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Category — California

Obama’s Energy Plan to Plug California Leakage (to Texas)

“A government is the only known vessel that leaks from the top,” newspaper journalist James Reston once wrote.

There could be no more apropos example of this than Barack Obama’s new proposed rules to mothball “dirty” coal power plants; to reduce CO2 power plant emissions 30 percent from their 2005 level by 2030; and to set voluntary targets for the percentage of renewable energy in each state by 2029.

Obama’s new push is an attempt to address leakage, at least within the United States. The term is not meant to describe the leakage in a high-voltage electric transmission line that can cause fires, damage, or electrocution. Rather, it is meant to describe the migrating of jobs, industries, population, and votes to other states due to planned higher electricity rates mainly in California and other Blue states as a result of forcing a shift to inferior renewable energies.

California Wins, Neighbors Lose

Tell-it-like-it-is economics writer Robert J. Samuelson has noted the inequity of Obama’s Climate Plan for California versus neighboring states. Consider the following: [Read more →]

June 24, 2014   4 Comments

Bird Vaporization at Ivanpah: Solar Enters Wind Territory

“After several studies, the conclusion for why birds are drawn to the searing beams of the solar field goes like this: Insects are attracted to the bright light of the reflecting mirrors, much as moths are lured to a porch light. Small birds — insect eaters such as finches, swallows and warblers — go after the bugs. In turn, predators such as hawks and falcons pursue the smaller birds.

But once the birds enter the focal field of the mirrors, called the “solar flux,” injury or death can occur in a few seconds. The reflected light from the mirrors is 800 to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Either the birds are incinerated in flight; their feathers are singed, causing them to fall to their deaths; or they are too injured to fly and are killed on the ground by predators, according to a report by the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory.”

- David Danelski, Solar: Ivanpah Solar Described as Deadly Trap for Wildlife,” Riverside-Press Enterprise, April 8, 2014.

The slaughter of birds caught in the revolving blades of wind energy turbines has grabbed national attention lately. But even more pernicious is the nearly invisible vaporizing of birds that fly into the new Ivanpah solar mirror project in California’s Mojave Desert seeking to feed on the insects that are drawn to the light of the reflecting mirrors.

Ivanpah is the largest solar thermal mirror project in the world encompassing 4,000 acres of land and 347,000 heliostat mirrors focused on three 450-foot high towers.  377 megawatts of electricity is generated by a conventional steam turbine from concentrated heat from the mirrors.  Solar thermal mirror energy plants are actually hybrid solar-natural gas power plants.

Counting bird deaths may be accurate for wind farms. But counting dead birds on the ground from solar mirror projects may be a highly inaccurate way to measure the impacts on the entire ecological food chain. That is because many birds are vaporized in mid air and often there is no trace left of them. Investigators call these “streamers,” referring to the momentary puffs of smoke as birds are vaporized. Here is how it is described: [Read more →]

May 7, 2014   2 Comments

California Energy Policy: Elitist, Import-dependent, and a Tax on the Rest of Us

“Can we really afford to adopt California’s policies, laws and regulations in the rest of America, and then throughout the world? For that matter, how much longer can the once Golden State afford to inflict those policies on its own citizens?”

When George Washington was stricken with malaria and a throat infection in 1799, his physicians used leaches to bleed a quart of blood and remove “morbid matter” from his weakened body. Next they administered laxatives and emetics. A few hours later, Washington died.

This cure worse than the disease finds close parallels in California’s energy and environmental policy. This is the state that leaches energy from its neighbors, and that President Obama and his Environmental Protection Agency often view as their public policy standard bearer. But these energy “physicians” are threatening our nation’s lifeblood.

Governor Jerry Brown has pointed out that 30 million vehicles in California translate into “a lot of oil.” The day when its residents “can get around without using any gasoline” will be “the time for no more oil drilling,” he suggested, adding that offshore oil production has put “hundreds of millions of dollars” into Cal State University and other facilities. Onshore oil production has done likewise.

