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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

How to Be a Successful Politician in California

The following conversation never happened. It is for the reader to decide to what extent, however, this conversation reflects political reality in California today.

Candidate: It’s a surprise that you contacted me. I never thought I would run for office, I don’t know how to run a campaign, and I’m not well informed on any of the things I might have to manage if I get elected.

Government Union Operative: That doesn’t matter. We have profiled you and determined you will be a viable candidate and develop into a politician we can count on.

Candidate: But I don’t even know how to begin this process!

Government Union Operative: Don’t worry about that, either. Here are all the forms you need, already filled out. We’ll just put in your name and personal information, and then you’ll sign them. We will submit them. We will follow up.

Candidate: Where will I get my money to campaign? Where will I find a campaign manager?

Government Union Operative: We do everything for you. We’ve found a treasurer who will process all of your donations and expenditures, and all you have to do is approve them. We have a campaign consultant who will run your campaign for you. And we will run a separate independent expenditure campaign which allows us to avoid campaign contribution limits, and you will not have to do anything.

Candidate: What about my opponent?

Government Union Operative: Don’t worry. We will outspend your opponent by whatever amount necessary to ensure victory. […] Read More

The Shared Scarcity Agenda of Predatory Investors and Extreme Environmentalists

In a long-planned rally at the California State Capitol last month, San Joaquin Valley farmers protested new laws that impose taxes on their irrigation wells. In Madera County, where most of these farmers came from, the new tax is as high as $246 per acre of farmland. If you’re trying to irrigate a few sections of land to grow almonds, that tax adds up fast.

It would be bad enough for these farmers merely to restrict their access to groundwater, particularly since new laws are also restricting their access to river water. But the timing of this tax couldn’t be worse. The cost for diesel fuel has doubled, fertilizer cost has tripled, and shipping bottlenecks prevented farmers from selling their produce to export markets, flooding the domestic market and driving the price down.

Less revenue. Higher costs. And now a per acre tax on wells. Speaking at the farmer protest, state Sen. Melissa Hurtado exposed the hidden agenda behind the ill-timed regulatory war on farmers. “Financial speculators are buying farmland for the water rights,” she said, “and then they turn around and sell your water right back to you.”

Hurtado is right. The immutable algebra of this predatory financial strategy goes like this: As regulatory oppression drives farmers out of business, investors move in and buy their land. Meanwhile, these investors support environmentalist restrictions on river withdrawals for irrigation and oppose water supply infrastructure projects (using environmentalist justifications), in order to […] Read More

The Partisan Rigging of the 2022 Election

In a society that retains trust in its institutions, the most authoritative source for news and information would probably be the publicly funded media property that is supposed to adhere to the highest standards of journalistic objectivity. Here in America, that would have been PBS. Except it isn’t. The American media, by and large, along with Silicon Valley’s social media communications oligopolies, are doing everything they can to deny American voters the opportunity to politically realign their nation.

It’s always useful for conservatives to watch the legacy networks, starting with PBS, to fully appreciate the level of bias that pervades their “news” organizations. While watching them all the time might quickly become intolerable, return periodically to be reminded: The political content on these networks serve the interests of the Democratic Party.

These days, and for at least the past year, PBS anchor Judy Woodruff, along with every PBS reporter, repeats the term “election denier” dozens of times during every daily news broadcast. They repeat it without irony, without hesitation or qualification. It doesn’t matter what level of skepticism someone may have about the 2020 election. Skepticism in and of itself makes one a “denier.” One can have well founded, incrementalist concerns about election integrity, or one can believe every allegation ever made about systemic election fraud, but there’s no room for such a continuum. According to PBS, all these folks are “election deniers.”

Characterizing anyone concerned about election integrity as an “election denier” is manipulative and deceptive, and with rare […] Read More

Tracking Political Spending by Government Unions

With a rough top-down analysis, it’s easy enough to estimate how much government unions collect and spend every year in California. They have roughly a million members, paying roughly $1,000 per year in dues. That would be one billion dollars per year. They spend about a third of that on politics. That’s equal to over a half billion dollars, every two year election cycle, that these unions can use to influence if not decide the outcome of every contest from the top to the bottom of the ticket.

If you want to know who is paying for those ubiquitous yard signs promoting some complete unknown to become the next member of the local school board, however, it gets a lot harder. If you think it’s a government union local, buying the office for a compliant candidate, you’re probably right. They’ve got the money, and they’re everywhere. But compiling a detailed assessment of government union spending at the local level in California is nearly impossible.

This matters because public agencies are relatively decentralized in California, with local government expenditures accounting for over 60 percent of total state and local spending. The only organizations that wield sufficient resources to select and support tens of thousands of local candidates every election are government employee unions. For obvious reasons these unions also have a strong incentive to find candidates they know they’ll be able to “negotiate” with for more staff, more pay, and more benefits.

