yet fail, CAGOP will have a lot of explaining to do. Or they can have the courage of their declared convictions, and join the fight.

This article originally appeared on the website California Globe.

San Francisco’s Deathly Compassion

San Francisco has a serious drug problem, particularly among its homeless population. Roughly 8,000 people live on the city’s sidewalks or in its alleyways, public parks, and playgrounds. People with needles in their arms and legs, holding glass pipes and lighters, are a regular sight. Users go limp in doorways and tents, or they career about, dazed and distraught, or angry and violent. Dealers selling heroin, Fentanyl, methamphetamine, and crack are ubiquitous.

So, too, are the advocates for “harm reduction,” which holds that widespread drug use should be accepted but its worst effects mitigated. Organizations such as the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, the Harm Reduction Coalition, the Drug Users Union, and even the Department of Public Health, in partnership with The DOPE Project, focus almost exclusively on “safe drug use.” In fact, the Drug Users Union’s goal is “to create a safe environment where people can use & enjoy drugs as well as receive services.” This attitude led to today’s humanitarian crisis: thousands of people living on San Francisco’s streets, languishing in an endless cycle of homelessness and addiction.

Every day of the week, nonprofits and churches such as Glide Memorial partner with the city to distribute drug use supplies to addicts at designated pick-up points. With an empty backpack, I visited three such spots recently in a single afternoon.

Through open doorways, friendly workers asked what I needed. They suggested items and eagerly gave me what asked for—needles (what size?), naloxone (do you know how to use it? Here, let me show you!), rubber tourniquets to pop my veins, little metal cookers for my dope, sharps containers, sheets of foil and straws for Fentanyl, and mounds of alcohol pads, gauze, and bandages. My backpack was soon bursting; I collected 170 needles.

Not one person asked if I was interested in treatment. No one discussed detox or gave me a flyer with listings for local 12-step meetings. No one inquired about my physical or psychological wellbeing. I could have anything I wanted—except for help getting off drugs.

The idea of harm reduction seems noble. Access to clean needles reduces diseases like hepatitis and HIV, and naloxone can bring overdosing people back from the brink of death. Carefully monitored methadone-maintenance programs can return individuals struggling with opiates to a more stable life.

Harm reduction has mutated from ameliorating the collateral negative effects of addiction to promoting drug use as a positive lifestyle choice. Yet the lives of San Francisco’s addicts clearly aren’t improving. They’re sicker, more numerous than ever, and dying in staggering numbers. The body count is rising from Fentanyl, the highly potent synthetic opioid that has become the substance of choice. Last year’s 441 overdose deaths represented a 70 percent increase, and 2020 will likely be another record-breaking year.

Still, true believers carry on, convinced that they’re doing right by helping addicts do more drugs. It’s an unconscionable position. All people deserve a chance to live free of the substances preventing them from a healthy, self-sufficient life. They need someone to say, “I believe in you; let me help you escape addiction,” not, “You’re a drug user, let me help you remain an addict.”

Question the self-described experts, though, and you’re dismissed as a rube, even as their grand experiment—the giant petri dish of San Francisco—is evidence that they’ve failed.

And it’s getting worse. Homeless addicts given hotel rooms during Covid-19 are offered the complete range of drug paraphernalia. Boxes of needles, glass pipes for meth and crack, and Fentanyl supplies are laid out in the lobbies like a breakfast buffet. Fatal overdoses, not surprisingly, have spiked. All the hotels should have been drug-free zones, yet not even one was designated for sober people or for those trying to kick their habits.

The effects of enabling addiction are far-ranging. Low-income neighborhoods, where the majority of homeless drug users concentrate, are disproportionately affected. Poor immigrants, children, and seniors watch as addicts use drugs in front of them, stealing to support their addiction and behaving in other horrible ways. Small businesses can’t operate in such environments and are forced to close.

Condoning illegal drug use means accepting everything that accompanies the business: human traffickingsexual exploitationpolitical corruption, and environmental disaster. Recognizing these connections is essential. It’s why we condemned the ivory trade and child labor. Why do we now give a nod to illegal drugs that perpetuate some of the worst crimes known to man?

We can change course and focus on recovery. Options exist. The Salvation Army Harbor Light Center gives homeless individuals and families a place to stay while they pursue sobriety; the San Francisco Adult Probation Department’s reentry division gives newly released prisoners up to a year in residential drug-treatment programs. It’s time to invest in organizations like Community First Village in Austin, Texas, which recognizes that possession of controlled substances is illegal and provides permanent housing to the chronically homeless—with a work requirement. Residents are expected to abide by the law and take advantage of on-site rehabilitation and counseling. Such organizations give more to those they help by expecting more of them.

Drug addicts need a lifeline, not a millstone. For those who doubt that it’s time to push back against harm-reduction advocates who do little more than throw fresh needles, fentanyl foil, and meth pipes at the sick and dying, I have a suggestion: come to San Francisco and have a look around.

Erica Sandberg is a widely published consumer-finance reporter based in San Francisco and the author of Expecting Money: The Essential Financial Plan for New and Growing Families. As a community advocate, she focuses on homelessness and crime and safety issues.

This article was originally published by City Journal Online.

Californian Responds to Mississippi Sierra Club on Blackouts

Expansion of solar power in nearby states, not solely California, resulted in a lack of available exportable power and rolling blackouts

Re: Louis Miller, Let’s Not Black Out the Facts About California Blackouts, What It Means for Mississippi, Clarion Ledger, Sept. 11, 2020.

