Most countries around the world think that it’s a good thing to have cheap energy. But in California, we have plenty of cheap energy available, just not the political will to access it.
California depends on natural gas-driven turbines and hydroelectric generators to provide just 38 percent of its oil needs. The state imports 12 percent of its oil from Alaska, and another 50 percent from foreign nations, relying heavily on Canada.
So why are California’s utilities warning of potential rolling blackouts again?
It’s political. And it’s corrupt.
Highest Electricity Rates = Less Power in CA
California’s natural gas shale formation is one of the largest in the world. And, California has been a pioneer in renewable energy, albeit still unreliable and unproven. Yet warnings are already coming that Californians may have rolling blackouts this summer. While California sits on one of the largest known deposits of recoverable oil and gas, production is falling steadily, as the state ignores its vast onshore and offshore deposits, which are fully accessible through conventional and hydraulic fracturing technologies.
This is one reason California electricity costs more than twice the national median – thanks to a government-created shortage.
Another reason is that the California Public Utilities Commission, the state’s energy “regulator,” has an historic dubious relationship with Wall Street, making promises to keep the profits higher of the state’s publicly held utilities, than utility profits elsewhere. Those profits come out of ratepayers’ pockets. “You’re ego is writing checks you’re body can’t cash,” the famous quote from the movie Top Gun says.
$5 Billion Cover-Up at San Onofre
Another of the problem areas is the California Public Utilities Commission $5 billion cover up and scandal over the 2012 closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, due to the failure of the steam generators. San Diego attorneys Mike Aguirre and Mia Severson exposed the attempt to make the public pay big for utility and regulatory executives’ mistakes at the failed San Onofre nuclear power plant.
Southern California Edison executives purchased new steam generators from Mitsubishi, but were warned that they were bigger and run hotter, and could fail. SCE executives purchased and installed the generators anyway, knowing of a flaw in the generator design, according to records. Built to last 40 years, the generators at San Onofre failed after 2 years. And, the generators’ cost had not yet been included in rates. So SCE was faced with broken generators they could not charge ratepayers for.
then-PUC President Michael Peevey, and executives of Southern California Edison colluded in secret to saddle ratepayers with $3.3 billion of the $5 billion shutdown cost. The $5 billion recovery settlement was negotiated in secret in Poland, away from prying eyes and open records laws in California.
The state is awash in ultra cheap natural gas, yet in California, our corrupt government finds a way to create an energy shortage, and charge rate payers the highest rates in the country.
“State officials warn that Southern California could face as many as 14 days of scheduled blackouts this summer because of depleted reserves of natural gas caused by the massive leak in Aliso Canyon,” the Los Angeles Times warned in April. The LA Times neglected to mention that California ratepayers do have options, but its politicians have no will. The state sits on one of the largest known deposits of recoverable oil and gas — the Monterey Shale, a 1,700 square mile oil-bearing shale formation primarily in the San Joaquin Valley, which contains an estimated 15 billion barrels of oil. The Times article quoted Bill Powers, of Powers Engineering in San Diego, who said the utility’s pipeline system has not exceeded its capacity of 3.8 billion cubic feet per day during summer in the last 10 years, thus the concern of blackouts is without merit. “It is crying wolf for state agencies to be implying blackouts from a lack of gas, especially from a lack of gas in the summer time,” Powers said.
The Monterey Shale formation is estimated to be several times bigger than the Bakken Shale formation, currently delivering a record economic boom to North Dakota. But even as the fourth-largest oil producing state in the country, oil and gas production has been steadily declining here. Instead, California lawmakers turned their attention to wind and solar, and other types of alternative energy. The state has been only focused on implementing the Renewable Portfolio Standard, passed in 2011, which requires the state to be using 33 percent renewable energy by 2020.
A University of Southern California study, “Powering California: The Monterey Shale & California’s Economic Future,” looked at the development of the vast energy resource beneath the San Joaquin Valley known as the Monterey Shale. It found that hydraulic fracturing could create 512,000 to 2.8 million new jobs, personal income growth of $40.6 billion to $222.3 billion, additional local and state government revenues from $4.5 billion to $24.6 billion, and an increase in state GDP by 2.6 percent to 14.3 percent on a per-person basis.
It’s Not Easy Being Green
California politicians have gloated over being the first state to enact such aggressive green energy and greenhouse gas busting policy, but have yet to produce any proof that these oppressive and business-killing laws have had any “green” results.
All while they ignore that natural gas is clean, less expensive to extract, natural and abundant. It wasn’t that long ago that natural gas used to be the left’s preferred alternative to all other “dirty fuels.” But as the oil and gas industry found better, more affordable ways to access natural gas, it fell out of favor with emotional, whimsical environmentalists.
