California’s Socialist Oligarchy: Making the State Unaffordable

Touted as the “fifth-largest economy on Earth,” and recently heralded as delivering the “greatest increase in average income,” these statistics obscure an alarming reality. California has become a feudal state, where the benefits of prosperity are unequally distributed, rewarding corrupt plutocrats and punishing ordinary working families. Joel Kotkin, a fellow in urban studies at Chapman University in Orange, California, characterized California’s current political economy as “Oligarchical Socialism.” This is a perfect description of a system that destroys the middle class at the same time it protects the ultra rich.

California’s leftist oligarchy benefits financially from precisely the depredations they accuse conservatives of committing. They have enacted policies that are designed to make California unaffordable to all but the wealthiest residents, and hostile to emerging small businesses, at the same time as their preexisting wealth and politically connected corporations reap enhanced returns and profits.

Plenty of Land, Impossible to Build

Nowhere are the consequences of California’s oligarchical socialism more evident than in the cost of housing. State legislation has made it nearly impossible for developers to construct new housing outside the so-called “urban growth boundary.” Instead, development is redirected into the footprint of existing urban areas.

While there is a natural tendency as population increases to see higher density redevelopment in urban cores, by restricting outward expansion of urban areas, the value of the limited remaining eligible land becomes artificially inflated. But established landowners and large development firms benefit from these restrictions. They are able to withstand years, if not decades, of expensive permitting delays and endless litigation. They are able to afford millions in permit fees because these costs are offset by their ability to sell residence units—from high-rise condos to detached single family dwellings—at prices far beyond what they would cost in a normal market.

These billionaire business interests get richer, while ordinary Californians who want to own or develop land cannot afford to go through the permit process. Meanwhile, the median cost of a home in California is $539,400 — nearly 2.5 times the national average of $216,700. And that’s not even in the tougher markets.

With all land development, environmentalist laws such as California’s Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) create additional barriers. California’s legislature has now made it necessary for new home construction to be 100 percent “energy neutral” by 2020. Not only does this require installation of photovoltaic roof panels, but also more expensive insulation, as well as more expensive appliances that use less energy (and also happen to be less durable and don’t work as well). These mandates make homes less livable, for example, requiring smaller windows in order to make the homes easier to heat and cool.

The amazing fact that California’s legislators willfully ignore is the incredibly abundance of expanses of land that remain virtually empty in this vast state. California is only 5 percent urbanized. According to the American Farmland Trust, of California’s 163,000 square miles, there are 25,000 square miles of grazing land and 42,000 square miles of agricultural land; of that, 14,000 square miles are prime agricultural land. In other words, you could put 10 million new residents into homes, four per household, on half-acre lots, and you would only consume 1,953 square miles. If you built those homes on the best prime agricultural land California’s got, you would only use up 14 percent of it. If you scattered those homes among all of California’s farmland and grazing land—which is far more likely—you would only use up 3 percent of it. Three percent loss of agricultural land, to allow 10 million people to live on half-acre lots!

Instead of allowing land owners to build millions of inexpensive homes on, say, just a small fraction of California’s 25,000 square miles of grazing land, California’s lawmakers want to have “smart growth.” And as prices rise, the solution? On the ballot this November, propositions to enforce statewide rent control, borrow $4 billion to build “affordable housing,” and use state tax revenues to build more government-run homeless shelters. After all, expanding the private sector threatens the oligarchy. Best to expand the public sector.

Plenty of Energy Resources, Unaffordable Energy

While the cost of housing is an obvious example of how California has been turned into an enclave for the super rich and an expensive ordeal for ordinary Americans trying to live there, it is not the only example. California’s legislature has curtailed, if not completely shut down, development of oil, natural gashydroelectric and nuclear power.

In the summer of 2000, during California’s energy crisis, as brown-outs were rolling up and down the state, total disaster was averted because two nuclear reactor complexes, San Onofre and Diablo Canyon, were continuously pumping 4.2 gigawatts of electricity — more than 10 percent of California’s peak demand at the time — into the power grid. But instead of retrofitting, San Onofre was shuttered in 2013 and Diablo Canyon is set to shut down by 2025.

And what’s replacing these power plants? Wind and solar farms, with their intermittent output backed up by natural gas power stations.

