Schwarzenegger's green dream for California

California is well-known as a generator of new ideas. One is the dream of outgoing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and a majority of the California legislature to move the state into a green future.

Under this dream, carbon-based fuels would be sharply reduced in favor of battery power, which would be recharged through renewable electricity generation, especially wind and solar power.

“The Gulf of Mexico oil spill is spurring California legislators and conflicting interest groups to settle past differences and adopt the nation's toughest renewable energy law to reduce the state's dependence on oil and serve as a model for other states,” reported the Los Angeles Times.

The main legislation is SB722, by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto. It passed the state Assembly Aug. 31. It was headed for passage in the Senate, but “we ran out of time,” Simitian's office told me. All California bills must be passed by Aug. 31.

But Simitian is expected to reintroduce the bill when the next legislature convenes in early December.

Simitian's bill would mandate that, by 2020, renewable electricity in California must be 33 percent of all that is generated. Unlike previous bills on this issue, according to Simitian, “Senate Bill 722 does not require utilities to reach the goal at any cost, however. If the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) determines that no reasonably priced renewable energy is available, a utility will be permitted to postpone meeting the deadline.”

Currently, no California electricity producer meets even the existing 20 percent goal for the end of 2010. Southern California Edison comes closest, at 17 percent.

In vetoing similar legislation in 2009, the governor called it too “complex.” However, he supports the 33 percent renewables goal by 2020. Indeed, his state environmental legacy will be strong if he signs into law some form of SB722, while defeating Proposition 23 in November. Prop. 23 effectively would repeal AB32, his law to combat global warming.

At a recent alternative fuels conference, Schwarzenegger said, “One needs only to look to the Gulf of Mexico and the tragedy and what happens when you just rely on oil. It is shameful how desperate and how dependent we have become on fossil fuels.”

The governor's chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, sometimes called the “little governor” for her influence over the action-movie star, said of renewables legislation, “I'm very optimistic. There's always been a consensus around the goal. It's simply a matter of identifying what the obstacles are in the implementation.”

“The big issue is: Is it deliverable power?” asked Robert Michaels when I talked to him about renewables. He's a professor of economics at Fullerton State University and senior fellow at the Institute for Energy Research.

He testified on energy policy twice this year before the U.S. Congress. “You can talk about trading credits. But you still will have to operate your local system.”

Michaels said that “the politics of wind” involves federal subsidies for wind power. In Texas, this has meant that renewable energy companies actually pay to put their power on the electricity grid, thus bumping off cheaper power from non-renewable sources.

Michaels pointed to his testimony on June 16, 2010, before the Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology where he said:

“Texas' wind capacity is mostly far from load centers, and its power is priced by market bidding. As they compete for access to the constrained transmission lines, prices are bid to lower levels. In Texas, however, those prices are quite frequently becoming negative, 14 percent of all hours in 2008…..

“Gas marketer Bentek Energy examined a seeming paradox in Texas and Colorado: Operating data showed how wind's variability meant that coal units had to make many quick output adjustments, and that those adjustments were responsible for the added pollution.

Bentek's controversial conclusion was that the total load in the area could have been produced with lower total emissions had the wind units never existed.”

If the California legislature passes a new version of SB 722 in December, Schwarzenegger could sign it into law by the time he leaves office. Or the next governor, either Democrat Jerry Brown or Republican Meg Whitman, could sign it next year.

And if Schwarzenegger becomes energy czar under President Obama, as some have speculated, the forced use of inefficient renewables could be another California fad that spreads across the country, and the world.

John Seiler is a reporter and analyst for CalWatchDog.com.

CaliforniaCalifornia NewsNEPOp Eds

Just Posted

Dreamforce returned to San Francisco in person this week – but with a tiny sliver of past attendance. (Courtesy Salesforce)
Dreamforce returns with hundreds on hand, down from 170,000 in the past

High hopes for a larger Salesforce conference shriveled during the summer

The numbers show nearly 14 percent of San Francisco voters who participated in the Sept. 14 recall election wanted to oust Gov. Gavin Newsom from elected office. (Shutterstock photo)
(Shutterstock photo)
How San Francisco neighborhoods voted in the Newsom recall

Sunset tops the list as the area with the most ‘yes’ votes

Alison Collins says that she and other members of San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education facing potential recall “represent constituents that are often erased or talked over.” <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
Alison Collins speaks: Embattled SF school board member confronts the recall effort

‘It’s important for folks to know what this recall is about. It’s bigger than any one of us.’

Is the Black Cat incident a distraction from the recovery of The City’s storied nightlife industry or does Mayor London Breed’s behavior inadvertently highlight the predicament the industry’s been in since San Francisco reinstated indoor mask requirements on Aug. 20?<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner, 2021)</ins>
Club owners to maskless mayor: Are we the new fun police?

Black Cat affair highlights difficult recovery for nightlife industry

BART’s Powell Street station in The City was the site of a fatal accident on Sept. 13.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
Powell Station death serves as a grim reminder. BART doors don’t stop for anyone

What you need to know about safety sensors on the trains

Most Read