Energy Importers

That sensible message has not reached the state’s legislators, regulators or environmental activists, however. They strongly oppose any drilling or hydraulic fracturing – and leading state Democrats are campaigning hard for at least a long temporary ban, trotting out long discredited claims that fracking causes groundwater contamination and even earthquakes. To that they have added the even more ludicrous assertion that this half-century-old technology results in birth defects! [Read more →]

May 1, 2014   5 Comments

California Wineries Don’t Need Pricey ‘Green’ Power (1.6 or 7.1 cent/kWh?)

Bill Roberts, economist for the Bay Area Economic Forum, warned in a 2007 study on the municipalization of local power purchases and generation in California:

If Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) operates any retained generation and Sonoma Clean Power purchases 100% of its power supply in the competitive market, Sonoma cannot avoid higher average electricity rates than PG&E unless it subsidizes rates (or someone wins the gamble of ‘beating the market’). [page 13, paraphrased for clarity].

Sonoma Clean Power (SCP) officials and advocates were whooping it up with recent news that some 94 percent of its electricity customers had “chosen” to drop service from investor-owned utility Pacific Gas and Electric. Instead electricity customers would be transferred to its new municipal electric utility beginning in May (see Energy News Data, March 28). But Sonoma County electric ratepayers may want to think a second time about automatically “opting in” to the program.

Background

Sonoma County is located north of San Francisco Bay and enjoys frontage along the Pacific Ocean. Sonoma County is considered part of California’s wine country including Napa and Mendocino Counties.

Sonoma Clean Power is a new municipal electric utility created under the Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) law in California. This allows cities to disconnect from having to buy power from PG&E and purchase their own power, or build their own new clean power plants. All customers are automatically transferred to the new city owned-utility unless they want to choose to opt out. PG&E would continue to handle billings, maintenance, and transmission and distribution of electricity.

The justification for creating Sonoma Clean Power is that it can deliver cheaper, cleaner power to customers than PG&E. [Read more →]

April 23, 2014   1 Comment

Solar Land Blues: The Eco Reality of Dilute Energy

“As citizens, we need to call on our leaders to make thoughtful choices about where to site industrial-scale development and renewable energy projects, and to create a legacy for our national parks and to public lands everywhere.” - Mark Butler, “Saving the Mojave from the Solar Threat,” Los Angeles Times , March 25, 2014. “‘Soft’ energy sources are horribly land intensive…. The greenest possible strategy is to mine and to bury, to fly and to tunnel, to search high and low, where the life mostly isn’t, and to leave the edge, the space in the middle, living and green.” - Peter Huber, Hard Green; Saving the Environment from the Environmentalists (New York: Basic Books, 1999), pp. 107–108.

Hard-green energies (fossil fuels, uranium) have a major ecological advantage over politically-correct soft energy (wind, solar): less infrastructure requirement, including land. This was recognized by the father of energy economics, William Stanley Jevons, in his 1865 tome, The Coal Question. Mainstream environmentalists are waking up to the problems of central-station solar now that they can physically see it and have operational results. California’s Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) is “the world’s largest gas-fired power plant (largest in physical size, not gas consumption),” said one eco-critic. And now Mark Butler in the Los Angeles Times has blown the whistle on the national showcase of Big Solar (full op-ed below). [Read more →]

April 7, 2014   No Comments

Kenneth P. Green: 20 Years in the Energy/Environmental Movement (Part II)

[Editor note: Part I yesterday described Ken Green’s current responsibilities at the Fraser Institute and Canadian energy/environmental issues. Today’s post covers Green’s early interest, education,  and career in environmentalism.]

MR: When did you first become interested in environmental science?

KG: I was always interested in nature as a kid. I remember catching frogs at a nearby golf course when I was 5, and I grew up in California camping in the various state parks, where I was always interested in catching critters and playing with them. Lizards, horned toads, snakes, small rodents, whatever I could catch. I also loved science, and remember the name of my 6th grade science teacher, Mr. Jahn, who made studying science fun.

