Davis Keeps CA Addicted to Fossil Fuels

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Davis keeps state addicted to fossil fuels

Published Friday, July 6, 2001, in the San Jose Mercury News Copyright, San Jose Mercury News, Fair Use for Education and Research Only


BEFORE this year's energy ``crisis,'' Gray Davis wanted to be known as the education governor. However, Davis and his advisers' energy teachings have revealed alarming failures, setting back state energy policy not one or two years, but one or two decades.

While George W. Bush proposed an energy policy tied to fossil fuels, disproportionate building of centralized generation plants, too little energy efficiency, lowering environmental standards and increased global warming emissions, Davis enacted it.

First, Davis has tied the state for the next decade or longer to contracts with facilities that are exclusively fossil fuel generation. Second, he has encouraged an unprecedented surge in the building of new centralized fossil fuel plants. Finally, he has pushed the lowering of environmental standards to increase production from the dirtiest fossil fuel facilities.

The state's new energy purchasing department has spent zero on renewable generation. David Freeman, the governor's energy czar, giving lip service to alternatives, has negotiated close to $50 billion in long-term contracts with fossil fuel generators.

By comparison, the governor has authorized investment of only $13 million in expanding solar generation. Photovoltaic cells produce electricity directly from the sun's energy, offering a clean, efficient solution to the state's future peak energy demand. While the governor talks a lot about energy efficiency, the state's funding of demand programs is about 1 percent of the funding for supply. Most egregious, the vast majority of state energy efficiency money is funneled back to the utilities.

While environmentalists deride the Bush administration proposals, in California organizations such as the Natural Resources Defense Council actively support Davis' fossil fuel energy policy.

The Davis energy policy has stuck California with the same old electric system for at least the next decade. Money has literally been burned instead of invested in innovation and creation of a cleaner and more efficient system. The best hedge against price spikes is a diversity of fuel sources, unfortunately California's electric system is now tied to an even greater degree to fossil fuels.

After binding the state economy to the past, the Davis end game is logical. Davis and his energy advisers want to spend tens of billions of dollars for the utilities' restoration -- the very companies that for so long stifled industry innovation and remain most responsible for California's energy fiasco.

There is still an opportunity to make the best out of a bad situation. Instead of bailing out the utilities, they should be dismantled and sold off. A combination of a dozen or so local government and publicly owned companies should be created with a goal of innovating the industry. An auction could be held that would sell customer blocks and with it the state's long-term contracts. Choice should be reinstated with the lifting of the suspension on direct access to alternative suppliers.

Instead of moving the state to the next level of energy development, the education governor's remedial energy teachings will force California to repeat its energy lessons.

Joe Costello is an energy and communications consultant based in Larkspur.

-- Robert A Riggs (rxr.999@worldnet.att.net), July 07, 2001


Although far from a fan of Gray Davis, this article attributes to him, actions that are are not his to make. Thank heavens cooler heads have prevailed in some of his wilder threats. While almost every paragraph contains questionable statements, a few comments should suffice.

It begins with the title, "Davis keeps state addicted to fossil fuels". This is apparently referring to his use of state (taxpayer) funds to buy energy on long term contracts. Aside from the fact that the state shouldn'r be in that business, what choice was there but to buy from generators who can and are producing, which is mainly natural gas and coal? Why couldn't the utility companies do it? One, they were confined to buying spot power and, two, prohibited from increasing retail prices when the wholesale spot prices went through the roof!

Yes, nearly $50 billion in long term contracts with fossil fuel generators were negotiated. Comparing that to "investment of only $13 million in EXPANDIG solar generation", is a case of oranges and apples. The former is simpliy buying a product which exists. The latter is developing a source of dubious practical value within the forseeable future.

The next to last paragraph is just plain babble. "Instead of bailing out the utilities, they should be dismantled and sold off." Even if this were a rational action, does the governor have the authority to dissolve private property? Do we still have any vestiges of a republic? It gets more bizzare. "A combination of a dozen or so local government and publicly owned companies should be created with a goal of innovating the industry." This sounds like Adolph Hitler and national socialism at its finest. C'mon Gray, get with it. Grab a couple of your political cronies at the local level and maybe you can pick up a few defunct dot coms for the private sector component. But wait a minute, won't these private bozos be carrying the same baggage those hated utilities did. You know, things like stock holders and the incentive to make a profit. Why will they be any different? OK, I see now, it's that little qualifier. What makes this melange different is they have a vision, the "goal of innovating the industry". Armed with such inspiring marching orders, how can it fail? On solar, on wind, on hot air, on Donder, on Blitzen! No mention of nuclear though. It would satisfy all the requirements of cost, pollution, safety - except for one, the eco-wackos.

-- Warren Ketler (wrkttl@earthlink.net), July 07, 2001.

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