Californians' power bills to bankroll climate institute

From this article in the Bay Area Insider

“The California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday unanimously approved the $600 million California Institute for Climate Solutions, which will be paid for by money from ratepayers’ monthly electric bills, to the tune of $60 million a year.”

This promises to add yet another level of bureaucracy to an already bloated state government. This was a complete surprise to me, no notices of comments or public input ont his was circulated that I am aware of, and I get a number of those notices as well as getting info sent to me from a variety of sources.

As a Californian, I feel blindsided by this. Perhaps some civil disobedience in the form of sending in my power bill payment each month, minus that fee, with a note that says: “I disagree with and dispute this charge” is warranted. 

h/t Russ Steele

Here is the official press release from the CPUC:

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE PRESS RELEASE

Contact: Terrie Prosper, 415.703.1366, news@cpuc.ca.gov Docket #: R.07-09-008

CPUC ESTABLISHES INSTITUTE FOR CLIMATE SOLUTIONS

TO BUILD ON STATE’S ENVIRONMENTAL LEADERSHIP

SAN FRANCISCO, April 10, 2008 – The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) today created the California Institute for Climate Solutions (CICS), taking a bold and innovative approach to expanding California’s leadership on this most pressing of environmental issues.

The mission of the CICS is based on these essential pillars:

· To facilitate mission-oriented, applied and directed research that results in practical technological solutions and supports development of policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the electric and natural gas sectors, or otherwise mitigates the impacts of climate change in California.

· To speed the transfer, deployment, and commercialization of technologies that have the highest potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the electric and natural gas sectors.

“California leads the nation in aggressively battling global warming with our policies to reduce greenhouse gases and our ambitious energy efficiency and renewable energy goals,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “I applaud the CPUC for taking another important step by creating the California Institute for Climate Solutions, which will bring together the state’s preeminent colleges, universities, and laboratories to fight climate change.”

Commented CPUC President Michael R. Peevey, “Today we have embarked on another groundbreaking path to find solutions to the most pressing problem of our time. Innovation – technological and otherwise – is the key to alleviating the adverse consequences of climate change. The CICS will allow us to devise and deploy the most cost-effective solutions by mobilizing our financial and human capital.”

The work of the CICS will be directed by a Strategic Plan that will identify potential areas of research, maximize consumer benefit, and minimize unnecessary redundancy. The Strategic Plan will identify those areas of research and technological innovation that are most likely to achieve the greatest greenhouse gas reductions in the energy sector at the lowest cost.

The CICS will have a Governing Board that will be responsible for ensuring that it fulfills its mission. In order to retain CPUC oversight, the Governing Board will be co-chaired by the CPUC President and the University of California President, with seats reserved for the State Senate and Assembly, and the Director of the CPUC’s Division of Ratepayer Advocates. Other members will be drawn from other state agencies, universities, utilities, private firms, underserved communities, and consumer/environmental advocacy groups.

A Strategic Research Committee chosen by the Governing Board will be responsible for three main tasks: developing a Strategic Plan by March 13, 2009, and updating it on an annual basis; assisting the CICS officers in developing short-term and long-term strategic plans; and reviewing grant proposals recommended by a peer review committee.

The Governing Board will have the power to establish any subcommittees necessary to perform its duties and responsibilities. At a minimum the following subcommittees will be formed: a Technology Transfer Subcommittee to establish protocols for CICS IP rights and tech transfer policies; a Conflicts of Interest Subcommittee to develop and maintain conflict of interest protocols for CICS as a whole; and a Workforce Transition Subcommittee to study ways to support the energy sector’s transition to a carbon-constrained future through anticipating and preparing for changes in workforce needs. If the study supports having the CICS fund grants for workforce training, the CPUC may allocate appropriate funds.

The funding for the CICS, $60 million per year for 10 years, is an investment in California’s future and will directly benefit ratepayers, the CPUC determined. The CPUC has charged the CICS Executive Director with obtaining 100 percent matching funds over 10 years in order to maximize ratepayer benefits. The CPUC will maintain extensive continuing oversight over the CICS and will require two external audits – a biennial performance review and an annual financial audit.

The mission of the CICS is consistent with the purpose and findings of Assembly Bill 32, The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, and Senate Bill 1368, regulating emissions of greenhouse gas from electric utilities.

The proposal voted on by the CPUC is available at http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PUBLISHED/AGENDA_DECISION/81119.htm.