If the massive amounts of surplus electricity produced when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing could be stored, it might make sense to decommission clean nuclear power plants and ban development of fossil fuel. But despite decades of research, and dozens of promising but failed attempts, grid-scale electricity storage remains prohibitively expensive. But that’s OK. According to the state legislature, Californians can just pay more. And of course, when consumers pay more, utilities — whose percentage profit is limited by regulation — make far more in absolute profits, since they get to charge so much more per kilowatt-hour. The average cost for electricity is 19.7 cents per kilowatt-hour in California, compared to 13.1 cents per kilowatt-hour nationally.

And there’s no end in sight. True to form, California’s state legislature just passed a law that calls for 60 percent renewable energy by 2030 and 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2045. With hydroelectric and nuclear power off the table, that’s going to be a neat trick.

With oil, it gets worse. We’re not talking about California’s aggressive formulation requirements that make tailpipe emissions cleaner. Perhaps California’s geography justifies this, as offshore winds blow the entirety of coastal city smog into the inland valleys where it is trapped and accumulates. But the reason gas is so expensive in California has little to do with that. It is nearly impossible to maintain refinery output in California, and California’s state gas taxes are among the highest in the nation. Gasoline in California costs around $3.87 per gallon, compared to $2.87 nationally.

While ordinary Californians suffer, left-wing oligarchs prosper.

Green technology entrepreneurs flourish, selling products that consumers are required by law to purchase. Not just solar panels and the related “balance of plant” systems. There are also “negawatts,” a good concept that is being taken to extremes. Sensors and chips designed to make appliances more “energy efficient” are designed by Silicon Valley companies whose prosperity depends on legislative mandates that compel Californians to purchase their products. Promoting the “internet of things” is purportedly justified on environmentalist grounds, while in reality it is a lucrative source of income for high-tech manufacturers, as well as a lucrative means of surveillance and data mining. These new appliances save some electricity. But are they durable? Easy to operate? Do they work as well as conventional appliances? Are they easy to use? Are they inexpensive? No to all.

Plenty of Water, Yet Water Is Rationed

Water is another area where ordinary Californians needlessly suffer inconveniences and pay more.

California receives between 150 and 300 million acre feet of rainfall per year, depending on whether it’s a drought year or a wet year. Regardless of the year, most of that water either evaporates, percolates, or runs off into the Pacific Ocean. And of the roughly 65 million acre feet that are diverted, fully half of it is saved for re-release into the environment, to maintain river flow and to prevent saltwater intrusion into the Sacramento Delta. Of what remains, almost all of it is used for agriculture. Less than 4 million acre feet of water each year are used by California’s households, and less than half that much is for indoor use.

You wouldn’t think that were the case if you reviewed California’s new laws regarding water, and the ways they’re going to be implemented. This year California’s state legislature passed a law requiring average daily indoor water use by California residents to not exceed 55 gallons per day, an amount that lowers to 50 gallons per day by 2030. Maybe you’ve encountered the “solutions” that will effect this reduction: Water faucets that spray eight tiny concentrated, 1.0 mm thick jets of water onto your hands, making it difficult to get them wet and nearly impossible to rinse off soap. Or “low-flow” shower heads with the same problem, magnified for anyone who wants to rinse shampoo out of long hair. What about “smart” laundry machinesthat start and stop randomly, ostensibly to save energy and water, that do a poor job of cleaning your clothes. Or supplemental “tankless” water heaters positioned close to your kitchen sink, that cost thousands of dollars and don’t work all that well, in order for residents to avoid running unnecessary gallons down the drain as they wait for the hot water to flow through their pipes.

All this expense and bother, to save what, at a statewide level, amounts to a trivial amount of water. California’s total residential indoor water use represents less than three percent of California’s total water diversions.

And California’s bureaucrats still aren’t done. In a hearing postponed till just after November 6—no coincidence there—California’s State Water Resources Board is expected to mandate increased “natural flows” in California’s rivers, which will create additional water scarcity, especially for farmers.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Californians could easily escape water scarcity by investing in additional reservoirs, desalination plants, and wastewater recycling. But environmentalists torpedo all of these projects, successfully lobbying for laws that tie every project up in permitting delays that cost millions, if not tens of millions, and take years, if not decades, to overcome. When permits are finally granted, along come the lawsuits.