Louis Miller, head of the Mississippi Sierra Club, concludes in his above-captioned letter to the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger newspaper that “renewable energy did not cause California’s blackouts”.  As someone who formed a Task Force to manage the 2001 California Energy Crisis for the largest urban water district in California, I felt I had to respond so the public is not misled.

Power and pollution in California are interrelated in a way not found in Mississippi due to topography.  The City of Los Angeles has to import as much as 75% of its power from gas and coal plants from Arizona, Utah and Nevada in order to meet their EPA mandated air quality standards.  Thus, California imports power but also exports or externalizes its pollution to nearby states where it is dissipated into the atmosphere and not trapped in air basins as it is in Los Angeles (“the solution to pollution is dilution”).

California’s cities have the worst air quality in the US because they are in a Basin State with air basins that trap smog from polluting power plants, industries and cars due to an “inversion layer”.  Conversely, Mississippi is a Gulf State and its gulf winds dissipate its emissions.

California and Mississippi have nearly opposite proportions of clean/dirty power: California has 70% installed “clean” power and Mississippi has 79% “dirty” power, mainly gas power plants.  So, if solar power is equally “reliable” as gas power as Miller contends why doesn’t Mississippi have unplanned rolling blackouts too (not to be confused with the planned blackouts California has to avoid forest fires)? Answer: California has base load solar power and Mississippi has none.  

Because of California’s dependence on solar for daytime baseload power, it has a daily energy crisis for about 2 to 4 hours per day starting around sunset when solar power cuts out. California buys imported dispatchable power (gas, coal, nuclear) from nearby states to replace solar power at sunset. But nearby states are also relying on more solar power that creates a daily energy crisis in those states too. There was not enough imported power available during the recent heat wave to meet California’s needs. So, it was the shift to solar power in nearby states, not solely in California, that precipitated California’s power shortfall and blackouts. Solar power in California forced the importation of power from nearby states. But now with the emergence of “microgrids” and the expansion of solar power from other states, the state electric grid is moving back to balkanized grids. But what will back up those microgrids?

Miller asserts that rooftop solar power “cuts out the middleman by eliminating the need to import coal or gas while shortening the distance electricity has to travel across power lines”.

Large solar and wind farms in California are located in the desert at least 100 miles from coastal urban cities or are in other states.

The new middlemen of green power are residential rooftop solar system owners who want to privatize the benefits and hefty subsidies for solar power but socialize the external costs onto other electricity customers.

Miller is misinformed that solar power “results in lower energy bills”.  As California has shifted to heavily subsidized green baseload power, the price of electricity for residential customers deceptively fell from 20.87 cents per kilowatt hour to 19.79 cents.  But total system costs rose from 18.5 to 18.8 cents per kilowatt hour. This is called “cost shifting” where one set of customers (residential solar rooftop) underpay making another (no solar residential, commercial, industrial) overpay. The Public Utilities Commission has to tack on a 14-cent per kilowatt hour tariff to rooftop solar users for escaping their fair share of system and transmission costs for backup power.

Miller also wrongly asserts that solar power results in lower energy bills because “customers aren’t being held hostage to ever-fluctuating fuel prices”. Wholesale electricity prices in California do not fluctuate each minute like the stock market because the grid operator (ISO) runs a day-ahead market by soliciting bids the prior day. 

In October California is going to switch to Time-Of-Use electricity billing instead of time averaging, which will result in price spikes from 25-cents per kilowatt hour to 40-cents per kilowatt hour during sunset hours. So-called cheaper solar power will not be available to defray the price spikes at sunset hours but will exacerbate them.  Before Time-Of-Use billing, the average price of electricity in California in 2018 was 16.58-cents per kilowatt hour compared to 9.24-cents per kilowatt hour for Mississippi.

When the sun goes down owners of solar rooftop systems have to be switched to natural gas power or install some sort of backup power of their own for the nighttime. A rooftop solar system backup battery costs from $5,000 to $7,000 to install and costs from $400 to $750 per kilowatt hour to operate.  By comparison, a natural gas home generator costs about 12.4-cents per kilowatt hour to run (in Florida) according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. But California cities want to mandate elimination of all natural gas use in California citing “climate change”.

Miller quotes Steve Berberich, CEO of California’s grid operations, that renewable energy was “not a factor” in driving blackouts. But, as stated above, it was the expansion of solar power in nearby states, not California, that resulted in lack of enough imported gas power to handle the heat wave.  And one of the reasons that there were rolling blackouts in California on August 14 was that 1,000 megawatts of wind power was suddenly lost when the wind died

This is why California’s “one-size-fits-all” green energy policy is not a wise choice for Plains, Gulf, Mountain or Plateau States. Mississippi would be ill-advised to adopt California’s clean energy policies, baseload power from solar farms and rooftop solar systems tied into its power grid, mainly because it does not have a topography that traps air emissions.  As for lung cancers and asthma, they are declining with the decrease in smoking, not solely on improvements in air quality. Moreover, those diseases involve compromised immune systems and are not purely caused (although are aggravated) by airborne particulate matter (see James Enstrom, PhD., Fine Particulate Matter and Total Mortality in Cancer Prevention, Sage Publications, March 28, 2017).

California’s goal of all green power is only based on a semblance of formal systems planning and instead is based on “political power” planning. The technologies are not even invented yet or the cost well-defined to affordably form reliable micro-grids with battery ranches and hubs connected to solar farms.  California is “muddling through” to its green energy goals with failures and blackouts no matter the costs or consequences.

