The Sustainable Alternative to Renewables in California

Anyone serious about ushering California into an electric age, much less the entire world, faces immutable facts that are indifferent to passions and principles. With algebraic certainty, these facts lead to uncomfortable conclusions: It is impractical if not impossible to achieve an all-electric future by relying on solar, wind, and geothermal power, supplemented by more novel power generation technologies such as harvesting the energy in waves and tides. And even if it were done, it might not be the optimal solution for the environment.

A few years ago, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, Mark Jacobson, completed a report that quantified what it would take, in terms of the installed base of renewable generating and storage assets to move California to a 100 percent net zero energy economy. Relying primarily on over 20,000 wind turbines with an average capacity of 5 megawatts each, along with utility scale solar farms, an analysis published in March 2022 by the California Policy Center estimated the land requirement for this undertaking at over 10,000 square miles on land, mostly for wind farms, and over 15,000 square miles offshore, also for wind farms.

In theory, Jacobson’s recommendations would work, insofar as this stupefying quantity of wind and solar power, properly buffered with battery storage assets, would nearly double the capacity of California’s energy grid. Jacobson’s scheme estimates California’s average electricity output expanding to just over 100 gigawatts. In 2019, the most recent year for which complete data is available, California’s […] Read More

Solar Farms Should Not Displace Prime Farmland

Successfully coping with severe droughts in California and the Southwest requires tough choices, all of them expensive and none of them perfect. But taking millions of acres out of cultivation and replacing them with solar farms is not the answer.

California produces over one-third of America’s vegetables and three quarters of the country’s fruits and nuts – more than half of which is grown in the San Joaquin Valley. According to the California Farmland Trust, the San Joaquin Basin contains the world’s largest patch of Class 1 soil, which is the best there is.

Putting solar farms in more than a small fraction of this rich land will not only displace farming, but have a heat island impact in the enclosed valley. That would be unhealthy for the farms and people that remain, and could even change atmospheric conditions over a wide area, worsening the drought.

If new solar farms are destined to carpet hundreds of square miles of land, they should be dispersed throughout the state and near already existing high voltage lines. Or, they should be concentrated in California’s abundant stretches of uninhabited land such as the Mojave Desert.

With food shortages worsening throughout the world, Californians should be focusing on how to preserve agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley. Why, for example, are spreading basins being proposed to allow runoff from atmospheric rivers to percolate when flood irrigation used to replenish […] Read More

How Much Fossil Fuel is Left?

Fossil fuel powers the economic engine of civilization. With a minor disruption in the supply of fossil fuel, crops wither and supply chains crash. With a major disruption, a humanitarian apocalypse engulfs the world. Events of the past few months have made this clear. Without energy, civilization dies, and in 2020 fossil fuel continued to provide over 80 percent of all energy consumed worldwide.

This basic fact, that maintaining a reliable supply of affordable fossil fuel is a nonnegotiable precondition for the survival of civilization, currently eludes far too many American politicians, including the president. Quoting from energy expert and two-time candidate for Governor of California Michael Shellenberger, “One month ago, the Biden administration killed a one million acre oil and gas lease sale in Alaska, and seven days ago killed new on-shore oil and gas leases in the continental U.S. In fact, at this very moment, the Biden administration is considering a total ban on new offshore oil and gas drilling.”

Another basic fact, easily confirmed by consulting the 2021 edition of the BP Statistical Review of Global Energy, is that if every person living on planet earth were to consume half as much energy per year as the average American currently consumes, global energy production would have to nearly double. Instead of producing 547 exajoules (the mega unit of energy currently favored by economists) per year, energy producers worldwide would have to come up with just over 1,000 exajoules. How exactly will “renewables,” […] Read More

Wind and Solar Energy Cannot Lift Humanity into Prosperity

A recent article in the New York Post nicely encapsulates the latest developments in the ongoing debate over climate and energy. In his article entitled “If the Ukraine war hasn’t scared the West straight on energy, nothing will,” author Rich Lowry reminds us “The world hasn’t embraced fossil fuels out of hatred of the planet but because they are so incredibly useful.” He goes on to accurately observe that fossil fuels are used to produce 84 percent of global energy.