A good example of a project that makes compelling economic sense, but is bitterly opposed by environmentalists, is raising the height of the Shasta Dam. In exchange for construction costs under $2 billion, an annual yield of a half-million acre feet would be added to California’s water resources. Not only does this amount of water exceed how much water could be saved by additional household rationing, there’s even an environmental benefit, because summer releases of this water from Shasta’s deep, cool reservoir would improve fish habitat on the Sacramento River.

Roads Are Congested, And the State Builds a Bullet Train

traffic-los-angelesThere is nothing more versatile than the common road. On a road, anything on wheels, from bicycles to 80-ton trucks, can get from their point of origin to their destination. The simple flat surface delivers transportation options that nothing requiring rails or runways can hope to match. Moreover, cars and trucks are becoming cleaner and greener every year. One may argue vehemently over how exactly clean energy abundance will be achieved, but only the most pessimistic Luddite might cling to the notion that it will never happen.

Meanwhile, Californians urgently need new roads, wider roads, and upgraded roads. Californians may supplement these new roads with hyperloop technologies, or flying cars and other next generation vehicles, but what California does not need is the much criticized but seemingly unstoppable “bullet train,” a project that fails any rational cost-benefit analysis.

Using the California High Speed Rail Authority’s own projections, the system will not be profitable for 10 years. And what projections! The CHSRA assumes an average ticket price of $60, and average daily ridership of 120,000 people. Will 120,000 individuals actually be willing to spend $600 per month (and that’s only $30 per round trip, half what the High Speed Rail Commission is projecting) to commute from California’s less expensive Central Valley, into their jobs in coastal Silicon Valley and Los Angeles? And so what if they did? California has a workforce of more than 19 million people. How does spending around $100 billion on high speed rail help these other 18.9 million commuters?

To build a road in California takes years of permitting and litigating, then costs far more than it would in other parts of America. Environmentalist restrictionsproject labor agreements, and a bloated, inefficient State Department of Transportation are all contributing factors. Meanwhile, in comparison to other states, California consistently ranks at or near the bottom in terms of pavement conditions and traffic congestion. There is no end in sight.

Housing. Energy. Water. Transportation. These are the basic necessities of civilized life. And for power and profit, California’s socialist oligarchs have made them all prohibitively expensive. The social agenda of California’s Left is well understood. But the punishing economic agenda, engineered by California’s socialist oligarchy, is equally disturbing. It represents a devastating threat to the American way of life.

The second part of this report will identify the special interests that constitute this coalition of scarcity profiteers, and how they might be stopped.

California is following Germany’s Failed Climate Goals

Global WarmingGermany was the first major economy to make a big shift in its energy mix toward low carbon sources, but Germany is failing to meet its climate goals of reducing harmful carbon-dioxide emissions even after spending over $580 billion by 2025 to overhaul its energy systems. Germany’s emissions miss should be a “wake-up” call for governments everywhere.

Germany stepped us as a leader on climate change, by phasing out nuclear, and pioneered a system of subsidies for wind and solar that sparked a global boom in manufacturing those technologies.  

Like Germany, California’s renewables are becoming an increasing share in electricity generation, but at a HIGH COST. The emission reduction goals have increased the costs of electricity and transportation fuels and increased the already high cost of living in California and may be very contributory to California having the highest percentage of homelessness and poverty in the nation.

California households are paying about 40 percent more than the national average for electricity according to 2016 data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Californians continue to pay almost $1.00 more per gallon of fuel than the rest of the country due to a) the state sales tax per gallon which are some of the highest in the country; b) refinery reformatting costs per gallon; c) cap and trade program compliance costs per gallon; d) low-carbon fuel standard program compliance costs per gallon; and e) renewable fuels standard program compliance costs per gallon.

California is an “energy island” to its almost 40 million citizens, bordered between the Pacific Ocean and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The state’s daily need to support its 145 airports (inclusive of 33 military, 10 major, and more than 100 general aviation) is 13 million gallons a day of aviation fuels. In addition, for the 35 million registered vehicles of which 90 percent are NOT EV’s are consuming DAILY: 10 million gallons a day of diesel and 42 million gallons a day of gasoline.  All that “expensive” fuel is a heavy cost to consumers.

