Energy Cast is a podcast featuring some of the top experts across all links in the energy industry chain, including electric vehicles, renewables, generation and more! Jay Dauenhauer created the show and has been hosting Energy Cast for several years.
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California is the world’s fifth-largest economy, so everyone takes note when it endures its first rolling blackouts in 19 years.
Why California? Why now? My guest, Ron Stein, is the Ambassador for Energy & Infrastructure for PTS Advance, an energy firm based in Irvine, California. He has also written two books, Energy Made Easy and Just Green Electricity.
In the weeks before my interview, Ron had written two op-eds about California’s energy policy, the second concerning the recent announcement to phase out gas-powered cars.
Regarding the blackouts, Ron says the state imports too much energy from other states, about ⅓. They’ve also increased this dependency by closing a nuclear plant, San Onofre in 2013, and three natural gas plants in 2018. Ron says there are plans to possibly retire as many as five more plants.
“We have more people, more gadgets, and less power, he says. “And shuttering power plants that are providing continuous electricity, you’re supposed to have blackouts.”
Ron calls the large amount of power produced out of state “leakage,” in that the emissions are being produced there for power consumed in California. He says despite rules that were supposed to keep those emissions from being produced, he says, “We totally disregard that, and we basically allow others to produce our energy.”
Transmission fares no better. A wildfire in 2019 was caused by a transmission line. Ron blames forestry policy for it. “[Utilities] don’t have the authority to cut down dead trees, and they’re basically building transmission lines over tinder boxes.”
Oil and gas faces similar challenges. Despite a national shale boom, California currently imports most of its oil from foreign countries. Ron says the state has banned interstate pipelines, trucking and rail shipments California’s eastern neighbors. “California is an energy island,” he says. “To access the oil shale boom the rest of the country is enjoying, that oil must go through the Panama Canal.”
A recent executive order to ban all new gas-powered cars by 2035 could yield more unintended results. Ron says many Californians do not have garages for overnight charging. There are also questions about how to make up for the loss in fuel taxes. Ron also believes most Californians may opt to simply re-register their existing cars.
“In 40-50 years we’ll look like Cuba,” he says.
Part of this, he says, is the large number of low-wage Californians. He says high energy prices have led to a phenomenon called “energy poverty” California has some of the highest electric rates and gasoline prices in the country.
“The state’s Democratic leaders, with highly regressive climate schemes, have engendered and continue to inflict despair and financial hardships on the middle and lower-income workers in minority communities,” says Ron. “Newsom is doing everything possible to increase both.”
So how can California reduce costs and maintain low emissions? Ron says the latter would best be achieved by producing power in California rather than other states. With the most environmental standards, you can bet power plant emissions would be lowest anywhere in the Golden State.
In the interview I recommend All of the Above—more power plants (i.e. nuclear), interstate transmission lines and oil pipelines. Ron says it comes down to the policymakers.
“The real reason we have what we have is we keep electing the same people,” he says. “I would encourage the citizens to become more energy literate. And then, if they feel we have the right energy policies, great, keep electing the same people.” (This podcast originally aired in September 2020).
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Energy Cast Podcast is hosted biweekly by Jay Dauenhauer.
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