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How to Solve California’s Water Crisis

AUDIO: A discussion of how California’s policymakers refuse to approve and fund water supply infrastructure, instead falsely believing that conservation alone can solve California’s water crisis – 14 minutes on KOGO San Diego – Edward Ring on the Carl DeMaio Show.

https://civicfinance.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/2022-07-01-Edward-Ring-on-Carl-DeMaio-Show-14-minutes-KOGO-San-Diego.mp3

The California Nanny State Invades Household Kitchens

Unsurprisingly, every top search result for “senate bill 1383 food waste” yields links to propitious, upbeat summaries of what’s coming to every household kitchen in California.

For example, from CalRecycle, under the heading “Recycling Organic Materials into New Products,” there is a photo of two women in the kitchen, one of them preparing to dump a plate full of food scraps into a special new container. Both of them appear to be deliriously happy. From RethinkWaste, under “residents,” there is a photo of a smiling woman pouring “organics” out of her special kitchen collection bucket into the large “compost only” can that she will roll out to the curb.

Happiness, apparently, is intimately connected with reducing “short lived climate pollutants,” and so to further our collective happiness, the state is going to turn our kitchen scraps into “biogas” (good), before it can degrade and release methane (bad). How much biogas? How much methane? Compared to what? And at what cost?

Don’t ask. Be happy.

But do people really want to have a government-issued “organics” bucket taking up counter space in their kitchen? Forever? Do people really want to pour every festering bit of scum scraped off their frying pans and every half gnawed chicken bone into this bucket, then periodically empty it into their compost bin which has previously only contained grass clippings and hedge cuttings? Who is going to clean up the smelly, putrescent fluids that will inevitably migrate to the bottom of these buckets and […] Read More

California’s Legislature is Making the Water Crisis Worse

AUDIO: A discussion about why California’s legislature and bureaucracy is determined to dismantle water infrastructure and ways we can fight back: – Edward Ring on the Steel on Steel Show with John Loeffler.

https://steelonsteel.com/SOSPreview/Guests/so2022-0621-Ring.mp3

Inflation adjusted per capita state spending doubles in one decade – for what?

The California State Legislature has just released the “Floor Report of the 2022-2023 Budget,” and it’s a doozy. Representing an agreement between the budget committees of the Assembly and the Senate, and building on Governor Newsom’s proposal, this $300 billion monstrosity has moved one step closer to becoming final.

To fully appreciate how out of control California’s state government spending has become, compare the general fund spending growth over just the past ten years. The following chart, relying on official state budget reports going back to 2012-13, shows California’s General Fund spending by year. Back then, the general fund was $92.9 billion. Adjusting for inflation and expressing this amount in 2022 dollars, the 2012-13 general fund was $118.4 billion, barely half the swollen $235.5 billion that is projected for the upcoming budget year.

When you take into account the fact that California’s population has only increased by 3.1 percent in the past decade (it’s actually declined for the past two years), this budget profligacy becomes even more inexplicable. The inflation adjusted (i.e., in 2022 dollars) per capita general fund spending ten years ago was $3,124. It has now exploded to $6,023 per person. What has the average Californian gotten for all that extra money, apart from taxes that are higher than ever, and set to go even higher?

By almost every objective measure, Californians are worse off today than ten years ago. Back in June 2012, the average cost of a home in California […] Read More

California Coastal Commission Rejects Desalination

If the climate catastrophists are to be believed, “water wars” are just around the corner, and severe drought is already driving millions of “climate refugees” out of their arid homelands. To cope with expanding populations and diminishing rainfall, nations around the world are adopting desalination technology. From Singapore to Tel Aviv, desalination plants have replaced water scarcity with water abundance. But in California, in the middle of one of the most severe droughts in modern history, desalination at any meaningful scale is not an option.

On May 12, the California Coastal Commission board of directors voted 11–0 to deny the application from Poseidon Water to build a desalination plant in Huntington Beach. Since 1998, Poseidon has spent over $100 million on design and permit work for this plant. At least half of that money was spent on seemingly endless studies and redesigns as the Coastal Commission and other agencies continued to change the requirements. The denial of Poseidon’s application makes it very unlikely another construction contractor will ever attempt to build a large-scale desalination plant on the California coast.

This is a historic mistake. If you’re trying to eliminate water scarcity, desalination is an option you can’t ignore. Desalination has the unique virtue of relying on a literally inexhaustible feedstock, the world’s vast and salty oceans. At an estimated total volume of 1.1 quadrillion acre feet (1.1 billion million acre feet), there will always be enough ocean.

A balanced appraisal of desalination […] Read More

The Abundance Choice (part 15) – Our Fight for More Water

There are plenty of ways to ration water, and California’s state legislature is pursuing all of them. Restrict agricultural water allocations until millions of acres of California’s irrigated farmland is taken out of production. Ban outdoor watering entirely in urban areas. Monitor residential indoor water use and lower it to 40 gallons per day per resident, with heavy fines to urban water agencies that cannot enforce those restrictions. But this is a lose-lose proposition, wreaking economic havoc and diminishing the quality of life for all Californians.

The initiative we came up with and attempted to qualify for the November 2022 ballot acknowledged the importance of conservation, but focused on supply. Passage of this initiative would have eliminated water scarcity in California. Looking to the next two year election cycle, the latest possible filing date for a new attempt to place an initiative on the November 2024 ballot is September 2023. A smarter approach would be to file an initiative around March 2023 in order to be gathering signatures from late spring through early fall in 2023. That would avoid competition with other political campaigns that promise to overwhelm 2024, and it would allow signature gatherers to approach voters who are likely to be enduring a second consecutive summer with the most severe restrictions on water use they have ever experienced.

