The western United States, as we know it today, has been a place of hopes and dreams for Americans since manifest destiny embedded itself in the public psyche some two centuries ago. California’s latest energy policies prove that brand of wishful thinking is still alive — but its aspirations are detached from reality.
California recently announced two aggressive energy initiatives in hopes of limiting the impacts of climate change. First, it has mandated that all new homes come equipped with solar panels. Second, the state has set a goal of 100 percent “clean” electric power by 2045.
It’s no mystery that living in California is expensive. And both of these policies will make it even more costly to live in the Golden State.
One of the biggest costs Californians face is housing; the state’s House Price Index score is surpassed only by that of Hawaii. High taxes and housing costs are pushing people out to lower-cost states like Texas, Nevada and Arizona. California lawmakers should be concerned about the real, lived impacts of their public policies – and that they’re losing many of their residents in the most productive years of their lives to other states and regions.
Instead, California officials are doubling down with these new renewable initiatives.
Solar panels, for instance, are not cheap; mandating every new home use them will only drive up costs in the state’s already prohibitively expensive market. According to the New York Times, the new mandate will add $8,000 to $12,000 to the cost of a home.
“Since 2011 California’s electricity rates have surged 30 percent compared to an 8 percent increase nationwide and 15 percent in Washington,” the Wall Street Journal notes. “Rates in some states like Florida (-3 percent) and New Jersey (-2 percent) have fallen modestly. Seven years ago California’s electricity rates were 27 percent higher than the national average. Today, they are 53 percent higher.”
The state can’t tackle issues like affordability and homelessness if it continues to issue costly decrees from Sacramento backed by billionaires from San Francisco.
The latest clean energy mandate — 100 percent renewable by 2045 — also presents some real challenges. As a state with a large population and a resultantly large energy load, the policies pursued by California will have sweeping impacts.
Renewable energy sources like wind and solar are the primary culprits of “energy sprawl,” the expansion of energy production across wide swaths of physical space. This is an issue the Nature Conservancy (hardly a shill for Big Oil) called, “one of the most fundamental challenges that nature and humanity face in the coming decades.”
But even Californians are skeptical. “Los Angeles County recently passed a renewable energy ordinance that bans large-scale wind turbines in unincorporated areas,” the San Diego Union-Tribune reported last year. “Inyo and Solano counties have also put in place restrictions for wind projects.”
In other words, California has called for energy derived from facilities that Californians don’t want anywhere near them.
Additionally, going 100 percent renewable simply isn’t doable. Georgetown, Texas, recently rose to global fame for its move to 100 percent renewable energy. Experts have recently debunked their claim, pointing to the facts about inadequate storage capacity and the inability of wind and solar to generate enough power during periods when demand for energy is at its peak.
And none of these concerns take into the account of the significantly higher costs to taxpayers. Even if 100 percent was possible, the higher costs of these mandates make them undesirable to citizens tired of getting priced out of their own homes, cities and states.
Cleverly, the Legislature did not commit to renewable energy alone. The untrained eye might mistake the trope of “100 percent clean” for “100 percent renewable.” Instead, the state included nuclear in its portfolio. This might surprise residents, who often oppose living near nuclear plants and who might have thought the benevolent goals of clean energy meant glistening, white windmills and the new agrarianism of thousand-acre solar farms.
When faced with a riverbed whose gold is hidden somewhere in the muck or a swath of land both dusty and dry, the wise Californian would invest in a gold pan and a means of irrigation. Instead, legislators have offered burnt offerings to the deity of wishful thinking and proffered hopes detached from reason. If California wants to be a global leader in energy, it should face the facts, not fantasy.
This commentary was originally featured in The Hill on October 1, 2018.