The last California Governor blamed for rolling energy blackouts was recalled by voters… hold that thought.
Katy Grimes is senior correspondent for The Flash Report, and a contributor to the Canada Free Press and Legal Insurrection. She is a senior media fellow with the Energy & Environmental Legal Institute, and she serves as president of the Sacramento Taxpayers Association.
The Obama administration has gotten itself into a fix between its contradictory stories about the Benghazi incident, reports of the IRS targeting conservative groups, and the Justice Department’s grabbing of phone records from AP reporters. There are few things more fun to watch than arrogant political leaders — folks who spend their lives bossing everyone around — getting a comeuppance.
My favorite take wasn’t from any serious commentator but from comedian Jon Stewart, who noticed that the president routinely claims ignorance about embarrassing events by saying that he learned of them while watching the news: “I wouldn’t be surprised if President Obama learned Osama bin Laden had been killed when he saw himself announcing it on television.”
I take a bipartisan approach to Washington, DC’s political scandals and find myself savoring them all, regardless of the party that is in control of the White House. Any sane person would conclude that all administrations and bureaucracies essentially are corrupt given that they thrive on the exertion of power of other people. We know about the corrupting influence of power, and DC has become like ancient Rome that way. It’s a magnet for those seeking favor, money, or a big title administering some pointless program.
I visited DC last week and was astounded at the booming economy, the endless new construction, the astronomical prices, and garish displays of wealth everywhere — not to mention the haughty attitudes of every pissant assistant to the whatever. That’s what Other People’s Money buys you. When Ronald Reagan talked about the Shining City on the Hill he was speaking metaphorically about America, but the new shining city is DC — funded on the backs of all those Americans who blithely vote for people who promise to solve their problems.
That’s the main lesson from this latest mess: the federal government is an untamable beast. These superficial scandals are nothing compared to the things we will never learn — i.e., the way the CIA conducts its business overseas.
Still, there are so many things to savor as President Obama circles the drain. Obama has always exuded an intellectual arrogance. Yet if he’s so smart, why would his Justice Department target reporters? The national media has fawned over the president, but the quickest way to end that love affair is to go after their personal records.
Unfortunately, many people insist on seeing every scandal in terms of partisanship. Conservatives are aghast, as they should be, at the thought of an IRS auditing groups based on their political views. That is eerily totalitarian. But where would they have been had a Republican administration done the same thing to liberal critics? I doubt the activist groups would be sending out the alarmist direct-mail pieces if the latest Bush were still president.
The best news from the ongoing drama is that people on the left and right see problems here. Let’s use that as a foundation for a renewed civil-liberties coalition that understands that there are many bright red lines in which the government — regardless of who nominally is at the head of it — does not cross. That’s easier to do when one realizes that our supposedly limited government is so limitless in its size, power, and taxing ability that no president can control it.
When pundits complain about excess partisanship, what they usually are really saying is they are tired of all the political fighting. Yet political fighting is good — it’s a sign of differences of opinion and assures that important issues get debated, however clumsily, in the public.
In Sacramento, California, the Republican Party has imploded and there is little worry about partisanship. But the state’s Democratic Party is now engaged in policies so secretive that even liberal-oriented pundits are getting concerned. No one has the power to say no, so the Democrats are ramming through every manner of dangerous bill.
The new health-exchange law shields most contracts under a veil of secrecy so that public money can be dispensed to friends and cronies without the public learning about where it is going. Democratic leaders have embraced a gut-and-amend frenzy — proposing dozens of bills with placeholder language that will be stripped away at the last minute with new and completely different language inserted. This circumvents normal debate and oversight.
This is not a Democratic problem per se, but a government problem. And local governments are arguably even more dangerous to our liberties. In Bakersfield recently, after Kern County sheriff’s deputies beat to death a young father (after being called to the scene for a minor incident — public drunkenness), they grabbed the cellphones of bystanders who were recording the incident. That’s right out of a police state.
Government is about power and force. Many people charged with power over others will abuse it. That’s human nature. Unfortunately, the nation’s founding ideals — limited, accountable government, with separated powers and checks and balances — have been fading away. Government is so big that even the president and the attorney general claim they have no idea what their departments are doing. I almost believe them.
We need to rebuild a coalition of civil libertarians of the left and right who agree to some basics, on some bright red lines that no government should cross. We need to provide a unified, bipartisan front on behalf of individual liberties and against any official from any party who would trample them.
Steven Greenhut is vice president of journalism at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.