Mythbusting on energy, facing reality on water
I write today from bed, where I’m suffering from a bad cold. Or maybe I’m simply malingering due to the departure of one of my dearest Next Generation colleagues, James Barba. You may remember James from his stellar work on our Monterey Shale series or our Proposition 39 implementation work. He’s also helped gather clips and given me first drafts of this blog for years. We already miss him – but we’re thrilled to see him land in such a great new role, as speechwriter for Senate Pro Tem President Kevin De Leon. Find him there next time you’re in Sacramento!
It’s a good thing he’s up there working to move the state energy and environmental ball forward, because California needs help. We’re going into our fourth straight year of drought and it’s increasingly dire for many communities and industries. Here are some updates:
- Governor Brown and a bipartisan group of legislators just proposed a $1 billion emergency drought relief package. As the Los Angeles times reports, this may be just the beginning of state efforts to address the deepening drought. If you were wondering, as I was, how this relates to the water bond we just passed: the emergency funds are focused on shorter term initiatives like providing food and drinking water in hard-hit communities, but also use some of the water bond money on longer-term infrastructure projects like water storage. In addition, the Governor has argued for spending drought funds on flood prevention, noting that the reality of climate change means that we’ll have more of these mutli-year “megadroughts” some years, but more flooding in others.
- It’s not just about how the state manages the water – it’s how all of us consume it. NASA hydrologist and UC Irvine professor Jay Famiglietti took to the LA Times last week to urge all Californians to immediately reduce water consumption and prepare for an even deeper drought. He ends on this great line, “Call me old-fashioned, but I'd like to live in a state that has a paddle so that it might also still have a creek.”
- In response to growing concerns over water availability, California regulators at the State Water Resources Control Board just approved broad new restrictions on water use.
That’s the sobering water news for this week. Now to energy, where the picture is far rosier.
DBL Investors, well known to many of you for their great report on energy subsidies from a few years ago, has a new paper out that roundly debunks the myth of high renewable energy prices. Called “Renewables are driving up electricity prices. Wait, what?” the study dispels the common misconception that pro-solar and wind policies increase energy costs and hurt consumers. In fact it’s the opposite: the states that are leading the way in adoption of renewable energy actually have lower overall energy costs than states that lag behind. "In fact, states relying more on renewable generation have experienced retail electricity prices comparable to, or cheaper than, states relying less on renewable generation."
Finally, back in Washington, the Obama Administration continues to push forward on energy issues despite Congressional inaction (yes, Virginia, the Shaheen-Portman bill is still under consideration, and no, it still hasn’t passed):
- Fracking on public lands: The Dept. of Interior has put out broad new rules regulating fracking on public lands by requiring chemical disclosure and better wastewater storage. (27 Senate Republicans have already introduced legislation to block the rules, while several environmental groups have said they don’t go far enough – the fact that everyone is angry is usually the sign of a reasonable set of regulations)
- Cutting federal government emissions: President Obama signed an executive order this week that directs federal government agencies to reduce their emissions by an average of 40% below 2008 levels in the next ten years. The order will also expand the use of electricity from renewable sources by in federal agency operations by 30%.
That’s it folks; I have to get back to my malingering. Look out for a post in a couple of weeks, just after we release the Risky Business Project California report on April 2 at the World Affairs Council of Los Angeles. Better yet, join us there!