How Out of Touch Are Politicians When It Comes to Energy Policy? Posted by: McQ
on Monday, November 17, 2008
If you look at some of the statewide propositions, you'd have to wonder.
Take California, a state most people think of as being a bit to the extreme side of green, whether the reputation is earned or not. Given the following, maybe "not" is the more correct choice:
In California, President-elect Obama defeated Senator John McCain by a comfortable margin of 61 percent to 37 percent. But that did not help the “green” ballot propositions to pass.
California’s Proposition 7 would have required power companies to produce 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2010, 40 percent by 2020, and 50 percent by 2025. Despite the Golden State’s impeccable “green” credentials, its citizens nonetheless decided that an economic downturn is no time to increase regulations on power companies and drive up energy prices for consumers. Proposition 7 was handily defeated, garnering a mere 35 percent of the vote.
California’s Proposition 10 , the California Alternative Fuels Initiative, was supported by businessman T. Boone Pickens and benefitted from the favorable media attention Mr. Pickens has garnered. Prop. 10 would have used taxpayer money to fund research in renewable technologies such as solar, and given grants to cities and colleges for renewable energy projects. The Proposition also would have used tax incentives to favor consumer purchases of high fuel economy or alternative fuel vehicles, including natural gas vehicles. Prop. 10 failed with 40 percent of the vote.
San Francisco’s Proposition H would have authorized a municipal take-over of the electrical business in the city. Prop. H also required that 51 percent of the city’s electricity be produced from renewable sources by 2017, 75 percent by 2030, and 100 percent (or all that is “technologically feasible”) by 2040. Opponents ran a successful campaign to defeat the measure, focusing their efforts on the “blank check” granted by Prop. H, referring to its provision allowing the Board of Supervisors to issue bonds in order to meet the ambitious renewable targets. Even San Francisco, the home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, did not trust the city to run the electric grid and Prop. H was voted down, receiving only 41 percent of the vote.
The "green" President gets 61% of the vote but three propositions which one would think would fit right in snugly with the agenda the Democrats have been talking about for years get voted down by almost the same percentage as Obama garnered - 65% to 35%, 60% to 40% and in probably the most liberal and supposedly environmentally aware city in the state, 59% to 41%.
Those are whopping losses.
And check out Colorado:
In Colorado, the President-elect defeated Senator McCain 53 percent to 45 percent, but a ballot measure that increased taxes on energy companies was defeated by a wider margin.
Colorado’s Amendment 58 would have increased severance taxes on oil and gas companies by $321.4 million dollars annually in order to fund renewable energy projects, college scholarships, wildlife conservation, environmental clean-up, and water treatment. The Amendment was handily defeated 58 percent to 42 percent.
Those sorts of losses tell me that there is a fairly large level of skepticism out there concerning the necessity to commit to the vapor ware of "renewable energy" when it is clear that the targets set are simply unreachable with current technology and would most likely retard the search for traditional energy sources that are available now. It also seems to argue that there's a large amount of skepticism concerning AGW as a real or imminent problem.
And, interestingly, national exit polling seems to support those suppositions:
Nationwide exit polls showed that Americans overwhelmingly support increased access to energy resources. According to MSNBC’s exit polls, 67 percent of all voters support increased access. In addition to the above examples of regions that voted for Obama, but against the spirit of his energy policies, exit polls found that almost 50 percent of Obama voters support drilling for oil and gas offshore.
Oil is at a low right now, which takes some of the pressure off of the "drill here, drill now" mantra. But this is a temporary respite. Demand will grow again as economies expand - and despite our current crises, they will. At some point, we'll again face an energy crisis as the cost of oil heads back up.
I have to wonder - given these results - how the new administration will pursue it's goals ("green collar" jobs, billions into renewable energy research, renewable energy use mandates, cap and trade and no new drilling)? Or will it pay any attention to these results at all, instead assuming that being voted into office gives them license to pursue their agenda whether the people agree or not?
Based on the electoral results you cite, I’d say the correct tag for this is "how confused are the voters when it comes to energy policy?" because they can approve all the initiatives they want but energy policy comes from congress
One thing that really burns me about politicians is them talking about all the "green jobs" to be created like that’s a good thing.
It’s not. This is a case of the "broken window fallacy." If someone created lots of new jobs in a community by breaking every window in town, would the community be wealthier because of it? The answer is, of course, no.
The number of jobs created per unit energy produced for a particular technology is a good stand-in for a metric called "energy returned on energy invested" or EROEI. Each worker (and their families) requires substance and hence energy. Each worker then subtracts from the net energy available. Ergo, the FEWER jobs required per unit output, the better off the general community will be, as that leaves more energy for others. Incidently, it allows the workers to be paid more since they have higner energy productivity.
We could put half the adult population on treadmills to make electricity for the other half. Would that be a "green job" and would it make sense?
Perhaps a simpler analysis says that rather than this being a referendum on how green the voters are or how viable renewable resources are it was rather a simple demonstration by the voters of California that the state is broke and until the economy rebounds they don’t have the cash to invest in new infrastructure.
Part of the reason for the result in California was that even environmental groups like Sierra Club, Natural Resource Defense Council, Green Party, etc. were all against props 7 and 10. No significant organization was in favor of them.