Wayne Lusvardi appraises private water utilities regulated by the CPUC and has no investments in public utilities or fossil fuels. He is a free-lance writer for CaliforniaGlobe.com

Homeless Anarchy in Los Angeles

Anyone thinking about blaming the police for the anarchy that grips America’s liberal cities is not paying attention. The police know how to do their jobs, but the politicians, elected by progressive liberals, do not let them. And often enough, even when there are laws left on the books that might permit prosecution, activist prosecutors, also elected by progressive liberals, do not press charges.

Life in California, as usual, epitomizes this dysfunction. In 2014 voters approved Proposition 47, which downgraded drug and property crimes. In 2016 voters approved Proposition 57, which released thousands of nonviolent criminals. Back in 2006, the ACLU prevailed in the Jones vs City of Los Angeles case; the judgment prohibits arrests for vagrancy unless there is a space available in a homeless shelter.

The result of these laws is predictable enough. California’s unsheltered homeless population is now more numerous than all the rest of the homeless in the United States combined. And why not? Along with great weather, there are no serious legal consequences for being intoxicated on methamphetamine or heroin, much less marijuana or alcohol, nor are their serious legal consequences for stealing to support your drug habit. And if you want to set up a tent, almost anywhere, nobody can make you move along until they provide you a shelter.

If California is ground zero for urban anarchy, Venice Beach is one of the epicenters. Well before the COVID-19 pandemic and pre-election planned rioting turned the anarchy up two notches, Venice Beach was already occupied, and terrorized, by well over a thousand homeless. Today, the homeless population in Venice Beach is estimated to have at least doubled to 2,000, in an area of only three square miles. Several factors caused this increase.

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in thousands of prisoners being released from the Los Angeles County Jail, and many of them headed for the beach. A new homeless shelter was opened earlier in 2020 in Venice Beach, and while it only has 140 beds (at a cost of $8 million), it serves meals to many more, and has no requirements for sobriety or even a curfew. But how the City of Los Angeles responded to the COVID-19 crisis had an even greater impact on Venice Beach.

For years, once per week the streets would be cleaned. This forced people living in cars or RVs to move them to allow trash and debris including feces to get regularly swept up and washed away. But since March 2020 there has been no street sweeping. Also suspended in 2020 by court order was a 2016 LA County ordinance that prevented homeless people from accumulating more than what could fit into a trash bin (about eight cubic feet). If that weren’t enough, since COVID came along, the police have virtually stopped enforcing all laws and ordinances still in effect that might regulate the number of homeless and the behavior of the homeless.

Venice Beach residents are besieged as never before. When speaking with residents to prepare this report, one of them said “I feel like I have a house in the middle of a large homeless encampment.” Residents describe the mountains of trash that have begun to accumulate as a result of a breakdown in code enforcement, along with an explosion in the rat population. For those who have been assaulted or shot, of course, rats and trash are just a nuisance.

The degree to which civilization has receded in places where the homeless have taken over in Los Angeles is difficult to separate from the other epic distractions that have dominated the news in 2020. But these other distractions, COVID-19, economic hardship, mass rioting and vandalism, have compounded the problem of the homeless.

For example, on one residential corner in Venice Beach, for the past few months a man has lived there, working on welding projects. Many of these projects involve converting scrap metal into knives, machetes and axes. According to a neighbor, the man was approached by Antifa and offered marijuana in exchange for weapons, but he refused, stating he only would work for methamphetamine. The entire operation, the generator, the welding torch, the hammering in the middle of the night, is hazardous and disturbing. But despite hundreds of calls to the LAPD, this man continues to ply his trade.

Police Undermined by Progressive Prosecutors

What the City of Los Angeles needs to do is challenge the 2006 Jones ruling in federal court. They need to join with other California cities to put initiatives before California’s voters that will repeal Prop. 47 and Prop. 57. But under pressure from progressive billionaires and BLM activists, they are moving in the opposite direction.

The currently serving Los Angeles District Attorney is Jackie Lacey, an black woman who by most accounts would be considered light on crime. But not light enough. Running against Lacey in November is George Gascon, formerly the D.A. for San Francisco. Gascon is endorsed by Bernie Sanders and Black Lives Matter, and his campaign has already benefit from over $1 million spent by George Soros to defeat his rival. To say Gascon would not restore the ability of law enforcement to restore order to the streets of Los Angeles is an understatement.

One would think that a liberal black woman serving as the Los Angeles District Attorney would at least earn a respectful opposition from radical activists, but not Jackie Lacey. In March, Black Lives Matters protesters showed up at Lacey’s house, banging drums, pounding on their front door, and demanding a “community meeting.” In response, Lacey’s husband opened the door, pointed a gun at the protesters, and demanded they get off the porch. A Los Angeles judge has just ruled that California’s liberal attorney general, Xavier Becerra, should file charges against him, just in time for the November election.

Not long ago, Rudy Giuliani characterized places like Los Angeles as “criminal friendly cities.” This is an accurate description. On top of everything else, California’s state legislature passed SB 10 in 2018, designed to make California the first state to end the use of cash bail for all detained suspects awaiting trials.” The legislation would replace the state’s cash bail system with “risk assessments.” This legislation was successfully challenged through a referendum petition, so this November California’s voters will decide if they want jails to release suspects without the hook of bail to improve the chances they’ll ever show up in court.

