When it comes to introducing new energy policies and implementation strategies, almost anything is possible. In theory. Developing laws and regulations that affect the way people live, work and play usually – hopefully (!) – starts with good intentions and idealistic hopes. It’s part of the beauty of the California dream. We get to think big and dream big. But when it comes to making sure these same policies are successful and realistic for everyday Californians, we have to think about what the proposed changes would cost for our communities – and what we’re willing to give up, or ask others to give up, to make a policy doable.
Analyzing trade-offs is something we find ourselves doing everyday. For example, that all-liquid diet we read about could be effective in the short-term, but at what cost to quality of life or our long-term health? Staying up all night to finish binging the latest Netflix series could be fun at the time, but how will you feel at work the next morning? Trade-offs are part of navigating life, business and governance, but when it comes to energy policy, we’re talking about trade-offs that hurt lives and livelihoods.
A recent Los Angeles Times article put forth the question: “would an occasional blackout help solve climate change?” Energy experts, health officials and business leaders reacted accordingly: No. Former Los Angeles Department of Water Power Commissioner, Aura Vasquez, put it bluntly: “Someone dies every time we have a power outage.”
When it comes to energy policy, we can’t rely on theory or idealism alone. We have to deal with the facts and the realities. And when it comes to keeping the power on, there is no trade-off. Energy policies do not work if they require unrealistic, dangerous trade-offs for our communities.
Let’s look at a few examples. California’s 2035 electric vehicle (EV) mandate will aggressively force electric driving in the state. But the trade-offs for families, businesses and everyday consumers will be monumental. Longer drive times, more stressful road trips and painfully slow charging speeds due to a woeful lack of charging infrastructure is already making many EV owners frustrated. And high, unaffordable costs for most families and small businesses will place undue and undeserved burden on those who can afford it least.
Additionally, California’s zero-emission truck mandate will place higher costs on truckers and consumers alike, which means everything from groceries to clothes will cost more for California consumers and businesses. The zero-emission fleet mandate will also increase costs for delivery of public services, such as public transit buses, trash pickup, mail delivery and utility maintenance and repair, not to mention the goods, food and service delivery culture we all have become accustomed to.
Some California lawmakers want to force the replacement of all natural gas appliances and furnaces across the state with costlier electric versions. Imagine the economic impact of this on millions of California families and small businesses. State energy officials have predicted that the forced electrification of California’s energy needs will require a tripling of today’s electric power infrastructure at a time when we don’t have enough electricity to meet needs today. And additional proposed bans on everything from gas-powered lawnmowers to backup generators, boats and beyond are also on the table, limiting consumer choice, the safety of businesses and homes and recreational opportunities that families love.
So it begs the question: at what cost? Current energy policies need to be rooted in reality, and in tune with giving consumers the power to choose. Mandates and bans are ineffective because the trade-offs and lack of choice ultimately end up upsetting the public and severely disrupting lives and businesses.
There is a better path to reach a sustainable energy future that works for everyone, and that path includes embracing diverse energy sources to safely, reliably and affordably meet our energy needs. It includes incentivizing technology innovations from carbon capture and storage to lower-carbon energy sources like biofuels, hydrogen, renewable diesel and renewable natural gas. And it means supporting policy that is sustainable for both the environment and society. We all want a cleaner, sustainable future, and there’s a way to get there without such severe and disruptive trade-offs.