California’s Continuing Brownout

Back in the late 1990s, when Willie Brown was mayor of San Francisco and right across the Bay Bridge Jerry Brown was mayor of Oakland, it was fitting to say that the Bay Area suffered a complete Brownout. And as I liked to remind people, Willie Brown defeated an incumbent mayor to get the job. That incumbent, Frank Jordan, had stripped naked in the shower with two gays on a morning drive time radio show in futile attempt to attract the gay vote. And as I liked to point out to easterners, Jordan was the conservative candidate. That’s how far gone California was even 20 years ago.

Nowadays Jerry Brown is back in the governor’s office, where he was back when I still had hair. And he’s vowing to have California solve climate change all by itself in the face of the Trumparians who appear poised to adopt climate realism. Brown says full speed ahead for California’s target of reducing greenhouse has emissions by 40 percent below what they were in 1990.

This is proving even too much for the mainstream media. The Los Angeles Times carried a long, skeptical feature story on the issue last week:

California’s climate fight could be painful — especially on job and income growth

By Ralph Vartabdian

Californians are likely to pay more for gasoline, electricity, food and new homes — and to feel their lives jolted in myriad other ways — because their state broadly expanded its war on climate change this summer.

The ambitious new goals will require complex regulations on an unprecedented scale, but were approved in Sacramento without a study of possible economic repercussions.

Some of the nation’s top energy, housing and business experts say the effort may not only raise the cost of staples, but also slow the pace of job and income growth for millions of California families. . .

“It is dubious as to whether the California goal will be achieved without large economic costs,” said James Sweeney, director of Stanford University’s Precourt Energy Efficiency Center.

He added that the enhanced climate change fight will likely lead to a less diversified and more fragile state economy. Meeting the requirement will require severe restrictions, far beyond those seen to date.”

Exactly what restrictions are not clear, because the rules have yet to be adopted.

The whole story is quite bracing and revealing of bureaucratic cluelessness, especially the part where regulators want cattle ranchers to equip every single cow with a backpack device with a hose going up the cow’s rectum to capture cow farts:

Air board scientist Ryan McCarthy suggested that new technology could help, and the discussion turned to an experimental system from Argentina that would capture gas in a backpack on each cow through a hose inserted into their digestive system.

“All of our jaws hit the floor,” recalled [rancher] Raudabaugh. “It is an outlandish scheme.”

The whole scene is even too much for the Juice Voxers:

California is about to find out what a truly radical climate policy looks like

. . . It’s hard to overstate how ambitious this is. Few countries have ever achieved cuts this sharp while enjoying robust economic growth. (Two exceptions were France and Sweden in the 1980s and ’90s, when they scaled up nuclear power.) The EU is also aiming for a similar 40 percent cut below 1990 levels by 2030, though they’ve got a head start.

And California is facing some serious hurdles. The state’s largest source of low-carbon electricity, the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, may shut down in 2025. The climate plan faces opposition not just from influential industries like oil and manufacturing, but also from a fair number of Democrats. Making things harder still, California’s signature climate policy, an economy-wide cap-and-trade program for CO2 emissions, is in legal peril — and last month’s vote didn’t help.

The stakes are enormous: Policymakers everywhere will be watching to see if California can pull this off. Getting a 40 percent cut will require more than bucking up wind and solar and putting more electric cars on the road. It will mean reshaping virtually every facet of the state’s economy, from buildings to transportation to farming and beyond.

I’ve heard no less a true believe in climate action than Cass Sunstein saying the California targets are crazy and won’t be seriously pursued. I think he underestimates the state’s insanity.

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