For more information on the CPUC, please visit www.cpuc.ca.gov.

###

Statement from CPUC President Michael R. Peevey,

presented at the April 10, 2008, CPUC Meeting

  •  
      o To devise and deploy the most effective and lowest cost solutions we must fully mobilize our financial and human capital. o Our state’s great public and private universities and the California based national labs hold vast stores of intellectual wealth.

      o We must focus this resource on developing solutions to the climate crisis.

      o And we must do it in a way that yields solutions that are truly used and useful.

      o The original proposal was circulated with the order that opened this proceeding.o The concept and plan for the Institute have been greatly refined in response to the questions and comments of stakeholders, PUC staff, other agencies and my fellow commissioners.
    •  
        _ Administer grants for applied research to develop new technologies and other practical solutions to reduce GHG emissions from the electricity and natural gas sectors or help with their adaptation to inevitable climate change. _ Promote technology transfer and speed the commercialization of these technologies.

        _ Explore the need to couple a workforce development function with the Institute’s core mission of applied research and development.

    • o It establishes the California Institute for Climate Solutions and directs it to do the following:

      o The decision dedicates to this mission $60 million in ratepayer funding each year for ten years, a total of $600 million. There is also a requirement that the Institute secure an equal amount in matching funds over this period.

      o The decision establishes the composition of the Governing Board, rules for governance of the Institute and procedures for ongoing oversight by this Commission.

      o And it requires that the host institution for the hub be selected by the Governing Board via a competitive, peer-reviewed process.

      o The short answer is that they shouldn’t- ratepayer financing should serve as seed money to leverage other public and private sources of funding. o Broad-based taxpayer financing would certainly be preferable.

      o But we cannot wait for the Legislature to allocate funds any more than the US should defer decisive action on climate change until China and India take action.

      o The fact is that the climate challenge breaks down the conventional inter-sector boundaries.o We have scoped the Institute’s mission narrowly in this decision, focusing it on the electricity and natural gas industries.

      o We also require the development of a Ratepayer Benefit Index and its use in evaluating grant applications.

      o I would prefer to see the mission scoped more broadly as it is clear that the lowest cost GHG reduction opportunities are not all within the electric and gas sectors. Electric and gas customers can benefit from identifying and exploiting opportunities in other sectors of the economy and in locales beyond California.

      o There is no bright line to be drawn here.

      o I hope that we will be able to broaden the Institute’s mission as we attract funding from other sources beyond utility ratepayers.

  • · As many of you have heard me say, the global climate crisis is the defining environmental challenge of our time. In the words of Dr. Pachauri, Chair of the IPCC, “We have a very short window for turning around the trend we have in rising greenhouse gas emissions. We don’t have the luxury of time.” I believe that history will judge us on how we face up to this test. This state, historically, has been an environmental leader.

    · With this item, it is our turn, again, to take bold and immediate action.

    · Innovation-technological and otherwise-is the key to alleviating the adverse consequences of climate change.

    · With this in mind, I asked UC last year to prepare a proposal for a California Institute for Climate Solutions.

    · The decision before us today is the culmination of that process.

    · Some have asked: Why should utility rate-payers alone pay for the institute?

    · Some have said the scope of the Institute’s mission should be limited to topics that will directly benefit electric and gas ratepayers. Others have said that the scope should be broad, encompassing all aspects of the climate challenge facing our state.

    · Some of you have asked, why the hurry? Former Vice President Al Gore, in his Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance speech last year, underscored the need for bold and timely action:

    “These are the last few years of decision, but they can be the first years of a bright and hopeful future if we do what we must. 

    `The way ahead is difficult.  The outer boundary of what we currently believe is feasible is still far short of what we actually must do. 

    “That is just another way of saying that we have to expand the boundaries of what is possible. In the words of the Spanish poet, Antonio Machado, “Pathwalker, there is no path. You must make the path as you walk.”

· Today we have an opportunity to blaze one of many new paths to solve the climate challenge. I hope we can all join in this endeavor.

· Before I move the item I would like to offer my thanks to the people who have worked to develop the concept for the Institute and to craft today’s decision.

    o ALJ Carol Browno Sach Constantine and Scott Murtishaw of Energy Division

    o My Chief of Staff, Nancy Ryan

    o And My Legal Advisor, Jack Stoddard.

    o I would also like to offer special thanks to Commissioner Chong for her yeoman service in shepherding this decision through the final stages of edits.

    o And, I particularly want to thank our Governor, who has been supportive from the start.