What is happening in Los Angeles is typical for California, and is part of larger and related policy failures. Everything California’s government has done for over 30 years, ever since the progressive grip on the state and local governments became nearly absolute, has made life more difficult for its once thriving middle class. Excessive regulations for the law-abiding small businesses, which big business takes in stride and the underground economy ignores. Urban containment, draconian building codes, and punitive permit fees that have made housing unaffordable.

California has become a feudal economy, and if entire cities are turned into fetid, ungovernable swamps, so what, as long as the right slogans are uttered, and fists are raised in solidarity with the oppressed?

“Black Lives Matter.” “All Cops Are Bastards.” Let’s hear you say it, if you want to have a political career. On your knees. Raise your fist. Say what we tell you to say, because “silence is violence.” Has it come to that? Is this all it takes to remain a successful politician?

But it isn’t just politicians who have brought Los Angeles and other progressive cities to the brink of complete chaos. Activist judges, activist prosecutors, and well funded activist attorneys have all played a role. In some respects the legal obstacles to common sense governance outweigh the political obstacles. The City of Los Angeles should just round up the homeless and put them into supervised tent encampments in inexpensive areas, but the lawsuits would stop that in its tracks. But in feudal California, there’s an innovative workaround.

Instead of solving the problem for pennies on the dollar, homeless advocates build “permanent supportive housing” for $500,000 per unit, using taxpayers money, and for every unit they build, hundreds of homeless remain on the streets. This utterly futile scheme has cost California’s taxpayers billions while the numbers of homeless have only increased.

The next step California’s progressive policymakers envision, well under way, is to erase zoning restrictions and allow investors and developers to collect subsidies and tax incentives to build rent-subsidized multi-family dwellings, randomly dropped onto the sites of demolished single-family homes. Imagine the feeling, when next door to the home you’ve worked for all your life, one of your many new neighbors, living for free in a looming six-plex, is a welder who works all night for methamphetamine.

Police in Los Angeles, like in all cities ran by progressive liberals, are up against a system that is failing. It makes their jobs nearly impossible. The only way their lot will be improved, along with that of residents in Venice Beach and other besieged communities across all of California’s urban landscape, will be through a sustained realignment by voters that categorically rejects progressive politics.

On the other hand, California’s cities offer the example that will be America’s fate if Biden wins in November.

This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.

CA Wildfires: Apocalyptic rhetoric about climate change is undermining the fight for pragmatic solutions

The West Coast fire season still has months to run, but it’s already one for the record books. Some 3.3 million acres have burned in California, and another 1 million in Oregon. In some cases, separate fires have combined into fire “complexes,” or “megafires.” At least 35 people have died, with others still unaccounted for. Media reports have almost all focused on a single explanation. “California’s climate apocalypse,” read the banner headline on the Los Angeles Times’s September 13 edition. The New York Times, CNN, NPR, and other outlets used similar doomsday language in linking the fires to climate change. Politicians echoed them. “We’re in a CLIMATE CRISIS,” California Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted on September 11.

The emphasis on climate is not incorrect. Higher average temperatures are linked to longer fire seasons, and hotter, dryer conditions do appear to lead to larger fires. It is reasonable to assume that rising temperatures increase the risks of fire in Western landscapes. Nonetheless, focusing on climate as the all-purpose explanation for wildfires is a dangerous oversimplification. In truth, the factors that cause large Western fires are complex. Climate is one. The impact of humans on the ground is another. People play a large role not only in igniting wildfires, but also in altering the conditions through which fires move and grow.

The 14,000-acre El Dorado fire still burning in Southern California’s San Bernardino County was triggered by a pyrotechnic device at an outdoor “gender reveal party.” In recent days, suspects have been arrested for allegedly setting wildfires in four incidents in California and Oregon. Sparks from power lines are an alarmingly common source of wildfires, including the 2018 Camp Fire, which killed 86 people, mostly in the town of Paradise, California. In addition, decades of aggressive fire suppression have left enormous “fuel loads” in West Coast forests. Most forestry experts believe that this accumulation of flammable woody debris is a key factor driving bigger, more intense fires. Finally, despite the risks, people keep moving into wildfire country. The rapid growth of population and infrastructure in semi-wild regions means that even routine fires now threaten more lives and cause more economic damage.

For many climate activists—and a preponderance of mainstream journalists—disasters like wildfires and hurricanes are often seen as teachable moments. Activists hope that if the public can be convinced to see climate change as a here-and-now disaster—rather than as some distant threat—perhaps voters will be more willing to support pro-climate policies. That’s an understandable motive but a questionable strategy. Scientists who put advocacy ahead of objectivity risk undermining both the quality of their research and their own credibility. Journalists who take this route tend to oversimplify complex causes, and lapse into an “End Times” narrative that leaves readers feeling powerless.

It’s impossible to say whether a particular hurricane or single fire season was caused by climate change. Establishing the connection between climate and such widely variable events requires a solid baseline of data accumulated over many decades. The current West Coast fire season really is unprecedented—at least in terms of the recent past—but California’s 2019 season was relatively light, with only about 280,000 acres burned. Should that below-average fire season be cited as evidence that fears of climate change are exaggerated? Of course not. Outliers in either direction should be added to the data set, not seized on as “the new normal.” But overheated rhetoric—or, for that matter, blanket rejections of climate data—make judicious assessments of climate risks impossible. As writer Gregg Easterbrook recently noted on Twitter, today’s partisan environment “demands all issues be reduced to doomsday or denial.”

