Today, thousands are gathering in San Francisco for a so-called “Global Climate Action Summit.” Co-hosted by Gov. Jerry Brown, several UN organizations and other leaders, it is billed as a “launchpad for deeper worldwide commitments and accelerated action from countries.”
The conference will explore “transformational changes” that are the result of “new and creative policies and political will at all levels.” Speakers include the usual suspects – Al Gore, Tom Steyer, Van Jones, Jane Goodall, Alec Baldwin, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, among others.
You can expect that Gov. Brown and state leaders will pat themselves on the back for enacting some of these “transformational changes” here in California, encouraging others to follow the state’s lead.
Years ago, now-Congressman Doug LaMalfa debated former Assemblyman Lloyd Levine on TV over Levine’s proposal to ban incandescent light bulbs. Levine bragged about how other states were looking at the bill as a model. LaMalfa offered this advice to those in other states – don’t do what we’re doing!
I would offer the same advice to those looking at California for inspiration on climate change policy – don’t do what we’re doing!
Taken altogether, California’s unrealistic policies are increasing energy poverty, hurting our rural and inland communities, and imposing job-crushing burdens on the economy.
One policy that will surely be touted are California’s subsidies to purchase new electric cars, or zero-emission vehicles – as much as $15,000 per car. As PRI’s Dr. Wayne Winegarden found in his study “Costly Subsidies for the Rich,” this amounts to government playing car salesman as there isn’t a mass demand for buy these cars – even with the subsidies. The average price of the 10 electric cars with the longest range is nearly $42,000.
Winegarden also found that these taxpayer-funded subsidies are another giveaway to the wealthy and don’t really benefit poor and working-class Californians. His research found that 79 percent of electric vehicle plug-in tax credits were being claimed by households with incomes greater than $100,000 per year.
Another policy being touted is recent legislation adopting a 100 percent state renewable energy mandate (SB 100). Dr. Winegarden told Southern California Public Radio that these mandates will raise electricity costs for manufacturers and businesses, and will increase energy poverty in California – particularly in inland, rural, and poor communities (which are also hotter).
Data from the Center for Jobs and the Economy found that the average annual residential electricity bills in California were 22.1 percent higher in 2018 than in 2010, the year California began to implement AB 32. Comparatively, average U.S. electricity bills outside California increased only 2 percent over the same period. Commercial and industrial electricity ratepayers paid $9.9 billion more for energy from April 2017-18 than ratepayers elsewhere in the U.S. – using the same amount of energy.
This is in addition to the federal Clean Power Plan adopted during the Obama Administration to address power plant emissions. The Trump administration threw out this plan, but Attorney General Xavier Becerra is suing to have it reinstated. Winegarden’s research in “The Clean Power Plan’s Economic Impact” found that the plan would increase energy burdens for many Californians, particularly in inland communities if enacted.
These policies also hurt the Golden State’s economy and jobs. The latest figures show that California’s oil production dropped to tied fifth-highest in the country according to the latest monthly reports from the Energy Information Administration at 462,000 barrels produced on average per day in June. The state produced 508,000 barrels per day in 2016, and was ranked as the nation’s third-highest oil producing state. This has benefitted New Mexico, Colorado, and Oklahoma, which has seen their oil production increase while California’s declines. This hurts jobs in oil production and related industries and reduces tax revenue in oil producing communities.
PRI co-hosted a policy summit in Vancouver earlier this summer with the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University. Our summit explored how government “green energy” policies are threatening people’s individual freedoms, private property rights, and economic livelihood. Scholars, academics, and other leaders discussed how free-market ideas can make a real difference in safeguarding the environment. You can hear some of their ideas by listening to our podcasts with noted free-market environmental scholars Nick Loris of the Heritage Foundation and Marlo Lewis of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Those gathered this week in San Francisco would be wise to read some of PRI’s research and look to the free market as we chart our global clean energy future.
Tim Anaya is communications director for the Pacific Research Institute.