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45 thoughts on “Californians' power bills to bankroll climate institute

  1. Perhaps some civil disobedience in the form of sending in my power bill each month, minus that fee, with a note that says: “I disagree with and dispute this charge” is warranted.
    Anthony, I believe that’s what the whole debate is eventually going to come to: CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE — massive and loud with our hands firmly clasped around our wallets. Back in the 90’s our local talk radio station carried the G. Gordon Liddy Show. Gordon frequently used a word that describes the type of effort you note: “NITWITTERY!”

  2. Don’t rate changes require public hearings in California? This is the mechanism that stops the weasels from taking every last cent in other states.
    REPLY: Yes they do, but I and many others that watch these things never saw a peep about it.

  3. The notification was on a small slip of paper, stuffed into everyone’s PG&E / SCE bill, some time back.

  4. They’re overplaying their hand. It’s just a matter of time before all this comes home to roost.

  5. …some lawmakers and consumer groups had lined up against it, calling it an unfair tax.
    The plan does not require approval of the governor or Legislature.
    Board member John Bohn was among those wary of the plan, saying it pushes the boundaries of the board’s legal jurisdiction ‘”almost to the breaking point. ” — AP

    This is becoming more & more commonplace across the country: using utility companies to implement a tax increase instead of going through the usual channels. Once it started where I live, the floodgates opened: county fire protection, mosquito/rodent control fees, storm water fees….maybe a climate commission is next for us as well.
    No one here has stopped these fees from being added to my utility bill every month. I’m not surprised to hear about this at all.
    The first course of action should be to challenge the board’s legal jurisdiction. One of their own even publicly admitted it was pushing the limits of their authority.

  6. Hi,
    Can you believe this. Wasting more money on pet projects. Here in Orange County they cut over 1000 teachers because of budget cuts. Put more kids on the street and then when they turn to crime spend $50000.00 to keep them in jail. We need change the government here. I don’t care if they are left or right just vote some else into their spot. Teach them a lesson. Thats just my opinion.

  7. Sad to see socialist insanity isn’t restricted to north of the US border. Canuckistan really isn’t that far off the mark. Californistan?!?!

  8. Lately I’ve pondered whether we should unexpectedly, but about every 15 years, put all politicians in office in prison for 10 years and hold new elections.

  9. This reminds me of a PG&E advertisement I heard this morning stating they plan to move to 60% non-green-house-gas-emitting-power-generation by-2010.
    Traslation: we Californians can look forward to higher ernergy bills. Their slogan is particularly appropriate, “We can do this.”, as in we can charge you more money and make higher profits by claiming we’re compating global warming. No wonder big bussiness is getting behind the global warming political movement. It’s the profits stupid.
    http://www.wecandothis.com/

  10. Disturbing, Anthony. Doesn’t look like there’s any way of stopping them. A done deal. Everything in place, they hit the ground running and acting like they’ve already been doing the State’s business.
    It would be interesting to know how much private sector business California will chase out of the state with prohibitive regulations. Loss of tax revenues in excess of the annual $60 million budgeted for the CICS ?

  11. There’s a word for a “fee” that goes to government programs; that word is “tax.” They’d have a hard time justifying even a simple majority vote passage for this one.
    Another legislator wants a 1400% increase on beer taxes. Still another is demanding a 25¢ per bag charge for plastic bags at the grocery store. The Queen goddess Califa is demanding more sacrifice from her loyal captives.
    And don’t even get me started on our water czars. A normal year and still cries of impending disaster.
    The $18.8b shortfall is finally starting to be grasped.

  12. Write to Arnie and your state congress critters and tell them to repeal the legislation that created the CICS. Tell them you will vote them out of office if they don’t. Then make good on that promise.
    Well that’s the way it’s supposed to work but it won’t work because Californians like other American have become brain dead sheep who will do whatever Al Gore tells them to do.
    Global warming has become a religion and Al Gore is the prophet. People accept whatever he says on blind faith. Anyone who doesn’t believe is labeled a heretic. In that religion count me as a heretic.