This is a nuanced point that demands clarity. I believe that climate change is a significant risk. And I think it’s worth hedging against that risk, even if some aspects of the science aren’t certain, and some worst-case scenarios might be overblown. I support using the best available technologies to reduce carbon emissions in ways that don’t hamstring the economy. That’s why, for example, I oppose California’s current plan to shutter the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, the state’s largest single source of carbon-free electricity. But the biggest question facing West Coast policymakers right now is not figuring out exactly how carbon emissions influence wildfires. The real question is, what tools are available today to bring down wildfire risks? Even if we assume climate models are accurate—and we also assume global carbon emissions can be cut fast enough to reach the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s current target—it would still take decades for today’s gradual temperature increases to halt. In the meantime, a range of factors—aside from climate—are making wildfires more deadly and more expensive.

When scientists, the press, and policymakers respond to every wildfire by talking almost exclusively about climate, those other aspects of fire policy get neglected. For example, in 2016, California’s then-governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill requiring better oversight of power lines in high-fire-risk areas. One of the bill’s sponsors, State Senator John Moorlach, a Republican who represents Laguna Beach, later complained in a blog post that Governor Brown “relied on a weak excuse, saying the real issue is climate change.” (The Brown administration maintained that the oversight improvements the bill sought were already underway.) Two years later, sparks from a deteriorating PG&E power line set off the devastating Camp Fire blaze, the deadliest and most expensive wildfire in California history. Facing lawsuits charging that the company mismanaging its power lines, PG&E partially blamed the fire on climate change.

“If you think the only way to stop these fires is by reducing climate change then you are basically saying you are not going to be able to stop the fires,” the environmental contrarian Michael Shellenberger said in a recent online video. “That’s disempowering and wrong.” Shellenberger argues that the West would be facing megafires even if climate change was not happening. Moreover, he claims, properly managed forests would be better able to cope with the stresses of rising temperatures. More than half a century of forest-management experience supports that conclusion.

Forestry experts began warning about the dangers of over-aggressive fire suppression in the mid twentieth century. In a forest that burns regularly, fires tend to lick through the underbrush, mostly consuming fallen deadwood and litter. Healthy trees survive such routine burns, and forest ecosystems emerge from them healthier. But if every fire is snuffed out at birth, combustible materials build up. When fires move through these fuel-rich environments they become hotter and more destructive, reaching up into the living crowns of the trees and scorching the life out of forest soils.

The solution to this dilemma is carefully controlled “prescribed burns.” I can remember seeing such controlled burns in Yosemite National Park in the early 1980s. They would smolder for days consuming pine needles and deadwood. But, while prescribed burns are widely used today in the southeastern U.S., they were never deployed on a sufficient scale in the West. One obstacle was Clinton administration policies that aimed to restore Western forests to “pre-settlement” conditions. The goal was to limit logging and to restrict road use on federal lands in order to keep forests as pristine as possible. “To accept this idea you have to believe pre-settlement forests were ‘naturally functioning ecosystems’ untouched by human hands,” noted forest researcher Bob Zybach in 1994. “The fact is, people have been altering the character of this region’s forests for at least 11,000 years.”

Native peoples used fire actively to manage grasslands and forests. (Some still do.) As a result, Zybach’s research showed, Western woodlands were “virtually free of the underbrush and coarse woody debris that has been commonplace in forests for most of this century.” And, of course, prior to the twentieth century, there was no way to put out large conflagrations naturally sparked by lightning. Researchers estimate that, prior to the arrival of Europeans, California forests burned at a rate of between 4.4 and nearly 12 million acres a year. In a fascinating Pro Publica investigation, veteran forest scientists expressed dismay that prescribed burns are so rarely used today as a tool of forest management. “[It’s] horrible to see this happening when the science is so clear and has been for years,” said Tim Ingalsbee, founder of Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics, and Ecology. “Every year I warn people: Disaster’s coming.”

For Ingalsbee and other foresters, this year’s epic fire season is the fuel-driven catastrophe they have long feared. Some foresters argue that increased fuels, not higher temperatures alone, are the primary reason we’re seeing bigger fires today. But warming temperatures exacerbate that risk, making it all the more urgent to attack the problem. “We need to get good fire on the ground and whittle down some of that fuel load,” Ingalsbee said. It will be a big job. In recent years, California has burned only 13,000 acres a year. One recent study concluded the state would need to burn some 20 million acres overall in order to bring its forest back into stable condition.

As more Western residents leave cities for homes in the wildland-urban interface (WUI), it becomes harder to conduct prescribed burns. Residents complain, and the state’s air quality rules often shut down planned burning operations. Meanwhile, unplanned fires are encountering growing numbers of people and structures in their paths. That threat to lives and property puts pressure on firefighters to extinguish blazes that might otherwise roll harmlessly—in fact, helpfully—through uninhabited forests. And when fires do reach settled areas, the costs become catastrophic. Disaster researchers call this phenomenon the expanding bull’s-eye effect: even if the rate of fires stays the same, costs go up as people move in.

California and other western states have worked themselves into a vicious cycle: their forests are primed for disastrous fires, but increasing populations make it harder to conduct prescribed burns. The risks and potential costs go up every year. What can be done? One step would be to rethink how people live in the wildland-urban interface. Instead of focusing just on fire prevention, policymakers should plan for better fire resilience: helping communities and residents survive and recover from the fires that, sooner or later, are bound to arrive.

