Climate

The Governor’s Climate Change Vision: Taking the Bullet Train to Bankruptcy

Submitted by Greg Gilbert

The 21st year of the 21st century finds the people of California at a historic slipping point. Our Golden State suffers from a generation of leadership without accountability. Politicians and bureaucrats got lost in their vision of the future, and they now threaten the future of nearly everyone who calls California home.

Their vision was theoretically to fight the existential threat of global climate change, but that plan has been corrupted by electric utility operators who stand to gain control of California’s energy market. It’s time to call for a clear accounting of what this will cost, how it will be paid for, and what we can expect as a result of this plan. Here’s why.

Our former Governor advocated for a high-speed rail system that has no path to financial sustainability, but his vision never bothered to account for reality. He accelerated a climate change strategy, despite clear signs that millions of Californians would end up vulnerable to paying for the unsafe, financially unstable operation of their investor-owned electric utilities. He sold us a vision when we needed a plan.

Since elected in 2018, Governor Newsom has moved toward implementing a policy that calls for the Electrification of Everything, without accounting for anything. Once again, where taxpayers are looking for details the Governor provides only vision.

Governor Newsom intends to fulfill his vision, despite that he has no idea what it will cost or how we will pay for it. Before this train gets one more mile down the track, let’s consider who is most likely to be harmed in the process.

Start with Californians who live below or barely above the poverty line. The electrification of everything (EoE) involves a gradual, forced transition from affordable personal vehicles to public transportation or higher-cost electric vehicles. It has already begun to require families and businesses that rely on natural gas or propane for heating, cooking, and hot water to purchase and use costly new electric appliances and heating systems.

There is no stated plan on how to pay for it but building a massive new utility infrastructure will inevitably cause substantially higher utility rates. And using more expensive electric trucks with shorter travel ranges to for goods and services will mean that everything from refuse collection to food prices must go up.

They won’t tell us what they already know about the consequences of this plan. And never mind that renewable fuels available right now can drastically cut CO2 and drop serious pollutants to extraordinarily low levels while saving us billions in energy, utility, and infrastructure costs.

For those who live in areas where their electrical service is subject to failure or is expensive—meaning much of California–the Governor expects you to live without electricity when the power goes out. Millions of people in communities under threat of earthquakes and wildfires increasingly look to back-up power generation systems, yet the Governor will have the Air Resources Board outlaw the engines inside those emergency generators. Even electric vehicles in those communities, including electric school buses, will be vulnerable due to the increasingly unreliable supply of California’s utility electricity. Rather than embracing available, affordable, ultra-low emission engines and their low-carbon fuels operating in everything from vehicles to emergency generators as a safe, resilient, and clean energy alternative, the Governor’s vision eliminates them while putting our communities at much greater risk.

For Californians living on fixed incomes, the Governor’s vision has a particularly disappointing lack of transparency. The cost of his vision is beyond the reach of any published budget and is not possible without much higher taxes on income, sales and energy. And all while our electric utility bills climb to pay for the billions required for huge investments in new, renewable electricity generation and infrastructure. Perhaps his life experience informs his imagining that we will also be adopted by billionaires who will pay our way on his vision quest. The hard truth is quite different, however—the financial consequences will hurt our most vulnerable citizens. The Governor owes all our citizens, and especially our most vulnerable, the truth about his plan and what it will cost each of us. And that means details with uncompromising transparency.

The people most able to pay for this vision have already begun to leave California. Well-off Californians are leaving our no-longer-Golden State by the thousands. Companies large to small are taking their jobs and hundreds of millions in the taxes they pay and leaving. These people seek a better standard of living and quality of life, bolstered with reality-based plans instead of gauzy visions. These people know that when the Governor has a vision with no identified funding to cover the billions in costs, it’s coming from them.

So now is the perfect time to ask some hard questions. Have you had enough of the vision-based leadership in California? Do you trust in the vision of a Governor who can’t answer a straight question with a short, clear, honest answer? Do you really think Governor Newsom can grasp the consequences of fulfilling his so-called vision?

Climate change is real and public policy to combat it will require objective, factual information that accounts for the true costs of decarbonization in the shift to 100% electrification. And while climate change is real, the much more immediate existential threat to California’s future is our Governor’s intention to hand over our future to an unreliable collection of electric utility monopolies.

Rather than relying on a vision for the privileged few, there is a better way forward. It is to use proven, affordable technologies available today. Proven technologies and renewable fuels will provide healthy air quality, and extraordinarily low emissions—right now. Unfortunately, in the Governor’s electrification vision those options must be eliminated, and with them go the emissions reductions that can be achieved sooner and at far lower cost than the “electrification of everything” will make possible even 10 – 15 years from now.

Photo by Paul Kitagaki Jr/The Sacramento Bee via AP