California Needs to Consider the Energy Implications of SB 32 

Todd Royal
Todd Royal is an independent public policy consultant focusing on the geopolitical implications of energy based in Los Angeles, California.

For California still dependent on fossil fuels, and with renewables still years, if not decades away, our elected officials need to begin asking tough questions. The environmental movement admirably wants clean air, water, more open space and a host of other environmental measures that restrict fossil fuel exploration under the guise of protecting the environment.

All worthy goals, but what happens if the Iranian were to close off the Persian Gulf, or Strait of Hormuz? That stops oil tankers from entering or leaving this vital trade route, as Iran has previously threatened?

World economies from European capitals to Tokyo are in negative interest rate territory, and recovering slower than predicted. All of these issues have to be considered at the state level, and not only by the federal government.

The Iranians have the capability to close off major water and land-based economic trading routes, and that is what should give pause to California citizens and their elected leaders over the passage of Senate Bill 32 (SB 32). This new law requires the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions below forty percent of 1990 levels by 2030.

It takes AB32 and reduces emissions further using such tools as the controversial Cap and Trade auction, which has run into legal problems. Achieving these broad emission reductions using CARB as the policy and regulatory tool has far-reaching implications California legislators aren’t realizing.

As the Middle East is on fire, and the US military is now running afoul of Syrian warplanes; what happens if and when the oil and gas spigot is turned off in that part of the world? Russia, Turkey, and Iran are forming a dangerous alliance that is anti-western in nature, and could be a worldwide disruptive force.

Does CARB have the authority to unilaterally begin exploring for California onshore and offshore oil and natural gas if global actions warranted these types of unilateral movements? Or will CARB step in, and demand further greenhouse reductions and more renewable energy that are currently having problems? SB 32 doesn’t account for these actions, quandaries, or questions.

What do cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego along with the entire California coastline do to counter cloud cover and low wind for energy needs? Whether we like it or not, solar and wind are not ready to be a full-time source of energy; nor is the California grid at this time capable of handling electricity fluctuations both sources of renewables cause.

Most rational individuals want renewables to work, but the passage and now implementation of SB 32 has troubling aspects that don’t account for energy reliability threats that come from China, Russia, extremist non-state actors, and particularly Iran. Energy usage and availability has a causal relationship according to Kenneth P. Green’s book, Abundant Energy The Fuel of Human Flourishing.

Fortunately, California has many resources from which to draw upon. The question is whether our leaders will look beyond the cause de jour of renewables and emission reductions, and remember that solid economic fundamentals and prosperity begin with making energy available for all Californians.

So goes California, so goes the rest of the United States. That axiom shapes the US and the world.

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