  13. Note that it is not about climate “science”. That has already been decided. It is about climate “solutions”.

  14. David S said:
    “Write to Arnie and your state congress critters and tell them to repeal the legislation that created the CICS. Tell them you will vote them out of office if they don’t. Then make good on that promise. ”
    Quite often this is easier done than anticipated. In my neck of the woods in Northern Illinois, we took the bull by the horns and tossed out a very entrenched mayor in spite of his support by all the media, special interest groups, and other politicians. We then tossed out an entrenched state senator, the entire Township board, a sheriff, and several dog catcher types.
    How did we do this? We made an end run around the media and published our own monthly bulletin called “Grassroots America” which educated all on the eligible voters list on the machinations going on behind their backs. In the process, we gained over 13,000 email addies which let us do a more effective, inexpensive, and timely job.
    It CAN be done! That’s why blogs like this are so damn important. By the way, it doesn’t take many. All the above was done by a core group of five (5)! That’s right, five!
    My sister-in-law and her husband live just outside of San Fran and don’t have a clue what’s going on around them. They’re simply too busy with all the constraints placed on their lives: PTA meeting, working, housekeeping, homework, schedules, shopping, etc., etc.
    It can be done, don’t ever think otherwise! Need I say Gray Davis?
    Jack Koenig, Editor
    The Mysterious Climate Project
    http://www.climateclinic.com

  15. It is about climate “solutions”.
    I know you’re saying this somewhat tongue-in-cheek, Evan, but truth be known, if it really were about solutions, most everyone would be on board. If credible scientists were to present credible evidence (not even irrefutable, just credible) that certain actions by humans would result in some measurable benefit to civilization — heck, who wouldn’t support that?
    Now someone correct me if I’ve missed something over the last 10 or 15 years, but the only thing I’ve ever read about solutions was an admission by the the very ones who are sounding the alarm that, were it to be signed and adhered to by every nation on the planet, the Kyoto Accords would have an almost unmeasurable effect on global temperature, in spit of costing the world economy hundreds of billions of dollars.

  16. I just saw that the new the Lieberman-Warner CO2 bill is expected to increase federal revenues by $1.2 trillion over ten years starting in 2009. That is approximately half of what would be required to go to a nuclear/methanol economy – the difference being that if we went to that economy, we could pay back that $1.2 trillion in about the same length of time. There was a recent discussion here on nuclear – it seemed mixed. Here’s a few facts (from someone who started his PhD program in nuclear engineering, before the program was canned because there was no future in it…)
    The upper bound cost of nuclear is about $2500/KW – that was Diablo Canyon where the initial design was from PG&E employees, used to designing oil based power plants. Current cost estimates for a gas cooled Gen IV reactor are about $1500/KW.
    It would take 1000 1GW plants to produce the oil equivalent of methanol for the US (plants could be built as 10 GW installations)
    It would take 15 years to put this into place.
    In the end, we would be completely energy self sufficient, we would reduce our CO2 output by 1/3, and we could even be heading in the direction of being net energy producers.
    The equivalent wind cost is ~$7500/KW (equivalent – assumes wind is 1/3 up time)
    For solar, ~$20000/KW (equivalent – assumes sun is 1/4 up time).
    I mentioned these as talking points to a colleague, who responded that there is no silver bullet – my response was, no silver bullet you like. But there is one, nonetheless.
    I’m agnostic on AGW. I think the evidence is contradictory, the models stink (most are run at 300 km grid sizes – a size where they haven’t reached their numerical asymptote, i.e., the point at which the models output do not change – that grid size is in the 50 to 75 km range…) the historical record is poor, and as Anthony has pointed out, the “experimental” data has huge uncertainties and biases rendering it mostly useless. But I think we’re better off making our energy from a source that is immune from speculator’s price fixing. Wouldn’t it be better if we made energy like it was a car? Completely engineered?

  17. McGrats, you said;
    “… In my neck of the woods in Northern Illinois, we took the bull by the horns and tossed out a very entrenched mayor in spite of his support by all the media, special interest groups, and other politicians. We then tossed out an entrenched state senator, the entire Township board, a sheriff, and several dog catcher types.”
    You’re my hero!

  18. If it’s about ‘solutions’ then make them set targets. When they fail to meet the targets, THEY and not the taxpayers, suffer the consequences – dissolution of CICS. You have to do this by legislation and you have to watchdog it. The public will act if there’s a failure that’s costing them, but only when they know about it. A nebulous bureaucracy will never be defeated.

  19. “· To facilitate mission-oriented, applied and directed research that results in practical technological solutions and supports development of policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the electric and natural gas sectors, or otherwise mitigates the impacts of climate change in California.”
    This is absolutely asinine. There is absolutely nothing this group is going to do that will reduce the production of CO2 in China which will have the greatest impact on CO2 change in California. There is no evidence that greenhouse gas emissions even have an impact on climate change and are not, in fact. a PRODUCT OF climate change rather than a cause of it.
    Absolute idiotic. I, too, am a Californian. This absolutely MUST STOP. It is a foolish waste of taxpayer’s money.