Another step would be to stop encouraging population growth in the most dangerous regions. Restrictive zoning in California’s cities has driven housing prices through the roof, while homes in the WUI are usually more affordable, especially for retirees. Reforming the state’s anti-development urban zoning rules would ease the pressure pushing residents into the fire zones. The promise of aggressive fire protection is also a subtle subsidy encouraging more development in these regions. If prospective homeowners knew they were likely to bear the true costs of fire risk, they might plan differently.

Right now, insurance companies are sending that message in the form of higher rates and cancelled policies for homeowners in the riskiest areas. Predictably, California regulators and some lawmakers want to force insurers to keep rates artificially low for WUI residents. That would be a mistake. Effectively subsidizing insurance in fire zones would only lead to more risky development and bigger disasters down the road. Instead, insurance companies can encourage their customers to build more fire-resistant homes and maintain “defensible space” around them. Just as most ancient redwoods can survive passing fires, a properly built home surrounded by a non-flammable zone should be able to withstand typical wildfires.

Fire has been a routine event in West Coast terrain since prehistoric times. Today’s megafires are the alarming but predictable result of decades of poor forest management and WUI development. Climate change makes these problems worse, but it didn’t cause them. And reducing carbon emissions, while a good long-term goal, won’t reduce these risks any time soon. Implementing effective fire policies in the West will require real political will on the statewide level. Communities and even individual homeowners can also take steps to improve their fire resilience. But when Governor Newsom and other leaders imply that only a global solution to carbon emissions can reduce fires, they undermine these efforts. A less histrionic approach would pursue affordable reductions in CO2 emissions, while also applying the best current tools to reduce the impact of inevitable wildfires.

James B. Meigs is cohost of the How Do We Fix It? podcast and the former editor of Popular Mechanics.

This article was originally published by City Journal Online.

Good Bills this Session — Really

When I mentioned to our editorial committee at the Pacific Research Institute that I was going to work on a blog on good bills out of California’s recent legislative session, Kerry Jackson joked that I needed fewer than 100 words to cover that topic. After a few hours of hunting and a little help from friends, I did manage to turn up a few good ones:

CA Small Businesses Get Relief from COVID-19

Gov. Newsom last week signed into law several bills to help small businesses get back on their feet. In AB 1577, California business owners who received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds will not have to pay state taxes on these forgivable loans. After being forced to shutter their businesses, paying taxes on these funds would have added insult to injury.  Tax credits will also be offered to California companies with fewer than 100 employees that saw at least a 50 percent drop in gross receipts due to COVID-19. These businesses will receive a $1,000 tax credit for each employee hired between July and November, up to $100,000 per business. Before COVID-19, California was already among the toughest states to do business, and the pandemic made it worse.  Some modest tax breaks to small business owners will help provide much needed relief.

More Freelancers Exempt from AB 5

AB 2257 exempts musicians, freelance writers, photographers, and translators from AB 5, the now infamous state law that outlawed many independent contractor jobs in the state. All total, the bill would exempt about two dozen professions — mostly in the creative fields.  AB 5 would have “single handedly crashed the California music economy,” said Ari Herstand, an L.A. musician.  It also resulted in companies firing California-based freelancers and hiring out-of-staters to fill the jobs.  “This is one of the most disastrous pieces of legislation we could have ever put forward and that the governor could have ever signed,” said GOP Sen. Melissa Melendez.  While this “fix it” bill provides relief for some professions, to save their jobs, ride-sharing drivers’ have to wait for the results of Prop. 22 on the November ballot.

More Autonomy for Nurse Practitioners

Many Californians choose to see a nurse practitioner for many routine medical conditions, rather than a physician. The advantage: they get in the door faster and it’s often less expensive. Under the current law, a nurse practitioner must be supervised by a doctor, but AB 890 lifts that requirement.  Always cautious when it comes to deregulation, even the Los Angeles Times editorial board agrees with AB 890, “Unleashing the more than 20,000 nurse practitioners licensed in California can not only help plug that gap [primary medical care] but also increase diversity and provide a career path for more Californians eager to make their way into the healthcare industry.”  The COVID-19 pandemic exposed many weaknesses in our health care system, one being the shortage of primary care doctors.  AB 890 frees nurse practitioners to serve even more Californians.

Eliminating Filing Fees for Non-Profits

SB 934, sponsored by Sen. Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Hills), will eliminate the $25 filing fee paid by non-profits applying for a state tax exemption. It will also remove the $10 filing fee for annual informational returns paid by tax-exempt organizations as well as a $25 late fee.  While this might not sound like much, don’t forget there’s all the paperwork that goes with it.  PRI has paid thousands of dollars over the years to states nationwide for various fees, including state registration fees.  Believe it or not, the regulations and paperwork are so onerous that there’s a growing cottage industry that helps non-profits sort it all out (which cost money, too). This is going to be a tough fundraising year for non-profits, and every little bit helps.

Microchips for Coco and Fifi

SB 573 sponsored by Sen. Ling Ling Chang, (R-Diamond Bar), requires dogs and cats to have microchips before leaving animal shelters. As readers know, Right by the Bay doesn’t take regulation lightly, especially if the added cost might be a burden for struggling families. But unlike past bills, this one contains an economic hardship exemption giving new owners access to rescue groups that can help with the bills and other low-cost services.

So, take that Kerry – I got 700 words.

