Jerry Brown Saves World Again, This Time With 100% Green Energy For California

Photo: Amanderson, Creative Commons 2.0 license

California, the fifth-largest economy in the world, is now committed to generating 100 percent of its electricity cleanly by 2045. Yesterday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 100, making it the second state (after Hawaii), to commit to phasing out fossil fuels completely in power generation. The move is expected to be great for the growing green energy sector and the development of carbon sequestration technology, but even better, it'll really piss off conservatives. Isn't that why anything gets passed anymore?

Brown signed the bill to coincide with the beginning of the "Global Climate Action Summit," an international climate conference in San Francisco attended by scientists, political leaders from around the world, and probably some very important celebrities who own electric cars. Brown is positioning California as a world leader in the climate fight, and proposes combining the state's cap-and-trade system for limiting carbon emissions with those in China and the EU. China even based its cap-and-trade system on California's, which we suppose may piss off conservatives, too.

The new law passed in the California Assembly in late August, with virtually all Democratic votes, although one Republican voted for it. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (who was good on the environment if nothing else) had written a letter encouraging Republicans to support the legislation, but it didn't carry much weight with them because they were all driving up and down the freeway in diesel pickup trucks, "rolling coal" in front of every Prius.

As the San Jose Mercury-News notes, the new legislation moves up the state's plans to go green, but those plans started 16 years back, when then-Gov. Gray Davis signed a bill requiring the state to generate 20 percent of its power from renewable sources like wind, solar, and hydro; subsequent laws have increased that percentage. And by golly, industry somehow managed to meet the goals, even though they keep telling us it's impossible because the sun doesn't shine at night.

Big surprise! The green power mandate also brought costs down, as will happen when there's a profit to be made in new tech and volume, volume, volume:

More efficient technology and larger projects have helped bring costs down. Between 2008 and 2015, the price utilities paid for solar energy dropped 77 percent. And the prices of wind contracts have gone down 47 percent over the same general time period, according to the California Public Utilities Commission.

Meanwhile, pollution is falling. Since 2004, as renewable energy has boomed, California's greenhouse gas emissions have dropped by 13 percent, even as the economy has grown by 26 percent over the same time.

The new law does include some wiggle room, since the goal is to reach carbon-neutral energy generation as soon as possible: The final 40 percent of California's energy portfolio can come from

"carbon-free" sources, including large dams, nuclear power and even natural gas-fired power plants, if they can capture and store the carbon in the ground, which so far is an unproven technology.

Get ready for rightwingers to insist this is impossible because the tech isn't on the shelf just yet. The nuclear chunk of the equation may or may not apply, since California is down to one remaining nuke plant, Diablo Canyon, which is slated to close in 2025; it remains to be seen whether any utilities will try to open new ones.

SB 100 was introduced by state Sen. Kevin de León, and was supported not only by green terrorist organizations like environmentalist groups and the clean power industry, but also by dangerous environmental radicals like the

American Lung Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the League of Women Voters and business groups, including the Silicon Valley Leadership Council, Adobe, Nike, Gap Inc., and Levi Strauss.

Oh dear. That's a lot of shoes and pants to burn. The law is opposed by the usual suspects: the oil and gas industries, utilities, and the usually right-leaning California Farm Bureau and Chamber of Commerce. Not surprisingly Republicans complained the new clean energy mandate will be terrible because it will result in higher electric bills for poor families -- the only time Republicans ever show any concern for poor people is when it might mean less money for oil and gas. (Hey -- maybe the state could subsidize energy bills as the transition happens? Oh dear, socialism!)

Opponents of the bill also said it's worthless because electricity production only accounts for about 16 percent of California's greenhouse gas emissions (funny -- that percentage has gone down in part due to previous clean energy mandates). But yes, transportation -- diesel and gasoline fuel for cars and trucks -- is responsible for 41 percent of carbon emissions. Obviously it would be much better to do nothing at all than to start in one sector and also work on reducing vehicular emissions, because what madness is that?

Tom Steyer, the billionaire greenie liberal hedge-fund manager, ain't buying that line of bullshit. He pointed out solar and wind are already getting cheap enough to compete with natural gas, and clean energy should continue getting more affordable, because tech has a habit of getting cheaper:

"The idea that somehow Americans and Californians are going to get stupid and we're going to forget how to innovate and the technology's not going to increasingly drive costs down is crazy," Steyer said in an interview. "Of course it is."

That sounds like heresy -- as everyone knows, the government isn't allowed to pick winners and losers in the economy, unless it picks Republican-friendly industries. That's how the free market works, after all.

But let's not be Debby Downers! With California -- and Jerry Brown's army of like-minded state, municipal, and international allies -- moving ahead on reducing carbon, there will at least be a lot of leadership for the rest of the country to catch up to once the Trump era is over. The rest of us need to work on making that part happen.

[San Jose Mercury News / WaPo / Photo: Amanderson on Flickr, Creative Commons license 2.0]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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