California depends critically on energy for our homes, businesses, and transportation, along with a commitment to a healthy environment and successful adaptation to climate change. These needs require balanced policies based on facts and sensible trade-offs.
California needs reliable delivery of electrical energy, day or night, sunny or cloudy, windy or not. California’s portfolio of electricity generation should develop toward an optimized balance of:
- A declining percentage of energy produced using fossil-based fuels
- Existing and expanded hydroelectric power
- Natural gas power plants
- Solar photovoltaic
- Wind turbines
- Geothermal production, and
- Safe nuclear power.
Hydroelectric power provides 15% of California’s electrical energy. Capital costs have already been paid. Hydro produces no greenhouse gases. Our planning for additional water storage in California should include for purposes of electricity generation.
Natural gas produces 38% of California’s electricity, and offers power on demand 24/7, with only modest greenhouse emissions.
Solar and wind account for 25% of California’s electrical energy and is growing. However, their power generation is intermittent, depending on sunny and windy days, requiring California to purchase enormous batteries.
Nuclear power has undergone extensive improvements in safety and cost. Many European countries obtain a large portion of their electricity from nuclear power, including France at 70%. It is time for California to expand safe nuclear power, adding to the existing 11% of its electricity California already receives from it.
Nuclear power has been supported by the past six U.S. presidents (both parties), including President Biden’s Administration that calls for “advanced nuclear reactors, that are smaller, safer, and more efficient at half the construction cost of today’s reactors.” Spent fuel is stored at various storage sites. A permanent underground storage location in Nevada makes the most sense geologically as the least seismically active location in the United States. This solution, however, was held up for years by Senator Harry Reid, when he was leader of the Senate Democrats.
California should support research into efficient batteries to store the electrical energy. However, the supply chains for lithium and other critical minerals are dominated by China, which has also purchased lithium mines worldwide. The U.S. must break this dependence on China by subsidizing mining, refining, and transport of critical minerals.
Similarly, energy independence from the Middle East oil producers is vital to national security.
Hydroelectric, solar, wind, and nuclear energy generate no greenhouse gases; but natural gas does. A carbon tax is a more efficient way of reducing carbon emissions than an arbitrary cap set by state government, even if the latter allows trading of carbon emission certificates.
While being a leader comes naturally to California, we must be realistic in noting that California’s contribution to greenhouse gas emission is less than 1.5% of the worldwide total. If California miraculously became carbon-neutral (at costs of trillions of dollars), greenhouse gas emission globally would continue at 98.5% of the current emission.
Climate policy must include “adaptation”, such as building sea walls, helping farmers and ranchers cope, building more reservoirs to account for reduced Sierra snow-pack, and bolstering forest management and public utilities’ efficiency improvements.
California can optimize its energy portfolio by gaining independence of foreign resources, reducing over-regulation, and establishing policy trade-offs that are common sense.