Saturday, February 20, 2010

80 By 50 under California AB 32

It has become increasingly clear to me that some (perhaps many) proponents of AB 32, and therefore opponents of Assemblyman Dan Logue's measure to stop AB 32 until unemployment in California decreases to a healthy level, do not fully realize what AB 32 does. And therefore, the harm they are trying to bring about. Hence this post.

Below is a simple chart, see Figure 1, prepared from data presented in the AB 32 Scoping Plan. It is a simple chart, yet has profound implications. What this shows is how dramatically AB 32 will affect everyone's lives who either live in California, work in California, or depend in some way on goods and services in California.

Figure 1.
(click on chart for a larger view in a new window)

What the chart shows is the quantity of CO2-equivalent (all greenhouse gases), in Millions of Metric Tonnes per year (the left-hand axis), at three different points in time under AB 32. First, is the 1990 point, the single reddish-colored bar just above "1990." This value is just over 400 MMTCO2e, as carefully calculated by California's Air Resources Board (ARB) as the amount emitted in California in the base year, 1990.

Next, for the middle pair of bars above "2020," is the requirement under AB 32 that all such emissions be reduced at that time back to the level emitted in 1990. If nothing were done, that is, the "Business as Usual" case, the emissions in 2020 are expected to be just at 600. A reduction from 600 to 400 is about one-third, or 33 percent. Californians, and others who keep up with this, may have heard this reduction mentioned. A one-third reduction in CO2 emissions will not be had uniformly, indeed, ARB expects that some sectors of the state's economy will have lesser reductions, while others have far more. With AB 32 already in effect as to some of the 73 separate line items, and most of the others due to go into effect in 2012, that leaves 8 years (2020 - 2012 is 8) for the regulations to dig in. Perhaps the economy can withstand the price shocks that will occur (ARB admits that prices will increase). Prices for such universal and fundamental items as electric power (utility bills are going up, perhaps they will double), natural gas, diesel fuel, gasoline, and water.

This is a problem for at least two reasons: for businesses, and for consumers. For businesses, they can expect their power bills to increase as the power price increases. ARB bleats on about energy conservation offsetting the price increase, but that is a nebulous concept for most businesses. As an example, how is a welding company supposed to cut their electrical usage by 33 percent, and continue with the same amount of welding? It cannot be done. How is a machine parts company to do this, when all their machines operate on electric motors? What about a trans-shipment and warehousing company, such as those associated with the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach? The warehousing and trans-shipment company uses diesel-powered trucks to move containers from the ports to their warehouses further inland, and those trucks are not going to see a 33 percent reduction in diesel consumed, even if each has the latest streamlining features. They may see a 10 percent reduction in fuel. Not nearly good enough. Then, in the warehouses, there are forklifts to move pallets of goods around, very likely burning CNG or compressed natural gas. Again, no reduction of 33 percent in fuel used.

Now for the grim part. The last pair of bars, above "2050," shows what California must do to meet the "80 by 50" portion of the regulations. "80 by 50" means that by 2050, emissions must be reduced to 80 percent below the 1990 level. The Business as Usual case (the dark red bar) for 2050 is just over 1200, yet the regulations require emissions of only 87, as shown by the pale bar. That is a 93 percent reduction. Californians will be allowed only 7 percent of the emissions compared to what would ordinarily occur without such regulations. And that, my friends and readers, is a problem. It is a problem because no society, ever, not in all of history, has accomplished such a thing. Not even California with all its Silicon Valley innovators and green startup companies knows how to do this. How can I say this with confidence? Because I am an engineer, and not only studied physics and engineering, but practiced in the field for decades before learning the law and becoming an attorney. As I wrote here, there are certain physical limits to the amount of energy that must be applied and supplied to accomplish any given task. To believe that today's techniques waste 93 percent of that energy is naive. Our capitalistic society, with competition for customers, has long ago eliminated such wasteful techniques. As just one example, using cars running on gasoline, cars in 2050 must use only 7 percent of the gasoline as modern cars do. Modern cars achieve about 25 miles per gallon, and 7 percent of that means that number must be multiplied by 14. Cars, then, must achieve 14 times 25 miles per gallon, or 350 miles per gallon. Not very likely.

So, if we cannot reduce the energy applied by 93 percent, what are the options? Actually, there are two, perhaps the readers can provide others. First, California can reduce its population dramatically and all economic and social activity by 75 percent. Then the population will not grow, houses will not require heating and cooling, cars will not need to be driven, and CO2 will not be emitted. This is a very real possibility. Not very likely, but possible.

Second, California can use other means of energy, instead of fossil-fuels one can substitute renewables or nuclear. This means geothermal, solar, wind, hydroelectric, wave power, ocean current power, and bio-mass for electricity, and bio-fuels such as ethanol for gasoline and soy oil for diesel. The question is, can California do that? Is there enough renewable energy available in California and surrounding states? The answer, of course, is no. California has some wind generation, but not much room for growth there. This is not Kansas, or Oklahoma, or West Texas, where there are literally millions of acres with good wind. Even if California was covered in solar panels, there is no viable electricity storage system for times when the sun does not shine. We can do such storage, using batteries, but the cost would be very, very high. Power prices to each home and businesses would skyrocket, making California products and services completely un-competitive anywhere. Similarly for geothermal, there is not enough. As to ethanol and soy oil, there is not nearly enough water in California to grow the crops.

So that leaves nuclear power. That is a dead issue in California, as no new nuclear plants may be built per state law. Even if there were no such laws, nuclear power has the big four reasons for not being built: too expensive, too dangerous (especially in earthquake zones), produces plutonium, and produces toxic spent fuel.

In summary, this is what AB 32 requires of Californians. As far as I know, the chart above has never been presented by an official California agency or group. And for good reason; that chart shows the reality of what a few mis-guided, green-at-any-cost, carbon-is-killing-us-all people did to California when they passed AB 32.

Vote for the California Jobs Initiative, as passing that initiative in November will put a stop to AB 32, at least for some years.

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey

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