If there is only an alleged consensus on the potentially catastrophic threat represented by fossil fuel, there is widespread agreement on the direct connection between energy and prosperity. With that in mind, and to make clear how critical it is to produce more energy worldwide, much more, here’s an immutable fact, courtesy of data in the 2021 edition of the BP Statistical Review of World Energy: For everyone on earth to have access to half the energy, per capita, that Americans consume, global energy production will have to double.

Meanwhile, according to BP, wind and solar power accounted for 5.0 percent of global energy production in 2020. Five percent. And yet, unless you are a climate contrarian, also derisively referred to as a “denier,” wind and solar are not merely the favored solutions to global energy challenges, they’re the only solutions. But what’s wrong with this picture? Go wind. Go solar. Why not?

To appreciate what it’s going to take to create a global economy powered by nothing […] Read More

Examining California’s Renewable Energy Plan

If you live in California, by now you’ve probably seen the ads, either on prime time television or online, exhorting you to “Power Down 4 to 9PM.” These ads are produced by “Energy Upgrade California,” paid for by “investor-owned energy utility customers under the auspices of the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Energy Commission.”

According to the mission of Energy Upgrade California, they are “a statewide initiative committed to uniting Californians to strive toward reaching our state’s energy goals,” and those goals include “getting 33% of our electricity from renewable resources by 2030.”

And it doesn’t end there. Over the past twenty years, through increasingly ambitious legislation and executive orders, California’s official state policy now aims to “achieve carbon neutrality as soon as possible, and no later than 2045.”

The misanthropic cruelty of these laws ought to be obvious. Normal people need more electricity between 4 and 9 PM, and no amount of public education can overcome that circadian fact. This is the time of day when normal people complete their daily work, prepare and eat dinner with their families, complete routine and necessary chores from doing the laundry to packing lunches for the next day. This is the time of day when people want to heat or cool their homes to a comfortable temperature, and power up all the countless electronic gadgets which are now required for everything from homework to paying the bills. They don’t want to wait till 9 PM to do […] Read More

Solutions to Top Issues That California Needs to Fix

AUDIO/VIDEO: We’re all aware by now of the problems facing California, but there isn’t enough discussion of practical solutions. This interview is a review of a nine-part series written for the California Policy Center that offers policy solutions to seven critical challenges: Energy, Water, Transportation, Housing, Homeless and Law Enforcement, Forestry, and Education. Edward Ring with Siyamak Khorrami on California Insider.

Edward Ring

Edward Ring is a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. He is also a senior fellow with the Center for American Greatness, and a regular contributor to the California Globe. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Forbes, and other media outlets.

Help support more content like this. Click here.

An Agenda to Fix California

As a recall election looms and embattled Governor Newsom fights for his political life, the political ads, as usual, are expensive pablum. That’s what we’ve come to expect, of course, but this election is nonetheless more than a referendum on a failing governor and failing policies. It’s a chance to think about what California could be. Instead of candidates pledging to “lower taxes on the middle class,” which obviously isn’t a bad idea, contenders for governor might discuss very specific policies they would champion.

Moreover, as voters cast their ballots and decide whether or not to keep Newsom in office, they might think about which candidates they’ll support in the future. Do they want to continue supporting political mannequins? Talking puppets that spout focus group tested cliches when you pull a string in their back? Or candidates that may be a little rough around the edges, but possess the courage, the vision, and the attention to detail that California needs now more than ever?

Here, being as brief but as specific as possible, are some ideas to solve some of California’s biggest problems. Most of them are controversial. It would be nice to find a politician with the guts to espouse all of them, without equivocation and without exception.