Despite higher energy bills, public opinion has remained supportive of the energy transition and the strategy to cut emissions. That support is apt to shift when politicians resolve the debate about how their targets match reality. Either they will have to abandon the goals and live with more pollution than they’ve promised, or they will have to force through painful and expensive measures that further limit emissions.

Germany, like California, is also trying to phase out nuclear reactors. California has already shutdown the 24/7 nuclear generating facility of SCE’s San Onofre (SONGS) which generated 2,200 megawatts of power that closed in 2013, and will be closing PG&E’s Diablo Canyon’s 2,160 megawatts of power in 2024.

Shutting down nuclear plants is leaving California, like Germany, short of 24/7 generation plants that can work on the breezeless and dark days when wind farms and solar plants won’t provide much to the grid—and demand is at its peak. Yet to be determined is the impact on rate payers? Will there be more reliance in California placed on fossil fuels for 24/7 power?

Germany’s economy, like California’s, is dominated by services that require less energy and produce less carbon than places tilted toward industry and manufacturing. Thus, less emissions to micromanage cost effectively reduce. California is a miniscule contributor to the world’s greenhouse gases. Statistically, the World is generating about 46,000 million metric tons of GHG’s, while California has been generating about 429 million metric tons, which is less than one percent of the world’s contributions. Germany’s contributions are about 905 million metric tons, which is about two percent of the world’s contributions.

Germany’s failed climate goals is an ominous wake-up call for California and governments everywhere struggling to reach their own targets. The result is a puzzle for politicians. Enacted legislation to make sure climate targets are hit, including stringent rules governing energy use, and new building codes to make buildings carbon neutral, and utility bill charges that subsidize investment in green energy, are all resulting in higher energy costs to consumers.

ounder of PTS Staffing Solutions, a technical staffing agency headquartered in Irvine.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Proposal to Place Restrictions on Plastic Straws Advances in California Legislature

StrawsThe California Senate on Monday approved legislation barring dine-in restaurants from offering plastic straws to customers unless they are requested.

The measure, which goes back to the Assembly for concurrence in amendments, was introduced to address the environmental problems caused by plastic ending up in oceans and rivers.

Sen. Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park) said plastic contamination is showing up in 25% of the fish sold in California.

“Do you want to eat fish with plastic in it?” Stern asked his colleagues. “This is a public health issue.”

The measure exempts fast-food restaurants and other businesses. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times

Trump officials open door to fracking in California

fracking oil gasThe Trump administration is starting the process of opening up large swaths of land in California to hydraulic fracturing.

In a notice issued Wednesday to the Federal Register, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said it intends to analyze the impact of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, on publicly owned land throughout the state.

The area in question spans 400,000 acres of public land and 1.2 million acres of federal mineral estates throughout a number of California counties including Fresno, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara.

The notice of intent says BLM will begin the scoping process for a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, which will determine the effects of fracking on the environment. Fracking is a technology used to release oil and gas from land. The administration’s intent is to eventually open up public land to new lease sales.

The announcement follows a 2017 lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity. That lawsuit challenged a 2015 attempt by the federal government to finalize a resource management plan that acknowledged fracking. In its settlement, BLM promised that it would first provide an environmental impact statement before considering fracking. …

Click here to read the full article from The Hill

Californians Deserve Climate Policies That People Can Actually Afford

Ivanpah solar energyIn a recently published interview, Paul Hawken, an environmentalist, and Executive Director of Project Drawdown, a global coalition of researchers, scientists, and economists that models the impacts of global warming, made a spot-on observation about the pitfalls of seeking a simple, single solution to climate change.

Hawken observed that “people who are earnestly guiding us to climatic stability have not done the math.” Instead, he says “sincere, well-meaning people profess their beliefs.”

Nowhere is this truer than in California. In recent years, policymakers have increasingly aligned with advocacy groups pushing for one-track solutions to climate change, like 100 percent renewable electricity or all-electric buildings.

Two weeks ago, Assembly Bill 3232 – legislation that aims to electrify homes and businesses in the state – passed through the Assembly Utilities and Energy Committee with little fanfare.