Rowena Itchon is senior vice president of the Pacific Research Institute. 

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.

If the Texas Economic Miracle Can’t Figure Out Renewables – Neither Can California

Any electrical grid relying on renewables (mainly wind turbines and solar panels) electricity prices can rise as much as 40,000% in Texas, and blackouts are inevitable. From New York to Great Britain – and now California – blackouts happen over heavy renewable usage.  

California’s conundrum is hardly prescient nor is Texas a fossil fuel powerhouse since approximately 20 percent of its electrical generation comes from wind turbines. Texas in 2018 had the massive spike in prices, and their entire reserve margin of generating capacity went away during a heat wave. California now suffers the same problems. More importantly for both, and likely California more than Texas is the push to electrify homes and entire sectors of the economy. Cost considerations alone should make California pause in this rush for decarbonization via the electrical grid. 

Federal data show a $900 a year price differential between homes that rely on natural gas for appliances, heat during the winter, and hot/warm water versus only electricity. The rush for renewables in California and Texas will lead to higher costs in coming years. Approvals for new oil and gas wells in California are up over unstable electrical grids. The Texas economic miracle could be fading if state doesn’t understand the “turmoil and true staggering costs of wind and solar” are having on consumers with limited transparency. 

Renewables are intermittent, chaotic in their production of energy to electricity, and mathematically unstable, but California and Texas both keep rushing headlong into collapsing their grids for reliable electricity. California is rapidly becoming a failed state over green energy policies. To Governor Newsome’s credit he says

“The transition away from fossil fuels has left California with a gap in reliability of its energy system. He says the state must examine its reliance on solar power and how that fits into its broader energy portfolio, report the San Francisco Chronicle’s Alexei Koseff.” 

In 2018 the California legislature passed a bill requiring the state electrical grid have “100% climate-friendly electricity by 2045.” During a recent August heat wave the state’s grid was at least 4,400 MW short of the energy to electricity needed for minimum electrical generation standards. The early summer documentary movie, “Juice” highlights how if a country doesn’t have reliable and stable electricity, they are a failed state. California is meeting that definition, and Texas is following that same standard.  

The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) is responsible for California’s grid and demand to ensure constant electrical generation. Western states are no longer exporting energy to CAISO during hot summer months, which facilitates CAISO ordering utilities to institute blackouts. Texas will follow California into blackouts, and the economic renaissance will end.

Texas is the largest source of wind generation in the U.S., attracting firms like Spanish energy conglomerate Iberdrola claiming 100% Texas wind to meet reliable electricity for the Lone Star State. Iberdrola has received over $2.7 billion in U.S tax credits without producing anything of electrical value through the Production Tax Credit program.

Utilities in California and Texas are pushing to rid themselves of fossil fuels in favor of renewables, but a recent study from the University of Oxford’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment found:

“Among more than 3,000 utilities, only about 14% prioritized growth in renewable energy over gas or coal-fired power plants, while 10% and 2% had their highest growth in gas and coal, respectively. And even among companies betting on green energy, more than half continued to grow their fossil fuel capacities at the same time.” 

California has world-class universities and is the 5th largest economy in the world – yet cannot figure out how to stabilize their electrical grid using renewables. This is why utilities are betting heavily on fossil fuels for decades ahead. Supposedly the “future is bright, emissions-free, and electric,” when actually the International Energy Agency’s Key World Energy Statistics 2020 overwhelmingly reveals a world reliant on fossil fuels for electricity and the over 6,000 products that originate from a barrel of crude oil. California is reaping what it sows for grid blackouts, and Texas isn’t far behind.

California’s “60 per cent renewable supply by 2030,” is at 33 per cent currently; 27 GW of California’s renewable supply is solar, and 7 GW is wind. Both stop working when the sun isn’t shining, or the wind isn’t blowing. The State’s consumers have electricity prices “60 per cent above the US average.”

Grid reliability is so bad for California, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on Sunday, September 6th  issued a Section 202 (c) “emergency order to help prevent California’s already-faltering power grid from being completely overwhelmed.” This order was in response to a record-breaking heat wave over much of Southern California. 

The DOE’s order “authorizes the emergency use of stationary and portable generators, as well as auxiliary engines onboard ocean-going vessels berthed in California’s port.” All laws, regulations and permits limiting the use of emission-belching generators are suspended to meet grid requirements for the CAISO.

According to Joel Kotkin of Chapman University electrical grid blackouts and fires are the new California norm unless voters decide to break with the one-party super majority. Then why doesn’t the Legislature address grid breakdown instead of passing a bill lowering criminal penalties for adults who have sex with minors. Heterosexual and homosexual men and women – need on-demand electricity – over meddling in their private affairs. 

Economic forecasters whether in California or Texas have assumed that Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROI) for renewables would be used within a fossil fuel-based system since they are heavily subsidized due to intermittent output; a “green reset based on green energy isn’t possible.” My own book “Just Green Electricity” brings clarity to a world without fossil fuels. Just the math alone of new transmission lines, amount of new renewable installations, land-use requirements, physics and engineering all spotlight the hidden cost of renewables.

Green energy is also one of the dirtiest forms of energy over mining concerns. Michael Moore’s anti-renewables documentary, Planet of the Humans highlights ecological concerns. Texas and especially California need to ditch green recovery plans in a post-COVID world, and finally admit that all forms of energy to electricity based on renewables have never powered a modern society.

Todd Royal is an independent public policy consultant focusing on the geopolitical implications of energy based in Los Angeles, California.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily.