I used to go out to the Mojave Desert a lot with my mother, who was a real character. She was an amateur “treasure hunter,” and loved prospecting for gold in the rivers and streams of California, as well as out on a placer mining claim we had in the Mojave. I’d tool around on a motorcycle, and do the shoveling for the sluices boxes and dry-washers, she’d pan out the gold, and spend time chatting with friends around the motor home. For a short time, she had a shop that sold prospecting equipment in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles.

Prospecting with my mother would turn out to be influential on the way I came to view environmental policy. My mother was a member of the Prospectors Club of Southern California and hauled me along to meetings with her when I was in my early teens. It was there that I was first exposed to the tension that was growing with environmentalists, who were laboring to ban things like prospecting in state parks, or in areas they viewed as fragile, such as the Mojave.

They were also beginning to push for bans on motor vehicles in parks, and things like that. It was seen as a huge threat in the mining community, and my mother, who absolutely adored the desert (where her asthma eased up and she felt healthier) invited people to the club to speak about the threats that environmentalists posed to prospecting, and to encourage people to write their representatives.

MR: So you were a ‘naturalist’ before the term ‘environmentalist’ began to be used?

KG: I suppose that’s a fair characterization – I was always somewhat fascinated with nature, and I enjoyed watching insects and animals, and speculating about why they did the things they did, wondering how water-striders could walk on water, wondering how desert iguanas could run so fast, that sort of thing. But I did develop some strong environmental beliefs as well – growing up as a kid with asthma in the smoggy San Fernando Valley in California did sensitize me (literally) to the reality of pollution.

MR: And was your mother a naturalist…as well? [Read more →]

March 7, 2014   No Comments

Wind Turbine Bird Killings, Disinformation Continue in California (Golden eagles, bald eagles, and more)

“The grim reality is that fewer than 500 golden eagles remain in California. When will authorities wake up to windpower?”

The golden eagle is a vital species in rapid decline, and most of this demise has been relatively recent. Although it has never been publically acknowledged, the primary reason has been the development of wind energy in the middle of the eagle’s foraging habitats.

Ironically, during this golden eagle population crash, bald eagle populations have increased dramatically because, up to now, their habitats have been spared the ravages of wind development. This too will soon change, however, as wind energy installations are built in their wetland habitats across America.

Missing Studies

Proper studies would easily document and explain the decline of golden eagles. But the studies are not being conducted – deliberately, so as to hide and obfuscate what is happening. The clear history of eagle nesting failures and habitat abandonments near wind projects has been hidden from public view, as wind projects have expanded across California and our western states.

Among the undisclosed impacts are those that occur when adult eagles are killed by a turbine during the egg and downy stages of a nesting cycle. During this critical 8-9 week period, there is a 100% probability of a complete nest failure if one adult eagle is lost. A single parent cannot possibly hunt, incubate eggs, and protect its young from the elements.

This history of golden eagle nesting failures near California wind turbines is never clearly stated, but the evidence is there for anyone who wishes to observe or read about it. Some of this impact is revealed in the last environmental impact documents submitted to support expanding the Shiloh wind project in California’s Montezuma Hills Wind Resource Area, although those documents also suggest that a turbine-related nesting failure recently occurred in this area.

Bald Eagles at Risk

The same fate is coming to our bald eagles. This great bird’s population has been expanding in the wetland habitats of California, and the Sacramento River delta provides good foraging and nesting opportunities for them. Adult bald eagles have been seen near the Montezuma Hills WRA turbines, and a possible (never verified) bald eagle nest site was reported nearby on Grizzly Island. [Read more →]

February 26, 2014   No Comments

California’s Cap-and-Trade Water Proposal: A Planner’s ‘Market’ (Part II: Sky high water auctions)

“The real problem is that the price of water in California, as in most of America, has virtually nothing to do with supply and demand…If water was priced to reflect scarcity, a decrease in supply would lead to an increase in price, and people would demand less… My system is designed to reduce demand rather than cover costs.” – David Zetland, The Water Shortage Myth (Forbes, 2008)

In Part I of this series we discussed how a proposed Drought Environmental Water Market does not meet the criteria of a market nor would the prices produced from such a system reflect Fair Market Value. The proposal for an environmental water market by a group of experts from the University of California, Davis, the Public Policy Institute of California and law schools at the University of California and Stanford (the “U.C. Davis-PPIC Proposal”) would end up double charging farmers for water they already paid for, including $180 million in river restoration fees.