  20. Looks like real estate values will start to go up here in Florida as Californians begin to understand that we have no state income tax and they can buy 5 times the home with the same money. Now if we could only get the bozos in charge to start to desalinate we might even have enough water for everyone.
    California is headed to becoming Detroit West.

  21. Tom in Florida, I live on the Mississippi Coast. I’ve always been under the impression that Florida was aflot on spring water. I’ve seen Wakulla Springs where it empties into Apalachicola Bay. Seems like a waste for all that pure clean water to free flow like that. I’m sure the oysters and scallops love it, tho.

  22. on this most pressing of environmental issues.
    What’s creepy is the NewSpeak. A problem 50 to 200 years in the future (maybe?) becomes the ‘most pressing’ issue.
    Post-modern science, where words mean whatever I say they mean.

  23. To: Mike From Canmore,
    Technically it is National Socialism not Socialism. I can hardly wait to see the televised nighttime torchlight formation marches from the Rose Bowl overseen by the Führerator. It will have to be by torchlight because Californians’ will not have any electricity.
    Mike

  24. Joe S,
    It’s true that area of Florida has lots of springs however most of the populated areas take water from the aquifers. A large portion of that water usage is for irrigation. After several years of less than normal rainfall our water levels are low. This is the down side to no hurricanes or tropical storms in the last two years, not enough rainfall to fully replenish what we take out. I’m hoping for three <60 MPH tropical storms this year, one in July, one in August and one in September each delivering about 10-12 inches of rain over a large portion of the state. Come to think of it, this is a good example of how we sometimes damn nature for being destructive to our infrastructure and forget about the other beneficial effects of a natural processes.

  25. California is going to “energy independence” itself out of existence. Instead of making plans for a growing demand for energy, they are relying on “nega”-watts, renewable energy, and aging plants for their future energy needs.

  26. Brenden,
    I hope you stick around. We’ve only just begun to discuss the evolution of energy here, and IMHO, it is an extremely important ingredient in the overall debate. It sounds like you have something to contribute.

  27. I read and enjoy Anthony Watts’ blog every day – more often than I read climateaudit or Pielke’s blog. He’s a great guy with a great project, and I will continue to see where it takes him.
    I contrast the comments I see here with the “planetgore” blog who generally seem elitist and disparaging of any concept except “oil” and the pure market. As someone who has worked with both the oil companies and with market systems (and regulations) I realize that sometimes you have to give a little. Oil ain’t bad – its given our population freedoms and comforts that the kings of old could only dream about – but there’s more out there than oil.
    An example: there is a push to make all new cars flexfueled, which would allow much greater flexiblility in sources of fuel. The concept is pushed by Anthony Zubrin, a PhD in nuclear engineering, as well as others. His concept is that a flex fuel vehicle could make use of methanol (or ethanol), of which methanol is easy to make fromabundant coal. The cost is ~$100/vehicle. In contrast, the new CAFE standards will cost thousands – and really only have support because of increasingly expensive oil supplies. So – which is the better course – make a small regulatory requirement or a large one? Unfortunately, much as we would love to have all out concepts accepted without opposition, politics is a long game of chess that never ends, and sometimes small allowances lead to great results. The clean air act which required a change in how manufacturers made automobile fuel injection systems has drastically cleaned up the air. Was that a bad regulation? I don’t think so… (Although MTBE was)
    planetgore however has focused like a dog with its bone on the ethanol issue – and then mocked Zubrin and others when Obama came out for flex fueled vehicles.
    My question is why does the acceptance of a good idea by your political opponents make it wrong? The cost benefit of a flex fuel mandate is obvious – we spend $400 billion a year on oil imports. Even if we could produce half our fuel from coal – or my preference, nuclear, we would be giving our economy a huge boost – much better than the ill advised tax “credits” coming our way – and produce multitudes of good paying moderate to high tech jobs.
    We need to look at smarter alternatives. That’s why I love Anthony’s blog. He and his readers are open to smart alternatives, and want to have a discussion about it. I’ll be there as it continues…