Problem: Unreliable and expensive energy:

Solution: Upgrade California’s natural gas powerplants to run at maximum efficiency and without being shut on and off. End the restrictions on natural gas hookups in new construction. Keep Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant open. Streamline […] Read More

Fixing California – Part Two, The Electric Age

If energy were abundant, clean, and sustainable, nearly every other daunting challenge facing humanity would be much easier to solve. Insufficient water? No problem. Pump more water around via inter-basin transfers and build more desalination plants. Can’t convert the transportation sector to all-electric vehicles? You can if energy is abundant. Generate all the electricity you need.

Energy solves almost every other resource-related challenge facing humanity. The more energy the better. As with water, energy abundance brings with it not only more practical options in almost every economic sector, and at a lower price, but it brings resilience as well.

On the other hand, pushing all excess out of the system via conservation mandates that amount to increasingly severe rationing leaves the system—and everything that depends on it—vulnerable to catastrophe under what might otherwise be a minor disruption.

The strategic goal of California’s energy planners is for the state to become “carbon neutral” as soon as possible. They view this both as an existential necessity and an achievable utopian dream. To accomplish this, California’s determination to be the first developed economy in the world to go fully electric is well established. Governor Gavin Newsom has decreed via executive order that new passenger car and truck sales have to be all-electric by 2035. In this he has the enthusiastic support of the state legislature. At the same time, the legislature is making it nearly impossible to install gas appliances in new homes. Expect that effort to only intensify in the […] Read More

The Electric Age is Coming to New York

Working its way through the New York state assembly right now is bill number 4302, which requires “that one hundred percent of in-state sales of new passenger cars and trucks shall be zero-emissions by two thousand thirty-five.” Sponsored by Democrat Steve Englebright, this law is New York’s answer to a nearly identical mandate stalking Californians via a recent executive order from their embattled Governor Newsom.

It would be easy enough to suggest these politicians are jumping onto a green bandwagon without fully understanding the consequences. But their actions are consistent with the goals of some of the most powerful companies on earth. With a market value of over $600 billion, newcomer and electric vehicle pioneer Tesla is now well established. High tech industry heavyweights including Apple and Sony are developing electric vehicles. Taiwan’s Foxcon is partnering with Fiat Chrysler to develop all electric vehicles, and China’s search engine giant Baidu is working with Volvo. And as for legacy automakers, General Motors, attempting to lead the way, has declared they will sell only electric vehicles by 2035.

If electric cars are the corporate choice, destined to be the only consumer option within barely more than 13 years, New York better get ready. This is especially the case if, as appears likely, America’s corporate giants have decided not only to precipitously usher in an all-electric age, but do so with only renewable energy. But are politicians right to follow the lead of these corporate […] Read More

Abundance, Not Scarcity, Can be the Immediate Future for Humanity

Assume for a moment that regardless of what really happened, or what should happen, Joe Biden occupies the White House on January 20th. What are some of the biggest issues and initiatives that we can expect from his administration? What are the underlying themes and premises that will inform his agenda?

When considering these questions, equally relevant is how much of Biden’s agenda will be Biden’s agenda? Say what you will about Biden’s many flaws, at least he is an amiable glad-hander whose career has been defined mostly by hewing to the political center. But Biden is way past his prime, and when he’s having another “lid” day, his energetic sidekick Kamala Harris – along with her entire Silicon Valley entourage – will be wide awake.

What this California democrat brings to Washington DC is a culture of almost unbelievable arrogance. Some of it is earned. For at least forty years, and now more than ever, Silicon Valley has been the global epicenter of high-tech innovation and the principle repository of the trillions in wealth that its innovation has generated.

Wealth. Power. Arrogance. Hubris. This is a dangerous combination when wielded on such a scale, and especially if some of its fundamental premises are wrong. And the biggest, almost horrifyingly wrong premise that informs the culture of Silicon Valley is that we are in what Jerry Brown, in his first stint as governor back in 1976, called “the era of limits.”

It’s paradoxical that such a value might come […] Read More