The sad reality however is these plans are worthless without either access to millions of dollars in donations, or a volunteer movement with unprecedented scale and unity. But building a […] Read More

The Abundance Choice (part 14) – Infinite Abundance

From the inaugural Stanford Digital Economy Lab gathering in April 2022, noted venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson posted the following quote to Facebook: “Our goal is to usher in an era of infinite abundance.”

“Infinite abundance.”

This phrase epitomizes the ongoing promise of California’s tech culture. Despite every political shortcoming California may suffer, its technology sector continues to set the pace for the rest of the world. “Infinite abundance,” evocative of an earlier tech mantra “better, faster, cheaper,” is not only a defining aspiration of tech entrepreneurs, it is closer to being realized every day.

So why is it that Californians can’t generate abundant electric power? Why is it that Californians can’t figure out how to deliver abundant water? And how does a future of rationed, scarce energy and water square with the dreams of infinite abundance that inspire every one of California’s high tech entrepreneurs and investors? And insofar as the political clout of California’s high tech sector gives it almost infinite influence, when will its high-tech innovators confront this paradox?

For almost every significant resource of consequence to normal working families – energy, water, transportation, housing, and food – ordinary Californians have been betrayed by their elected officials. Everything is running out. Everything costs too much. But when Californians realize that the punitive cost-of-living they’ve endured was the result of poor political choices, and not an inevitable “new normal” they will need to be presented with alternative policies.

Somewhere between the grenade throwing pundit who persuasively condemns […] Read More

The Abundance Choice (part 13) – The Lords of Scarcity

One of the farmers who supported our attempt to qualify the Water Infrastructure Funding Act for the November 2022 ballot was John Duarte. It was a privilege to speak with Duarte, because his reputation had preceded him. Duarte is the man who had the temerity – and uncommon courage – to sue the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers when they ordered him to stop farming one of his properties. The Corps argued that the rain puddles that formed on Duarte’s 450 acres in Tehama County were vernal pools.

The case was eventually settled in 2017, but only after the government counter-sued and a federal district court rejected Duarte’s claims. Facing the infinite resources of the federal bureaucracy, Duarte decided against filing an appeal and paid the fines. During our first conversation, and subsequently, it was Duarte who coined the phrase the Lords of Scarcity. It is a vividly accurate way to describe the many special interests, public and private, that benefit from regulations and rationing.

This economic fact remains underappreciated: When regulations are imposed on businesses and public agencies that make it almost impossible for them to build something, whatever that something produces becomes more expensive. This fact rests on the law of supply and demand, and only requires a minor intuitive leap from that foundation: When demand exceeds supply, because supplies have been restricted, whoever owns existing supplies makes more profit. These owners are the Lords of Scarcity, and California is their citadel.

One of the profound […] Read More

The Abundance Choice (part 12) – Fighting Scope Insensitivity

Scope insensitivity happens whenever a statistic has huge emotional impact but in reality has little relevance to the issues and challenges it purports to illuminate.

It is scope insensitivity that makes conscientious Californians willing to put a bucket in their shower. They believe that by faithfully capturing some of that shower water that otherwise goes down the drain, and painstakingly reusing that water to fill their toilet tank, or water some houseplants, they’re going to help manage water scarcity in California.

This is well intentioned but ridiculous. Imagine if 40 million Californians saved a gallon of water from their daily shower every day, never missing a day, as if every Californian would ever do such a thing. That would amount to 44,836 acre feet per year, which equates to one-half of one percent of California’s average annual urban water consumption. And water going down the drain in California’s homes is already either reused, or could be with investment in upgraded wastewater treatment plants.

Examples of scope insensitivity abound. On a grander scale, consider the previously mentioned impact of the proposed Huntington Beach desalination plant, which if they ever built it, would release 55 million gallons of brine into the ocean every day. That seems like a terrifying amount of brine, even though desalination brine is merely somewhat saltier seawater. But the California current sweeps an estimated 250 quadrillion gallons per day of ocean water past the west coast. The Huntington Beach desalination plant’s projected 55 million gallons of […] Read More

The Abundance Choice (part 11) – The Desalination Option

On May 12, the California Coastal Commission Board of Directors voted 11-0 to deny the application from Poseidon Water to build a desalination plant in Huntington Beach. Since 1998, Poseidon has spent over $100 million on design and permit work for this plant. At least half of that money was spent on seemingly endless studies and redesigns as the Coastal Commission and other agencies continued to change the requirements. Poseidon’s denial makes it very unlikely another construction contractor will ever attempt to build a large scale desalination plant on the California coast.

This is a historic mistake. If you’re trying to eliminate water scarcity, desalination is an option you can’t ignore. Desalination has the unique virtue of relying on a literally inexhaustible feedstock, the world’s vast and salty oceans. At an estimated total volume of 1.1 quadrillion acre feet (1.1 billion million acre feet), there will always be enough ocean.

A balanced appraisal of desalination would acknowledge its potential while also recognizing the absurdity of suggesting it is a panacea. On one hand, desalination can be an indispensable solution to water scarcity. In Israel, for example, five massive desalination plants on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea produce nearly a half-million acre feet of fresh water per year, an amount the nation plans to double by 2030. Israel’s Sorek Desalination Plant, located a few miles south of Tel Aviv, produces 185,000 acre feet of fresh water per year, from a highly automated operation that […] Read More