The Public Policy Institute of California’s 13th annual poll on the environment contained a few surprises, but demonstrated that California is an increasingly blue state with a tight focus on the environment without regard to its potential effects on the economy.
The survey found a sharp 9 percent year-over-year increase in the number of respondents who believe the state needs to take action now to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Two similar questions showed that the 2,100 respondents wanted immediate action now.
Notably, well under half of the respondents knew about the state’s cap-and-trade program to reduce emissions—the proceeds this year are propping up the general fund and should go to more targeted uses next year. The results: huge majorities (76-80 percent) favor requiring automakers, energy companies, manufacturers and power plants to reduce emissions—no thought of the costs to the consumers.
The vast majority also supported land use regulations such as those established in Plan Bay Area. They also favored using money to support public transit and repave roads. Notably two-thirds of respondents were solo drivers to work—Perhaps, do as I say not as I do, was in play here.
One intriguing split: a bare 51 percent favored the Keystone XL pipeline that would carry oil extracted from Canadian oil sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast. By contrast, the same narrow majority opposed increased fracking to extract more carbon-based energy in California. Fracking is driving the dramatic economic expansion in North Dakota where the unemployment rate is tiny and there has been an influx of people finding well-paid jobs. The biggest challenge there is finding housing.
It’s likely that the Democrat-dominated Legislature will apply additional regulations to fracking, which has been going on for decades in California without mishap. States that have turned energy companies loose to pursue the advanced technologies are seeing lots of jobs and potential for significant additional investment from manufacturing companies that require lots of power. Natural gas prices have dropped significantly as the supply has soared.
So, California, like New York, is prepared to throttle if not stifle a proven technology because of environmental bogey men. Governor Brown already has required that one-third of the electrical power in California come from renewable sources and that regulation excludes the clean hydroelectric power from the dams around the state. As President Obama said during his campaign—electrical rates would have to soar—They have and will continue to. Californians, thanks to the woefully executed deregulation and the ensuing panic from then-governor Gray Davis, pay very high rates for both electricity and natural gas (how much has your gas bill gone down with a supply glut?).
The tradeoff: allowing energy companies to aggressively pursue fracking on the Monterey shale formation could result in 500,000 new jobs—well paying jobs. So, if they miss by a factor of five, 100,000 jobs in a growth industry that could lower energy costs is something that should be embraced.
It will involve legislators and the governor taking off their green-shaded glasses.