California’s secretary for environmental protection, Jared Blumenfeld, put it plainly, “The really ambitious [climate/energy] goals that [President Biden] has in his plan, a lot of them are modeled on California.”
That’s a disaster in the making.
Here’s some of what we should expect if the U.S. really does follow California’s energy-climate model:
First, anticipate lots of overblown rhetoric. Biden already calls climate change a “maximum threat” an “existential crisis,” in fact the world’s number one threat, greater apparently than COVID-19. Never mind that the evidence doesn’t support such hyperbole and that the latter has killed hundreds of thousands of people, while human-caused climate change hasn’t clearly killed anyone but could well cause significant problems…in 30 to 80 years.
Though some politicians proclaim that the apocalypse is at hand, signs of imminent human extinction are only visible to those who claim to believe in “the science,” but understand what “the science” actually says at the level of a Swedish teenager.
Meanwhile, understand that such policies will have virtually no effect on the world’s climate but will nevertheless be touted as a major step to the “solution” to climate change — just as California’s 2006 law was called the Global Warming Solutions Act. There is no sign 15 years later that a solution has been effected. Put another way, we’ll be asked to spend trillions of dollars for policies whose benefits cannot be readily calculated or even discerned.
With the California model, count on a growing, bloated bureaucracy. California has more than a dozen different commissions, boards, agencies, councils, etc. responsible for the various aspects of California’s climate change act.
Actually, a California-ization of the bureaucracy has already begun. Suddenly the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the departments of Energy and Interior are not sufficient to manage energy and climate policies — notwithstanding almost 100,000 people currently employed by those departments. According to the new administration, we also need a White House office of a climate coordinator and another for a chief climate diplomat.
If the administration is taking a cue from California, look ahead to 2035 when all cars sold in America will have to be zero emissions, mainly electric. Sale of internal-combustion powered vehicles will be banned, even though they are likely to continue to be significantly cheaper than vehicles that are battery powered. That shouldn’t be a problem for well-to-do Americans but will be a burden for poor and middle-income families, especially those who depend on a vehicle to get to work.
Anticipate also that the additional electricity needed to charge those cars will come mostly from windmills and solar panels. As wind and solar are intermittent, there will have to be extensive back-up that will be provided by a new generation of batteries because the ones we have now can’t provide the needed juice at anything like a reasonable cost. Of course, technological advances can’t be legislated, but that hasn’t stopped past U.S. governments from trying
Nevertheless, count on electric rates rising considerably throughout the country. California has some of the highest electric rates in the country, over 60 percent above the national average. Over 35 percent of Californians already live at or near the poverty line, a problem worsened by California’s high cost of energy. Some families report going without other necessities to keep the electricity on.
Get ready for power outages, too. California leads the nation on that metric, more than double the next worst state. Wind and solar are unreliable and will be insufficient to meet special conditions such as a long-term heat wave like the one that caused a major power failure in California.
Say a little prayer for the many thousands of birds and bats, including endangered and threatened species, that will be killed by the 60,000 windmills Biden wants erected over the next five years.
Worry about a future ban on natural gas appliances and heating. Over 40 California communities have banned the use of gas from new buildings. Gas costs approximately one-fourth as much per unit of energy as electricity, which would be the only alternative. It would be another burden on lower-income families.
It is no wonder that there is a perception that California’s energy-climate policies are in effect a regressive tax on poor and middle income consumers. The regulations have sparked lawsuits and protests.
Something more for us to look forward to in the United States of California.
Peter Z. Grossman is the author of several books on energy including “U.S. Energy Policy and the Pursuit of Failure” (Cambridge 2013).