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Orange County Register


California's green reputation a mirage

January 09, 2009

By Max Schulz

At a mid-December news conference, President-elect Barack Obama said that his administration would look to the West Coast for inspiration in crafting its energy and environmental policies. "Consistently, California has hit the bar and then the rest of the country has followed," Obama said, referring to the Golden State's approach to green issues. "And rather than it being an impediment to economic growth, it has helped to become an engine of economic growth."

Obama's remarks, naturally, drew praise from environmental groups, which have long hailed California as a shining example of growing the economy while protecting the environment. They consistently tout California as a paragon of green awareness and a model that other states—not to mention policy-makers in Washington, D.C.—should follow.

The incoming president seems to buy into environmentalist delusions about California. That could have disastrous consequences for America's energy future and economic security.

California's environmental leadership is a mirage. Under the mantle of environmental consciousness, California operates a free-ride energy economy that relies on other states for the goods and services it refuses to produce at home. Green activists and left-wing politicians have helped spread the California smoke screen; they fail to see the folly of policies that require the rest of the country to be as unlike California as possible.

Take energy production. California imports lots of energy from neighboring states to make up for the shortfall caused by having too few power plants. Up to 20 percent of the state's power comes from coal-burning plants in Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Montana, and another significant portion comes from large-scale hydropower in Oregon, Washington State, and the Hoover Dam near Las Vegas. This energy colonialism is one of the state's dirty secrets. California gets not just the power it needs, but the smug self-satisfaction of having no coal plants located within its borders. Other states get the emissions, the pollution and other hassles of large-scale energy production.

The truth behind California's specious claim to be an energy-efficiency leader is another well-kept secret. The state has kept per-capita energy consumption flat while growing its economy partly because the mild climate in population centers like San Diego and Los Angeles minimizes heating and cooling costs. No other state is similarly blessed with geography and climate. More significantly, California's regulations have produced some of the highest, business-crippling energy prices in the country, driving out heavy manufacturing and other energy-intensive industries. Two decades ago, the state boasted eight automobile factories. Today, that's down to one. It's the same story with other industries, from chemicals to aerospace.

Yet, Californians still enjoy the fruits of those manufacturing industries—driving cars built in the Midwest and the South, importing chemicals and resins and paints and plastics produced elsewhere, and flying on jumbo jets manufactured in places like Everett, Wash. California can pretend to have energy consumption under control, but it has only displaced it.

The best exhibit of how California's energy smoke screen works in the real world is Google. Silicon Valley is the face of California's 21st century information technology economy; industry leader Google is the IT poster boy. Yet Google must locate its new energy-hungry computer server farms—the actual engines of its growth—anywhere but California, which is too expensive for anything but the company's headquarters. Google recognizes that economic growth is incompatible with the anti-energy and overly regulatory approach California has enforced for decades.

Let's hope our new president soon recognizes this as well.

Original Source:



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