In this second part of the series we discuss the implications of wholesale water auctions currently in vogue in California, ostensibly as a drought relief mechanism.

We previously discussed the eminent domain property appraisal rule called the “Project Influence Rule.” This rule means that any increase or decrease to property values due to a public project must be excluded from any appraisal for Fair Market Value. This rule is typically applied in redevelopment project areas where the upzoning, road improvements and utilities brought about by redevelopment have to be excluded from any property valuation. Appraisers usually control for project influence by searching for sales data outside the defined project area.

Below we will compare agricultural water sales prices from outside the Central Valley to cross check if there is any premium in water prices caused by government withdrawing over half of the supply of farm water to restore “fish flows.” In general, government does not have to pay for an enhancement of private property value it created. This rule should work in reverse when government wants to sell back to farmers water at environmentally-inflated prices. [Read more →]

February 21, 2014   No Comments

California’s Cap-and-Trade Water Proposal: A Planner’s ‘Market’ (Part I)

The U.C. Davis proposal to establish an environmental water market partly induced by environmental regulatory drought does not hold water.  And we find pricing environmental water sales by auctions to reflect inflated non-market prices derived from the “project influence” of inducing a water shortage as a result of the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Project of 2009 …. Nonetheless, we welcome the opportunity to open up a discussion of how markets might alleviate drought hardship on farmers and, wherever possible, on the environment.”

Road sign on rural highway in Kern County, California, erected in 2010:

KERN & KINGS COUNTY FARMS PAID 100%
for their State Water Allocation
but only received

35% in 2008
40% in 2009

50% in 2010
0% in 2014

updated
Farmers Lost Over $200 million on Water Not Delivered!
(up to 2010)

WaterForAll.com – Families Protecting the (Central) Valley.com

With implications for the huge hydropower and natural gas powered market in California, on Feb. 11, 2014, a team of water experts[1] associated with University of California at Davis, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), and the University of California and Stanford law schools, called for the creation of a “special water market.” [Read more →]

February 20, 2014   No Comments

California Energy Update: Part IV

• Effort to Expand California Green Power Mandate to 51% Fails
• Will California’s Green Energy Policies Fail Like Germany’s?
• Three Cities Oppose Gas Powered Plants to Replace San Onofre Nuke Plant
• Scientist Says No Reason to Shut Down San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant
• California Drought Means Less Hydropower and Higher Electricity Prices

Effort to Expand California Green Power Standard to 51% Fails

“Amendments made yesterday to state Assembly Bill 177 clarify that the 33 percent by 2020 current Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is intended to be a floor, not a ceiling, for energy procurement. It directs all retail sellers of electricity to adopt a long-term procurement strategy to achieve a target of procuring 51 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by Dec. 31, 2030.”

– State Senator V. Manuel Perez of Imperial County

A key provision in State Assembly Bill 177 sponsored by Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez (Democrat, Coachella), to raise California’s green power mandate from 33% to 51% was opposed by the Large Scale Solar Association, the California Wind Association, ratepayer advocates The Utility Reform Network, and had no support whatsoever from any environmental organization. The reaction may have been driven by the appearance that AB 177 had another agenda: creating a green economy in Imperial County where the unemployment rate still hovers around 26%. Imperial County is in the southwestern corner of California. Its most notable landmark is an agricultural irrigation drain that is so big that it is called the Salton Sea. [Read more →]

January 30, 2014   2 Comments