Mismanaged Forests Burn, Newsom Blames “Climate Deniers”

What we quaintly refer to as “super fires” have incinerated nearly 5,000 square miles of California’s forests so far this year. In response, Governor Newsom has declared he has “no more patience for climate deniers.” But it isn’t climate change that caused these superfires. It was negligent forestry.

When it comes to facts that matter on the issue of our burning forests, perhaps Newsom is the one who is in denial. Because when Newsom denounces “climate deniers,” he denies the following far more pertinent facts about wildfires and climate:

  • The timber industry in California has been cut to a small fraction of what it was in 1990 in terms of employment and board feet of timber harvested. In 1990, 6.0 billion board feet were harvested from California’s forests, today the harvest rarely exceeds 1.5 billion board feet.
  • Dense, overgrown forests result in unhealthy trees, because the increased number of trees are competing for the same amount of sunlight, water and soil nutrients. This is the reason so many of them cannot resist disease and infestations, not climate change.
  • Year after year, millions of acre feet of snow and rain fall on these dense tree canopies and either evaporate immediately, or are sucked up by the overgrown, water stressed biomass as soon as they hit the ground. Far less water makes it into the aquifers and rivers as a result.
  • The overgrown forests are not only packing up to ten times more fuel than what is historically normal, but because these trees aren’t adapted to being packed so close together, half of them are dead or dying, which means they are tinder dry.

Any honest mainstream journalist, if there are any left, needs to ask Governor Newsom one simple question:

“Under which conditions would be a lightning strike be more likely to cause a catastrophic fire: on a grove of stressed and dying trees, dried out and packed 200 per acre, on a 75 degree day, or on a grove of healthy trees, moist and dispersed 20 per acre on an 85 degree day?”

A child can answer this question, but perhaps Gavin Newsom isn’t interested in the truth.

How California’s Forests Turned Into Tinderboxes

For over 20 million years, forests existed in California at a much lower density than they are today. These forests were healthy and abundant with wildlife, and they stayed healthy through climate cycles that included droughts and so-called mega-droughts that lasted a century or more.

That all changed starting around 1850 when American settlers began logging operations that left vast clear cut areas. The second growth forests that filled these clear cut areas had a higher tree density, and this unnatural response to the original clear cuts is where the problems began.

Natural fires, usually caused by lightning strikes, probably would have burned through 2nd and 3rd growth forests, with the hardier trees surviving to restore the original ecosystems, but over the past several decades fire suppression tactics had become highly effective and were aggressively practiced. Fire ceased to be a significant source of natural thinning. Forestry officials and private landowners tried to do controlled burns, but ran into too much bureaucracy to ever do it at anywhere near the necessary scale.

The problems of overstocked forests magnified in the 1990s when logging operations throughout the Western United States came under attack from environmentalists. While logging practices needed to evolve, cutting logging activity to a fraction of what it had been for over a century caused additional density. For decades now, annual growth has far exceeded harvests.

Unhealthy, unnaturally dense forests. Far fewer smaller, natural forest fires. Almost no logging activity. It doesn’t take a genius to know what comes next.

Forestry experts including some environmentalists have been warning politicians about the fire hazards in the forests, urgently, for well over 20 years. But effective forest thinning has been prevented by environmentalist backed over-regulation.

If Gov. Newsom is in “denial” about any of this, he might explain: Why is it, if we knew this was an urgent problem, that California’s forests are still twice as dense, or more, than they were for the last 20 million years?

“Climate Change” Policies Are Misanthropic and Futile

Whenever there’s a wildfire, Newsom and all the others in denial over their epic policy failures, come shouting “climate change.” They have the audacity to tell us to turn our thermostats up to 78 degrees and refrain from using electric appliances, and they claim these fires are evidence of why this is necessary. They embark on a “renewables mandate” that jacks utility prices up to the highest in the nation in exchange for unreliable power.

More than anything else, what Newsom and all the rest of these politicians who want California to set a “climate example” to the world are in denial of is their own misanthropy. They know perfectly well that California only emits one percent of the world’s CO2. They know as well that China and India are not about to stop using fossil fuel to grow their economies. They know that fossil fuel accounts for 85 percent of global energy production, with hydroelectric and nuclear power accounting for another 11 percent. All renewables account for only four percent of global energy production. Four percent.

Although one often wonders, Newsom is smart enough to figure out, based on readily available and indisputable data, that if everyone in the world, per capita, used half as much energy as Americans do, global energy production would have to double. And it will. And for the next 20-30 years, fossil fuel is going to account for a large portion of that.

Someday, probably within the lifetime of most people alive today, there will be a series of breakthroughs in energy technology. Fusion power. Satellite solar power stations. Direct synthesis of atmospheric CO2 into liquid fuel. Who knows? But until that time, the only reason to impoverish the lives of ordinary Californians in the name of the “climate crisis” is so rich and powerful people like Gavin Newsom can get even richer and even more powerful.

Once this horrific fire season comes to an end, there is just one thing Gavin Newsom should be doing as follow up. He needs to figure out how California’s forests are going to be rapidly thinned from, using the Sierra Nevada as an example, 200 or more trees per acre, down to the historical norm of 40 trees or less per acre. No forest management solutions are perfect. But in search of perfection, we engineered a cataclysm. Have we learned? Or will we just watch the rest of our forests burn up, and blame it on climate change?

This article originally appeared in the California Globe.