There is a certain seductive simplicity to many of the single solutions aimed at addressing climate change. But, the math just doesn’t work. Moreover, the single solution policies that advocacy groups like Sierra Club are churning into new laws don’t take into account important considerations like affordability and the preferences of Californians.

Take 100 percent renewable electricity, for example. A recent Black and Veatch analysis showed 100 percent renewable electricity could cost California $3 trillion and require 900 square miles of solar panels and another 900 square miles of depletable and unrenewable battery storage.

That’s an area almost four times the size of the City of Los Angeles dedicated to disposable batteries and solar panels. For the price tag, you could buy Apple and have $2 trillion left over, eliminate a sizeable chunk of the US federal debt, or pay for private college tuition for about 25 million high school seniors.

AB 3232 seeks to move California toward another one-track solution – all electric buildings. A report released earlier this month by the California Building Industry Association (CBIA) found that replacing natural gas in every home would cost California families up to $6 billion annually and require most buildings to undergo expensive retrofits. That’s an almost $900 increase in annual energy costs for every California family. As Hawken points out, people seeking a single solution to climate change simply haven’t done the math.

Importantly, they also haven’t considered the preferences of California’s families and businesses. A separate CBIA study recently found that only 10 percent of voters would consider purchasing an all-electric home and 80 percent oppose laws that would take away their natural gas appliances.

Does it make sense to charge Californians a lot more for something they don’t want in the first place? Moreover, would the increased burden on families and businesses address climate change?

Hawken argues that most people trying to address climate change simply don’t know what the solution is. “If you had asked every person at COP21 in Paris (us included) to name the top 10 solutions in any order, I don’t believe anyone would have gotten it even close. That is still true. After 50 years of global warming being in the public sphere, we didn’t know the top solutions to reversing it. And there’s a reason: We never measured and modeled the top solutions.”

In California, a lot of work has been done to measure and model emissions linked to climate change. According to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), about 40 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the state come from the transportation sector, with heavy duty trucks being the single greatest source. Consistent with Project Drawdown’s analysis, agriculture and waste are also significant contributors in California. More than 80 percent of methane emissions in the state come from farms, dairies and landfills. In contrast, natural gas end uses in residential buildings account for about 5 percent of emissions statewide, according to CARB.

Make no mistake about it, renewable electricity will play a crucial role in reducing emissions and reversing the effects of climate change. But, if California is serious about achieving the state’s ambitious climate goals we need all options on the table, including policies that reduce emissions from transportation and investments in technology that capture methane from farms and landfills for use as affordable and renewable energy.

Doing the math shows us that California needs a balanced strategy – one that achieves climate goals, but considers the impacts on families and businesses. Affordability and choice matter.

resident & Chief Operating Officer for Southern California Gas Co.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Proposals to ban internal combustion engines in California are a bad idea

carpool-laneThe latest battle in Sacramento’s war on California’s middle class is the push to ban the internal combustion engine.

Luckily, the effort has stalled.

The legislation that would have imposed the ban, Assembly Bill 1745, died last month, but bad ideas in California have a way of recurring like nightmares. We will see this proposal again, either as legislation next year or perhaps even as a ballot initiative. A number of so-called progressive candidates on the ballot this year have publicly stated they embrace this foolish idea.

The bill that was stopped, AB1745, would have prohibited the Department of Motor Vehicles from registering a new vehicle unless it was a zero emissions vehicle, beginning on January 1, 2040. Under the proposed law, a new car with an internal combustion engine could not legally be driven in California after that date.

A ban on internal combustion engines would certainly limit mobility and transportation options for millions of California families and businesses. And it would arbitrarily limit the development and use of advanced and efficient vehicle technologies, the kind that have already achieved great success in squeezing extra miles out of a gallon of gas.

Today, despite the availability of ZEVs, a substantial publicly funded rebate program and access to HOV lanes, ZEVs accounted for only 1.9 percent of the over 2,000,000 new passenger vehicles sold in California in 2016. And many of these sales are repeat sales to the same households, according to the UC Davis Institute of Transportation, raising the question of whether plug-in vehicles are experiencing widespread consumer rejection, outside of a limited group of true believers.