  28. Just so the free market does it and not via a wealth-destroying govenment program or mandate.

  29. See? What is exactly is a “wealth destroying gov’t program”? Is $100/car wealth destroying if the side benefit is that a whole new industry can rise? Perhaps you perfer the alternative – CAFE standards, mandated fuel economy, at several thousand dollars per vehicle, and a restriction of choices. This is what I meant by chess – you give up a pawn, and get their queen. In this instance, creating a method to develop an alternative fuel is a small issue. Not even Reagan was unwilling to make a small compromise to ensure that he had a eventual victory. Do you think that the clean air act was useless? SOx trading? Both those programs had to give a small gov’t push to get a desired end result. (I’m not by the way suggesting CO2 trading would work – the SOx program had trading occuring among groups of essentially equal partners – no such equality would exist in a CO2 trading world).
    FYI, there are already some flex fuel vehicles out there – but no fuel to use with them. And so without the fuel, they end up being unused. Building an entire new fuel production sector requires a market. So – what’s your solution? Are you unwilling to make a compromise? The unobstructed free market works pretty well, with minor adjustments. Its the burdensome adjustments that cause issues. $100/vehicle is not a big deal – several K is. Yet auto manufacturers often won’t do anything absent a push because it would put them at an economic disadvantage against their competitors. Even the prius is considered to be more a public relations vehicle than anything else (auto manufacturers, by the way, usually introduce new technologies on their top of the line vehicles – because of the cost, the hybrid is among the first where it was introduced in a bottom of the line vehicle.)

  30. The problem I have is that the “powers that be” continually frame policies in terms of “climate change” rather than “energy change” (or something like that). As a result “you” get the kind of reaction you see here on this thread — the CICS is a bad idea because the premise is objectionable. Had they framed it as a workgroup to investigate ways to ensure a cost-effective, health-positive energy future and stimulate commercialization of projects pursuant to that goal, would there be a similar stink?
    IMO, promoting renewable energy sources simply makes sense regardless of how “you” feel about climate change, because the cost of fossil fuels will continue to go up. As of right now, around 40% of the levelized cost of a new coal-fired plant is tied up in the cost of the fuel (coal) required to run it. In other words, they’re relatively cheap to build, but keep costing “you” money. Current policies in many jurisdictions around the country are designed to accommodate that situation — the up front costs are predetermined and financed with public bonds or some other similar vehicle. The cost of operation and maintenance (including the cost of the fuel) can be passed on to the consumer. That’s where utilities really make their money. And the more they burn the more money they make. So under such a model there’s no incentive to economize or to introduce a source which has a high up front capitalization cost but low O&M cost. That needs to change.
    Despite being touted as the traffic capital of the country, California has the lowest percapita energy intensity of all states (the amount of energy consumed per capita unit of GDP). It is dramatically lower than the average. And one of the reasons is that the allowed the utilities to decouple profits from sales. Essentially, they get paid according to how many customers they serve, not how much fuel they burn. So they have a built-in incentive to try to economize.
    I disagree with some of Brendan’s remarks (especially his numbers), but I agree with his fundamental thesis — that it isn’t a choice between policy and no policy. That’s impossible. It’s a choice between good policy and bad policy. And it’s awfully hard to form good policy by taking shots in the dark. You certainly have to have a framework to accumulate and analyze information. And I don’t have any problem with the idea of working with industry to most efficiently realize policy either. It’s done all the time. So to me, the question is… is the way the CICS is being funded appropriate? On that score I have misgivings. I do think energy R&D should be better funded, though. I’d prefer it be put up for a vote. But if it were, I’d vote for it. Because it makes sense.

  31. See? What is exactly is a “wealth destroying gov’t program”? Is $100/car wealth destroying if the side benefit is that a whole new industry can rise?
    No–if you can guarantee that outcome! But what are the odds, really?
    If it were as easy as having the gummint hiking prices by 1/3 of 1% to yield us entire new industries, no one would favor it more than I would. Heck, no one would have any objections whatever. But it ain’t, see?
    And, no, I don’t prefer the “alternative”! #B^1
    I just want the market to do what the market does best: create wealth and tech all by its lonesome.
    IMO, promoting renewable energy sources simply makes sense regardless of how “you” feel about climate change, because the cost of fossil fuels will continue to go up.
    There’s a demand crunch. But there are also humongous new discoveries. If the government would (mostly) get the heck out from under big oil’s feet (refineries and exploration), we’d all be better off: oil would be a lot cheaper and we’d all (including big oil) be a lot richer.
    And so without the fuel, they end up being unused. Building an entire new fuel production sector requires a market. So – what’s your solution? Are you unwilling to make a compromise? The unobstructed free market works pretty well, with minor adjustments.
    The free market is great at making big adjustments. As it did to oil in the first place. And to the computer. That gas station network wasn’t set up by the government in the first place–thank the lord! (or we’d be stuck with it till kingdom come).
    Yes, I am basically unwilling to compromise, given the unfortunate history of energy policy since 1975. Let the market do it. The companies that “won’t do it” will get pushed aside like all the others. The government is nothing but sand in the works.
    Even the prius is considered to be more a public relations vehicle than anything else (auto manufacturers, by the way, usually introduce new technologies on their top of the line vehicles – because of the cost, the hybrid is among the first where it was introduced in a bottom of the line vehicle.)
    Don’t get me started on THAT economic/humanitarian/ecological disaster-tragedy. Suffice it to say I do not consider hybrids to be conducive to the good of anyone or anything.

