Should California dictate US energy policies?
By Paul Driessen
California loves to be seen as the trendsetter on energy and environmental policies. But can we really afford to adopt their laws and regulations in the rest of America? Heck, can the once Golden State afford them itself? The path to hell is paved with good intentions, counter-productive policies – and hypocrisy.
The official national unemployment rate is stuck at 6.7% – but with much higher rates for blacks and Hispanics and a labor participation rate that remains the lowest in 35 years. Measured by gross national product, our economy is growing at an abysmal 1.5% or even 1.0% annual rate.
Meanwhile, California's jobless rate is higher than in all but three other states: 8.1% – and with far worse rates as high as 15% for blacks, Hispanics and inland communities. First the good news, then the insanity.
Citigroup's Energy 2020: North America report estimates that the United States, Canada and Mexico could make North America almost energy independent in six years, simply by tapping their vast recoverable oil and natural gas reserves. Doing so would help lower energy and consumer prices, insulate the three nations from volatile or blackmailing foreign suppliers, and spur job creation based on reliable, affordable energy, says the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Driving this revolution is horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. According to Citigroup, IHS Global Insights, the EIA and other analysts, "fracking" technology contributed 2.1 million jobs and $285 billion to the US economy in 2013, while adding $62 billion to local, state and federal treasuries! Compare that to mandates and subsidies required for expensive, unreliable, job-killing wind, solar and biofuel energy.
Fracking also slashed America's oil imports from 60% of its total needs in 2005 to just 28% in 2013. It slashed our import bill by some $100 billion annually.
By 2020 the government share of this boom is expected to rise to $111 billion. By 2035, U.S. oil and natural gas operations could inject over $5 trillion in cumulative capital expenditures into the economy, while contributing $300 billion a year to GDP and generating over $2.5 trillion in cumulative additional government revenues. What incredible benefits! But there's more.
A Yale University study calculates that the drop in natural gas prices (from $8 per thousand cubic feet or million Btu in 2008, and much more on the spot market, to $4.00 or so now) is saving businesses and families over $125 billion a year in heating, electricity, fertilizer and raw material feed stock costs.
The only thing standing in the way of a US employment boom and economic and industrial renaissance, says Citigroup, is politics: continued or even more oppressive anti-hydrocarbon policies and regulations.
Here's the insanity. Fully 96% of this nation's oil and gas production increase took place on state and private lands. Production fell significantly on federal lands under President Obama's watch, with the Interior Department leasing only 2% of federal offshore lands and 6% of its onshore domain for petroleum, then slow-walking drilling permits, according to the Institute for Energy Research.
The President continues to stall on the Keystone pipeline, while threatening layers of expensive carbon dioxide and other regulations, to prevent what he insists is "dangerous manmade climate change." His EPA just adopted California's expensive all-pain-no-gain rules for sulfur in gasoline, and the Administration and environmentalists constantly look to the West Coast for policy guidance.
Governor Jerry Brown says 30 million vehicles in California translate into "a lot of oil" and "the time for no more oil drilling" will be when its residents "can get around without using any gasoline." However, that rational message has not reached the state's legislators, environmental activists or urban elites.
California's ruling classes strongly oppose drilling and fracking – and leading Democrats are campaigning hard to impose at least a long temporary ban, based on ludicrous claims that fracking causes groundwater contamination and even earthquakes and birth defects.
Meanwhile, California's oil production represents just 38% of its needs – and is falling steadily, even though the state has enormous onshore and offshore oil deposits, accessible via conventional and hydraulic fracturing technologies. The state imports 12% of its oil from Alaska and 50% more from foreign nations, much of it from Canada, notes Sacramento area energy consultant Tom Tanton.
The record is far worse when it comes to electricity. The Do-As-I-Say state imports about 29% of its total electricity from out of state: via the Palo Verde nuclear power plant in Phoenix, coal-fired generators in the Four Corners area, and hydroelectric dams in the Southwest and Pacific Northwest, Tanton explains.
Another 50% of its electricity is generated using natural gas that is also imported from sources outside California. Instead, the Greener-Than-Thou State relies heavily on gas imported via pipelines from Canada, the Rockies and the American Southwest, to power its gas-fired turbines. Those turbines and out-of-state sources also back up its numerous unreliable bird-killing wind turbines.
It adds up to a great way to preen and strut about their environmental consciousness. They simply leach off their neighbors for 62% of their gasoline and 79% of their electricity, and let other states do the hard work and emit the CO2.
These foreign fuels power the state's profitable and liberal Silicon Valley and entertainment industries – as well as the heavily subsidized electric and hybrid vehicles that wealthy elites so love for their pseudo-ecological benefits, $7,500 tax credits, and automatic entry into fast-moving HOV lanes.
Meanwhile, California's poor white, black, Hispanic and other families get to pay $4.23 per gallon for regular gasoline, the second highest price in America – and 16.2 cents per kWh for residential electricity, double that in most states, and behind only New York, New England, Alaska and Hawaii.
However, the state's eco-centric ruling classes are not yet satisfied. Having already hammered large industrial facilities with costly carbon dioxide cap-and-trade regulations, thereby driving more jobs out of the state, on January 1, 2015 they will impose cap-and-trade rules on gasoline and diesel fuels. That will instantly add at least 12 cents more per gallon, with the price escalating over the coming years.
Regulators are also ginning up tough new "low-carbon fuel standards," requiring that California's transportation fuels reduce their "carbon intensity" or "life-cycle" CO2 emissions by 10% below 2010 levels. This will be accomplished by forcing refiners and retailers to provide more corn-based ethanol, biodiesel and still-nonexistent cellulosic biofuel.
These fuels are much more expensive than even cap-tax-and-trade gasoline – which means the poor families that liberals care so deeply about will be forced to pay still more to drive their cars and trucks.
In fact, Charles River Associates estimates that the LCFS will raise the cost of gasoline and diesel by up to 170% (!) over the next ten years, on top of all the other price hikes.
In the meantime, China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Germany and a hundred other countries are burning more coal, driving more cars and emitting vastly more carbon dioxide. So the alleged benefits to global atmospheric CO2 levels range from illusory and fabricated to fraudulent.
Of course, commuters who cannot afford these soaring prices can always park their cars and add a few hours to their daily treks, by taking multiple buses to work, school and other activities.
There's more, naturally. Much more. But I'm out of space and floundering amid all the lunacy.
Can we really afford to inflict California's insane policies on the rest of America? In fact, how long can the Left Coast afford to let its ruling classes inflict those policies on its own citizens?
Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power - Black death.