A ban on internal combustion engines is an attempt to force consumers into buying vehicles that they have decided are not best suited to their needs.

The better alternative is leveraging all available vehicle technologies, including efficient internal combustion engines, so that California can reach its environmental goals without banning or discouraging any technological innovations. …

Click here to read the full article from the OC Register

Trump girds for war with California over fuel economy

traffic-los-angelesThe Trump administration is speeding toward all-out war with California over fuel economy rules for cars and SUVs, proposing to revoke the state’s long-standing authority to enforce its own tough rules on tailpipe emissions.

The move forms a key part of a proposal by Trump’s environmental and transportation agencies to roll back the nation’s fuel economy standards. The agencies plan to submit the proposal to the White House for review within days.

The plan would freeze fuel economy targets at the levels required for vehicles sold in 2020, and leave those in place through 2026, according to federal officials who have reviewed it. That would mark a dramatic retreat from existing law, which aimed to get the nation’s fleet of cars and light trucks to an average fuel economy of 55 miles per gallon by 2025. Instead of average vehicle fuel economy ratcheting up to that level, it would stall out at 42 miles per gallon.

That would constitute the single biggest step the administration has taken to undermine efforts to combat climate change. …

Click here to read the full article from The Virginian Pilot

California Wants to Ban the Internal Combustion Engine

Engine CarCalifornia’s relentless crusade against emissions effectively camouflages its voracious need for revenues.

AB32, the original landmark bill was signed into law in 2006 when California contributed one percent to the world’s greenhouse gases. While the cap and trade program has been a cost effective method of reducing CA’s greenhouse gas emissions, the program does next to nothing to reducing global emissions. A decade later, in 2016, the California Energy Commission said we still contributed a minuscule one percent to the world’s greenhouse gases, but it has successfully extracted more than $7 billion dollars of revenue from our citizens to fund a multitude of governmental pet projects.

California’s elected officials must be in La La Land when they state that California’s economy is thriving in large part because of its emphasis on enacting sweeping environmental legislation. California’s economy, like the rest of the nation, has been booming ever since the recession, but California is ranking up where the state is not proud of. The California go-it-alone crusade to reduce emissions regressively impacts consumers.  Today the California energy portfolio, the environment, and climate change are always discussed together. Here’s what’s really up – energy costs, poverty, homelessness, welfare and unfunded pension liabilities.

  • California taxes and cost of living are higher than most other states.
  • California’s energy costs are as much as 50 percent higher than the national average.
  • Nearly 20 percent of California’s 38 million residents live below the poverty line.
  • California has more than 33 percent of the nation’s welfare recipients.
  • California is home to 12 percent of the nation’s population, but startlingly 22 percent of the nation’s homeless population.
  • Roughly 1.5 million households pay more than 50 percent of their income toward rent.
  • Unfunded pension liabilities.

Now compounding these problems is a bill currently under consideration in the Legislature, Assembly Bill 1745, that would outlaw the sale and registration of new light-duty vehicles powered by internal combustion engines beginning in 2040. The unintended consequence for those existing internal combustion engines after 2040 would be that people would drive their internal combustion engines for 50 years, like they did in Cuba, and adversely affect air pollution, and not take advantage of technology improvements. The sheer scope of the proposed mandate is staggering. According to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, of the 35 million registered vehicles in CA there are over 26 million passenger vehicles registered in California. Of these, only about three percent are personal electric vehicles.  Limiting the types of new cars Californians could buy would disproportionately punish working families already struggling to make ends meet.

It appears that governments, worldwide, in pursuit of the current EV crusade, may be overlooking the fact that an essential ingredient that lithium-ion batteries are dependent on is cobalt which is already in limited supply worldwide to manufacture IPhones, IPads, and car batteries. Without the element’s energy density, batteries without cobalt tend to perform worse.  Currently about a quarter of global production of cobalt winds up in smartphones. In the expected event that cobalt supply does not meet the EV needs in the decades ahead, the impact on the local and international economies could be devastating. Environmentally, it’s also harder to recycle lithium-ion batteries with cobalt than lead-acid batteries used in gasoline powered vehicles.

Finally, AB1745 fails the cost-benefit test. California accounts for less than one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, so even if every gasoline-powered car in our state were taken off the road tomorrow there would be zero impact on climate change.

