At roughly the same time the state Air Resources Board issued a rule forcing trucks and vans to transition from diesel to electric motors, the state moved closer to a policy framework in which new buildings must be all-electric. The smiling environmental lobby feels no mercy toward the poor, who will have to carry the weight of California’s obsession with eliminating more-affordable fossil fuels.
Within days of each other, Pacific Gas & Electric announced it “fully expects to meet the needs that all-electric buildings will require,” and San Francisco officials announced “legislation that would be much like Berkeley’s ban on natural gas hookups in new construction.”
“These are all steps toward the possibility that there will be a statewide policy after California officials decide on revisions to the state building code that would take effect in 2023,” The Mercury News reported earlier this month.
At the end of June, CARB declared it was going to “dump dirty diesel” and mandate today’s trucks be replaced with “zero-emission” models. Within four years, manufacturers will have “to transition from diesel trucks and vans to electric zero-emission trucks.”
Lawmakers, unelected bureaucrats, and activists are already congratulating themselves for their wisdom and foresight in forcing these policy changes, and confirmed their beliefs that they have impressed their counterparts in other states. But they won’t be harmed for holding “luxury beliefs.” Poorer Californians will.
Luxury beliefs can be defined as “ideas and opinions that confer status on the rich,” which tends to include quite a few lawmakers who enjoy their own brand of privilege, “at very little cost, while taking a toll on the lower class,” says Air Force veteran and Cambridge University doctorate candidate Rob Henderson.
There’s no way to better describe California’s rush to kill off fossil fuels by 2045 and run the entire state on renewable energy. Those driving the campaign are anxious to show their green bona fides and won’t be affected by the costs the way the middle and lower economic classes will be.
Electricity costs in California are among the steepest in the country. Residential customers pay 46% more than the national average while business customers’ rates are 69% higher. When cheaper natural gas is no longer an option, Californians will have no choice but to use costlier electricity that will be generated by more expensive renewables. With 18.1% of Californians living in poverty, according to the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure – only Washington, D.C., at 18.2%, has a higher rate – it’s a setup that will inflict a greater burden on a significant portion of the state.
Granted, some studies have concluded that all-electric homes would produce overall cost savings in nearly all cases, with only small increases in a few instances. But how will those numbers hold up under a structure in which electricity generation has fully transitioned to renewable sources, which looks as if it will be limited to wind and solar, making the conversion even more expensive? What effect will that have on the cost of power for all-electric buildings?
There’s no denying renewables have made significant progress in the last decade. They’re more affordable, more widely used. But a refit to renewables-only will still have costs. The toll ranges from “$4.5 trillion by 2030 or even 2040 to $5.7 trillion in 2030” on a national scale, says the Institute for Energy Research. While costs in California would be only a slice of that, the shift will not come cheaply in an economy that alone would be the world’s fifth largest.
Another factor that tends to get lost in the race to renewables is the question of capacity: Can California even feed itself? The state imported 29 percent of its electricity in 2018, and somehow, in a land sunshine, was the largest electricity importer in the country from 2013 to 2017. At the same time, says former Californian Chuck DeVore, Sacramento is “increasingly dictating energy policies” in the states that export to California, which will inevitably increase costs and cause “reliability issues throughout the 13 states in the Western Interconnection.”
Add the increased demand from all-electric buildings and trucks, and the rosy picture fades before the inevitable economic losses strip the bloom off entirely. Compliance with government decrees leaves fewer dollars available for the private-sector investments needed for economic expansion, as will the bigger tax bills needed to produce revenue to pay for the overhaul. It’s hard to understand why anyone would think green-all-the-way is a good idea.