  32. Had they framed it as a workgroup to investigate ways to ensure a cost-effective, health-positive energy future and stimulate commercialization of projects pursuant to that goal, would there be a similar stink?
    No. Problem is, I don’t think they can DO it.
    Rico, I have much more faith in you than in the government.
    Since we last went back and forth it seems as if there is 400 – 500 billion bls in North Dakota–so far. That’s over half the entire mideast reserve. Yes, the new drilling costs a bit more, but there seems to be no lack of supply. As for “peak oil”, pfft! Peek and ye shall find; that’s my theory.
    Let the government eliminate taxes on fuel and windfall taxes on big oil if they want to see prices go down. The fact that big oil is only allowed to make a lousy, measly 10% on the dollar is the real scandal.

  33. Evan, I think you need to check your numbers. I think you’re referring to “total reserves”, not “recoverable reserves”. Or maybe you’re going with the most wildly optimistic assessments. Anyway, according to a just-released analysis by the USGS, recoverable reserves in the Bakken field are estimated at 3.65 billion barrels of oil, 1.85 trillion cubic feet of associated/dissolved natural gas, and 148 million barrels of natural gas liquids.
    http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2008/3021/pdf/FS08-3021_508.pdf
    3.65 bbls is a lot, but not a game-changer. To put it in perspective, the US uses about 20.73 million bbl/day (CIA 2004 est.). Assuming the entire recoverable reserve became immediately available, that represents 176 days of supply. And of course it will be expensive to get to.

  34. Evan: Yes, I am basically unwilling to compromise, given the unfortunate history of energy policy since 1975. Let the market do it. The companies that “won’t do it” will get pushed aside like all the others. The government is nothing but sand in the works.
    This article does a succinct job of explaining some of the ways that the government is already sand in the works. The article concentrates on the roadblocks that impede energy efficiency. Similar arguments could be made for impeding grid efficiency and obstructing integration of “intermittent” (utility scale solar, wind, etc.) and distributed (rooftop solar, backyard wind, etc.) energy sources. Good or bad, there are now and will always be policies and regulations in place. The problem is, the ones that exist now are antediluvian. And because they are the market forms to them similarly. It’s simply not a question of “leave the market alone and everything will work out fine”. It just doesn’t work that way. The article makes the point: “Whereas European and Japanese corporate cultures emphasize energy-saving as a strategy that enhances their competitiveness, U.S. companies generally do not.” One of the reasons they don’t is because they don’t have the necessary governmental guidance. Our energy policies, from the top on down, are indeed a mess. It’s time to get it right.
    So while I would have preferred the CICS issue would have been put up for a vote, I’d have voted for it in a heartbeat (in spite of the name). According to the documentation, that $60M/yr amounts to a $.35/mo surcharge on each electric bill. And it’s subject to 100% matching funds from private industry. And I’m quite sure they will have no problem getting the match, because it’s going to be a money-maker for everyone concerned. This is the kind of coordination that should be welcomed, not scorned.
    By the way… does anyone actually read this stuff? Or am I wasting my time?

  35. “Whereas European and Japanese corporate cultures emphasize energy-saving as a strategy that enhances their competitiveness, U.S. companies generally do not.” One of the reasons they don’t is because they don’t have the necessary governmental guidance.
    Yeah, that’s what business needs, government guidance on how to enhance their competitiveness.
    Now get off my lawn you little whippersnapper!

  36. I’m with Jim A., government is not a potential solution, but the crux of the problem.
    Cali and Mass are like canaries in our coal mine, and they are on their backs. Reform will be the litmus test in my remaining votes.