Our elected leaders need to address the very real challenges facing California, rather than touting misguided new policies like AB 1745 that will only make our problems worse.

ounder of PTS Staffing Solutions, a technical staffing agency headquartered in Irvine

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

After $1 Billion in Govt. Subsidies ‘Green’ Tesla Fined $139K for Air Pollution

teslaTesla’s factory was fined $139,000 for emitting the same type of toxic NOx into the atmosphere that their electric-vehicles are supposed to eliminate.

Tesla has been fined $139,500 by Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) for emitting nitrogen oxides (NOx) air pollution inside its factory. Although Tesla told the San Francisco Chronicle that the sanction was due to a malfunctioning furnace, the company was fined $1,000 for the same issue in 2013.

Nitrogen oxides known as NOx, are poisonous gases often emitted by fossil-fuel burning cars, trucks, tractors and boats or industrial processes like power generation. NOx human health impacts include breathing problems, headaches, chronically reduced lung function, eye irritation, loss of appetite, and corroded teeth.

To supposedly reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions, California-based Tesla receives government subsidies of $2,500 Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) tax credit for every all-electric Model S, Model X and Model 3 purchased in the state. Combined with federal ZEV subsidies of $7,500 per vehicle, Tesla has received about $1 billion in ZEV credits.

Tesla has tried to blame the issue on the NUMMI, a joint venture between General Motors and Toyota Motor Corp. The joint-venture sold their Fremont plant and equipment to Tesla for $42 million in 2010.

A Tesla spokesman emailed reporters claiming the company inherited the problems from GM: “The majority of these violations were resolved by Tesla four years ago when we proactively brought the issue to the attention of the District.” But despite a complete rehabilitation, Tesla was fined $1,000 for the same NOx issue in 2013.

But the BAAQMD release claims the $139,500 fine and settlement covers a series of violations from 2013 through 2016. Tesla also agreed to install about $93,000 worth of solar panels at the Silicon Valley Boys and Girls Club in San Jose.

“Although Tesla develops electric vehicles and related technologies that California needs to address global climate change, the company still must comply with all their permit conditions,” said Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the Air District. “Air quality improves when industries abide by their emissions limits and the public does their part to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.”

Tesla has long been under fire by conservatives for mining government subsidies for the rich that can afford the $90,000 price tag for a new Model S sedan or Model X SUV.

But progressives are increasingly complaining that its vehicle’s so-called embodied carbon, which is a measure of the energy needed to build its vehicles, is too high.

Salon argued last year that Tesla’s still has significant carbon emissions with its “extraction and processing of raw materials, and shipping parts and vehicles across oceans in filthy bunker-fuel burning cargo ships. Every time you roll off the dealer’s lot in a new set of wheels — electrified or not — your personal carbon footprint grows immensely.”

It is estimated that the manufacture of a U.S. standard midsize sedan generates 17 metric tons of carbon dioxide, about the equivalent of 3-years of electricity consumed per household. But the U.S. Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that it takes about 15 percent more embodied carbon to produce an electric vehicle, due to the materials and fabrication processes used to make very large battery packs.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Could oil firms be forced to pay for climate change in California?

Porter Ranch gas leakThe Bay Area city of Richmond recently made an unlikely move that got the attention of its largest employer and taxpayer, Chevron.

It followed other municipalities and counties across California that have filed lawsuits against oil companies, alleging that the energy giants knowingly contributed to climate change and should begin paying for it. Literally.

Employing the legal strategy that brought states major payouts from tobacco companies decades ago, the plaintiffs are demanding that oil interests begin writing checks to protect Californians against rising seas, crippling drought and harmful air.

The legal viability of the lawsuits is unclear; the cases are in early stages. But if any succeed, the implications are profound: The state is already spending hundreds of millions of dollars to shore up coastlines, protect infrastructure and retrofit roads and bridges in response to rising seas. And if companies are persuaded to drill and refine less oil, California has a much better chance of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions on the schedule it has set.

Besides Richmond, plaintiffs include the cities of Imperial Beach, Oakland, Santa Cruz and San Francisco and the counties of Marin, San Mateo and Santa Cruz. The Los Angeles City Council is considering its own suit.

