While Al Gore ridiculously compares his global warming crusade to the battle against Nazism and Congress hastily debates a behemoth 1,200-page climate change bill, recent news from the test laboratory known as the state of California presages troublesome times ahead for American power consumers.  California’s Utopian Renewable Energy Mandates Already Threatening Power Shortages and Higher Utility Bills

If it’s true that “as California goes, so goes the nation,” Americans should be very afraid. 

While Al Gore ridiculously compares his global warming crusade to the battle against Nazism and Congress hastily debates a behemoth 1,200-page climate change bill, recent news from the test laboratory known as the state of California presages troublesome times ahead for American power consumers. 

As a consequence of foolish environmental regulations, California officials express increasing alarm that the state’s renewable energy mandates threaten widespread power shortages in the near future.  Blackouts, brownouts, skyrocketing energy bills – take a good look at your possible future, America. 

This warning to the rest of America has been almost ten years in the making. 

Over the past decade, sanctimonious California lawmakers have imposed increasingly stringent power requirements as part of their broader climate-change agenda.  By 2002, legislation required utilities to produce 20% of their power from renewable sources such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, biomass and geothermal by the year 2010.  By 2008, however, only 12% of California’s total electricity derived from such sources, and even this amount is misleading because 60% of that total originated from geothermal plants built long before “green power” became the latest fashion. 

Despite these hard realities, California lawmakers actually toughened the state’s already-infeasible benchmarks.  Following new laws and executive orders issued in just the past year, California utilities must now generate 33% of their power from renewable sources by the year 2020. 

According to a recent report from state energy authorities, this stricter mandate could double the cost of achieving the previous 20% requirement, at a total exceeding $114 billion.  In other words, even as California’s economy and fiscal woes reached crisis mode, lawmakers actually exacerbated these self-inflicted wounds. 

Blissfully oblivious to the looming collision between reality and environmental utopianism, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proudly proclaimed, “this will be the most aggressive target in the nation.” 

The repercussions are already being felt. 

State auditors announced that California’s energy mandates pose a “high risk” to the state’s economy, and the California Energy Commission warned of power shortages in 2011 if current trends continue.  Energy officials also report that the state will miss its renewable energy targets by five years or more, meaning that these laws may bring all pain and no gain. 

The sad reality is that California’s renewable energy mandates, in conjunction with draconian environmental constraints on traditional sources of power, have undermined utilities’ capacity to provide sufficient power to consumers.  Very few conventional power plants have been built in recent decades, leading to a classic instance of demand outpacing supply.  Additionally, these renewable energy requirements necessitate construction of new transmission lines and facilities connecting power sources to ever-growing California cities.  Not only does this impose even more costs upon already-strapped utility providers, but it also triggers the usual parade of new environmental-impact roadblocks, property condemnations, bureaucratic obstacles and other costly requirements. 

These converging realities are forcing California to re-learn the lesson that the laws of economics are no more mutable than the laws of gravity.  Namely, when you jeopardize power supply at a time of increasing demand, shortages and higher costs inevitably result. 

Although California’s reckonings may elicit snickers from those living outside the state, they sound an alarm for every American as Congress prepares to impose similar renewable energy requirements across the country. 

With the mammoth Waxman-Markey climate change bill that Congress narrowly passed on June 26, California’s problem may soon become the entire nation’s problem.  Under that legislation, all states would be required to generate 15% of their power through renewable sources by the year 2020.  What makes this even more alarming is the fact that only 4% of the nation’s electricity currently derives from renewable resources, compared to California’s 12%. 

Accordingly, under Waxman-Markey, the United States must somehow quadruple its renewable energy output in just ten years.  By commanding the very same sort of unworkable power supply mandates that California imposed, energy shortages and higher utility bills will inevitably result. 

This federal effort to do to the nation what state lawmakers have done to California is even more puzzling in light of the fact that scientific and public skepticism toward the environmentalists’ agenda is steadily growing.  Just this week, global-averaged satellite temperature data revealed that Earth’s temperature continues to drop.  Since 2006, the globe has cooled .74 degrees Fahrenheit, continuing a downward trend since 1998. 

Additionally, scientific opinion polls reveal that the American public is increasingly skeptical of climate change alarmism, and hostile toward climate legislation like Waxman-Markey.  According to Rasmussen Reports, 56% say they are “unwilling to pay more in taxes and utility costs to generate cleaner energy and fight global warming,” yet this is precisely what Waxman-Markey aims to do.  Further, 52% assert that it’s more important to keep energy costs as low as possible than it is to impose environmentalists’ agenda. 

As the climate change battle shifts from the House to the Senate, it is therefore critical that Americans learn from California’s example and call their Senators’ offices to express their opposition in no uncertain terms. 

Otherwise, California’s problems will soon become the entire nation’s.

July 8, 2009
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