  37. At the risk of stepping on jeez’s lawn (have you considered changing your nickname to “geez”? lol!), you might want to check out this series of lectures. Session One is the one that most directly discusses how good governmental policy can actually save a pile of money — at least where energy efficiency is concerned. Check out the Concluding Remarks if you want to listen to the old man himself, Art Rosenfeld. He puts the efforts directed at energy efficiency in historical perspective.
    Granted, the seminar is not about the CSIS, but neither should the CSIS be considered in isolation. And granted, the various speakers spend a lot of time talking about “global warming”. But again, that motivation should not be considered in isolation either — all of the arguments hold up equally well without reference to global warming. The only thing the issue about global warming adds is a certain level of urgency. It should also be kept in mind that California has been at this stuff for years, well before global warming became popular. And despite the occasional bonehead decision (deregulation without decoupling in a predatory trading environment rates right up there in that regard), CA has an exceptional track record. They policies they have enacted over the years have saved piles of money — for everyone concerned. You just have to have a little ability to look forward to see it really is much more of an investment than a sacrifice.
    25-30 years or so ago I lived in Austin, Texas. I suppose that fact alone calls my whipppersnapper credentials into question (although I suppose the characterization itself is relative, lol!). Be that as it may, the fact remains that even without adjusting for inflation my utility bills back then cost me more than they do now, in spite of the fact that none of the places I lived while there had air conditioning. And let me tell ya, as a displaced Connecticut Yankee, that took some serious getting used to. The first couple of months I was pretty sure I was gonna die.
    Anyway, while I can’t speak for Massachusettes (I’ve never been particulary fond of that state), I think Gary Gulrud’s analogy of CA as a “canary in a coal mine” is very apt. And I think even he would agree that when you’re deep in a “coal mine”, canaries are worth their weight in California gold. We could quibble about how to weight the significance of the various motivations, but whatever it is the evidence has gotten rather overwhelming that CA is going to save much of the rest of the country from themselves, perhaps even much of the rest of the world, from mining too deep into a dangerous vein.

  38. Rico:
    FWIW, I read it.
    I’ll add that if USGS were right about fuel, we’d have been out of it by 1950. They have always been extraordinarily pessimistic.

  39. Evan, what else have you read? I mean seriously. I’m not talking about news reports — or worse, pundits and op-ed authors telling you how they interpret what you’re supposed to believe. What studies have you read? I’m guessing that if you went into it a little more deeply you might realize how truly flimsy your statement, to wit:“I’ll add that if USGS were right about fuel, we’d have been out of it by 1950”, really is. As far as I can tell (and please correct me if you think you can DOCUMENT that I’m wrong) , directly or indirectly, you are basing your entire argument on a poorly vetted source, WHICH ALSO HAPPENS TO BE USGS IN ORIGIN. So it seems to me you have a double dilemma: you eiher have to demonstrate (a) why your opinion is NOT based on ANY USGS study. Failing that, you have to demonstrate on some objective level (b) why you think the one you rely on is in fact more reliable.
    Just so you know, I’m virtually certain you can’t do (b). And even if you could, how would it help your argument? You’ve already said USGS is BS. As for (a), I’m almost equally sure you can’t find ANYTHING of any import (which is to say, some source other than editorialists, or pundits — including bloggers who just parrot what they’ve heard, especially if they don’t specify sources — or spokesmen for the companies involved) within the last five years or so to back up your argument.
    To tell you the truth though, I’m inclined to give company spokesmen the benefit of the doubt, assuming they are speaking for a publicly traded company. If they’re speaking for a private company, then all bets are off. If that’s the case, then they’re no better than editorialists, pundits, and bloggers. But if you can quote a spokesman for a publicallly traded company, you’re coming to a gun fight with at least a knife. If you can’t, well… be careful you don’t end up shooting yourself in the foot. And please pardon the mixed metaphore. But perhaps that concern explains why you have yet to take a shot at me, which is to say that never, not once have you ever documented ANYTHING you’ve said to me. I like you Evan, but I have to admit to a certain level of disappointment. You’re very good at spinning phrases, quoting verses, and offering metaphores. But to me, those things are tools, not product. Pardon me for dancing on the proverbial lawn again (and fracturing even more metaphores), but the way I see it, “you” might very well have the best tools in the shed, but it’s the quality of the product that comes out of the shed that matters.

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