 The state has not joined in, something environmental groups say is a failure of leadership.

“Accountability is critical,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Climate Law Institute at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The state of California can and should file a case seeking money damages and also an injunction against ongoing activities.”

The California Department of Justice has sued the Trump administration two dozen times over policies that include several related to the environment. Asked whether the state would join the cities and counties or consider filing its own suit against the oil companies, the Justice Department declined to comment about potential future action.

The city-county suits began six months ago when Imperial Beach, in southern San Diego County, sued a handful of oil companies. Richmond, surrounded on three sides by water and imperiled by rising seas, joined the fight Jan. 22. Its city council voted unanimously to sue 29 oil producers, even if it meant taking on Chevron, whose tax payments—$45 million in 2016—account for 25 percent of the city’s general fund.

“They are a pretty important corporate citizen,” said Richmond Mayor Tom Butt.

However, “we are a waterfront city—Richmond has 32 miles of shoreline on the Bay. Part of our city is vulnerable to sea-level rise: our transportation systems, neighborhoods and commercial areas and thousands of acres of waterfront park.”

Among those vulnerable venues is Chevron’s refinery, which sits at the edge of San Francisco Bay. Completed in 1902, this refinery, the state’s largest, was immediately dubbed “the colossus.” The facility today employs more than 3,400 people.

Leah Casey, the spokeswoman for Chevron’s Richmond refinery, said in a statement that lawsuits like the local ones “will do nothing to address the serious issue of climate change. Reducing greenhouse-gas emissions is a global issue that requires global engagement.”

Butt said the city sued “out of frustration, because I know that these fossil fuel companies are aware of the long-term costs and damage of the widespread consumption of fossil fuel.” He said Richmond was already planning for the sea’s rise but had not yet calculated mitigation costs.

The suits are filed in state court under California’s public-nuisance law, which allows legal actions against activities that are “injurious to health.”

New York City filed a similar claim against five of the world’s largest oil companies in federal court, asking that the cost of mitigating damage done by the companies as a result of their contribution to climate change be charged to them.

The legal challenges also assert that the oil industry has known for decades that burning fossil fuels accelerates climate change. The Richmond complaint states, “The industry has known for decades that business-as-usual combustion of their products could be ‘severe’ or even ‘catastrophic.’

“Companies were so certain of the threat that some even took steps to protect their own assets from rising seas and more extreme storms,” the complaint goes on, “and they developed new technologies to profit from drilling in a soon-to-be-ice-free Arctic. Yet instead of taking steps to reduce the threat to others, the industry actually increased production while spending billions on public relations, lobbying, and campaign contributions to hide the truth.”

The slow unraveling of the decades-long industry cover-up of the medical harm from cigarettes turned the tide in the tobacco cases, according to Ann Carlson, an environmental law professor at the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law.

Carlson, who is advising some of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, said that courts will take into account the oil-industry-funded campaign to discredit climate science.

“That matters in California,” she said. “If you can show evidence that a defendant engaged in a campaign to obfuscate, it’s more than just a nice detail. Evidence helps.”

With much at stake, oil companies are pushing back hard. ExxonMobil has responded with a demand to depose lawyers representing the California cities and counties.

The company says it is a victim of a conspiracy and cities and counties are being disingenuous: When they issue municipal bonds, they portray risk from climate change as unpredictable, not the fault of oil firms, as the lawsuits claim.

The companies have also filed motions to move the cases to federal courts, where they believe there are precedents more favorable to them.

The number of the legal claims intended to monetize the consequences of a warming planet is growing. Carlson said greater scientific certainty about attributing climate change impacts to specific industries and companies has created a legal opening.

“The courts were uncomfortable that they couldn’t trace the harm,” she said.

California is the epicenter of so-called climate-attribution science, said Peter Frumhoff, director of science and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“There’s really a quite robust ability to characterize the extent to which climate change impacts have worsened,” he said.

Further, by collating data taken from oil companies’ annual accounting and national and international energy agencies’ reports, “one can then connect the dots and assign a cost. That tees up the question, ‘Who is responsible and who should pay?’ ” Frumhoff said.

“This is where the science is taking us, with increasing specificity and confidence.”

This article was originally published by CalMatters.org