Reform candidates willing to stand up […] 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

Unexplained Excess Deaths Are Increasing

By a significant margin, and according to data reported weekly by the CDC, the death rate in America remains elevated. If nothing else is certain as Americans continue to cope with the most disruptive event in the last half-century, there is one indisputable fact: as the number of cases of COVID decreases over the most recent few months, they now account for less than half of this persistent elevated death rate.

In the six years prior to the COVID era, deaths in the United States averaged between 2.6 and 2.8 million people per year. These averages are adjusted for population growth, and with a population as large as the U.S., the numbers should be, and are, remarkably stable. During the three years immediately preceding the 2020, for example, the population growth adjusted death rate from all causes varied by only 1.5 percent.

None of that is true today. The increases in total deaths – deaths from all causes, not just COVID deaths – is up significantly. In the nine months from April 2020 when COVID first hit hard, through December 2020, a normal death count would have been 2.04 million. Instead, during that period, 2.57 million people died, 26 percent over normal.

Deaths in the U.S. from all causes in 2021 were also well above normal, 3.46 million versus only 2.8 million if it had been a normal year, 24 percent over normal. So far in 2022, with complete data available through August, total deaths were 1.91 million, against a […] Read More

Forgotten Local Elections, Unforgettable Consequences

Thanks to California’s ridiculous policy of mailing ballots to voters a full month prior to election day, and allowing “early voting,” I have already completed and submitted my ballot. That was a mistake.

After voting for a local school board candidate who I had some familiarity with and thought might be a safe choice, I learned that he was endorsed by the local chapter of the California Teachers Association, as well as by the local chapter of the California School Employees Association. I now regret giving this candidate my vote.

As for the seven judicial candidates that appeared on my ballot, along with the candidates for the local parks and recreation district, and the candidates for the local community college district, I had no idea who any of these people were and cast no vote. I was able to get enough information on the local bond and tax proposals, and was able to cast an informed vote against them all.

It wouldn’t be fair to suggest that as a responsible voter I am obligated to learn enough about these candidates to make a judgement about them and vote accordingly. Even if I could do that, what would be the point? Hardly anyone else will do that work so it won’t matter. These candidates win because they are recruited and supported by a cadre of insiders who vote for them, and they get elected. Sometimes they’re the right people for the job, and most of the time, here in California, […] Read More

Brilliant Political Orphans

For the millions of Americans who over the years have been impressed with Tulsi Gabbard’s courage and authenticity, even if not in agreement with all of her positions on some important issues, her decision to denounce the Democratic Party was a welcome development.

What’s not to like in this statement: “I can no longer remain in today’s Democratic Party that is now under the complete control of an elitist cabal of warmongers driven by cowardly wokeness, who divide us by racializing every issue and stoke anti-white racism, actively work to undermine our God-given freedoms, are hostile to people of faith and spirituality, demonize the police and protect criminals at the expense of law-abiding Americans, believe in open borders, weaponize the national security state to go after political opponents, and above all, are dragging us ever closer to nuclear war.”

Gabbard characterized the Democratic Party as standing for “a government of, by, and for the powerful elite.” Gabbard is now a political orphan, and she’s not alone.

There is an emerging group of politicians and public intellectuals who agree on key economic and social issues, yet cannot find a home in either major political party. Their ideology, while embracing the libertarian ideal of limited government, stops short of embracing the Libertarian Party as an alternative.

An example of a rising politician and well established intellectual who fits this profile is Michael Shellenberger, a Californian who has twice ran for governor and is the author of two books. Shellenberger’s […] Read More

The Fate of the Los Angeles River Epitomizes the Choices Facing Californians

From its pristine headwaters in the San Gabriel Mountains all the way to its sordid finale as a gigantic culvert emptying into Long Beach Harbor, the Los Angeles River – what’s happened to it and what the future brings – is an apt metaphor for California’s story and California’s ultimate fate.

Until a few years ago, the Los Angeles River was an unrelieved victim of human progress. In less than 150 years, its lower watershed has been transformed from an Arcadian floodplain to an urban metropolis with over ten million inhabitants. After a series of floods in the 1930s devastated the growing city, the Army Corps of Engineers was brought in to tame the river. By the time they were done, what had been a verdant ribbon of life had become a concrete wasteland, dry enough and wide enough for car chase scenes in countless movies, occasionally deluged with safely channeled floodwaters whenever California’s infrequent storms hit the mountains and the water raced down to the sea.

Starting around 1980 the citizens of Los Angeles began to view their river as more than an intriguing eyesore. Under pressure from artists, journalists and environmental activists, the city and county of Los Angeles, with help from the Army Corps, issued a series of studies that imagined a restored river. Most recently, in June 2022, the County of Los Angeles published the “LA River Master Plan.” All of these lengthy reports offer blueprints for turning the Los Angeles River back into […] Read More