California Climate Leadership Benefits Us All
The “California is a global leader in combating climate change, but it hasn’t been enough” July 18, 2015[a1] article by CALmatters asks, can California get its emissions clean enough? We’d like to answer that question with a resounding “Yes!”. The climate bills approaching the legislative finish line now are great opportunities to strengthen our economy, our planet and our leadership. Big Oil is indeed doing everything possible to stop or weaken SB 350 and SB 32, and SB 185. What the article could have identified a lot more clearly are the awesome economic and health benefits of our clean energy future, compared to the dirty, hot and toxic nightmare Big Oil would have California forever addicted to.
Costs vs Investments
Like any investment, building our clean renewable energy future isn’t free—or IS IT? The lifetime ('levelized') cost of electricity from new solar and wind is close to or lower than the cost of new coal, oil or gas, and it's still falling. Forget waiting for 2050 to save money; you can have paid-for solar panels or wind turbines and get essentially free electricity by 2028, with no negative cash flow[a2]We can actually save direct energy costs if these bills are passed. Let that soak in: Save the planet .and save energy costs!
All renewable energy costs go down with technology and scale—so they pay for themselves faster and faster! It's time to double down and ban any new fossil fuel infrastructure—they are 40-year investments in carbon pollution, echoing Stanford professor Mark Jacobson[a3]. Household and utility-scale batteries are far better investments than polluting gas “peaker” plants.
Cleaning Up the Oil Mess
Oil and gas are far more expensive than consumer costs reflect. Fossil fuels cost all of us billions in tax subsidies—each year, nationally: $37.5 billion, globally: at least $775 billion. California directly subsidies $115 million a year, without crude extractors paying the state a dime at the wellhead.
Also, like an over-the-limit credit card, the completely unrestrained carbon and methane pollution that Big Oil, Gas and Coal create are hidden fees, fooling us into paying exorbitant extreme weather interest and pollution penalties. Those costs are compounding. Already, we have:
unprecedented temperatures (2014: Hottest year ever recorded, July 2015: Hottest Month ever recorded),
unprecedented drought, and
All dirty fuel cost evaluations, including those at the pump, should include the real social cost of carbon pollution, somewhere in the $37 to $220 per ton range. Once the true accounting of our oil addiction is made, the cost of continuing old dirty habits is clear.
The Lose-Lose-Lose-Lose Costs of Inaction:
Inaction = Climate Catastrophe: Environmental & Property Damage + Higher Food Costs + Greater Health, Safety & Pollution Costs + Fossil Fuel Costs & Subsidie
Climate Catastrophe: Environmental & Property Damage: Trillions. It’s hard to put a number to the total cost of all the effects: droughts, wildfires, sea level rise, mega-storm damage, habitat stress, extinctions, climate refugees… all with disproportionate impacts on the vulnerable. Snow pack loss threatens the world’s and the State's water supplies, not to mention the skiing industry. The US military says, “climate change poses an immediate threat to national security”. Ocean rise (with megastorm surges) will cost trillions, perhaps $100 trillion per year globally. $100 Billion for 1.4m ocean rise in California with a major flood event. [7b]
.Food Shortages & Higher Costs: Billions in higher (like 4x) food costs due to failed crops and fields that can’t be planted due to drought and heat waves, and more pests, causing instability. Ocean acidification threatens the whole ocean food chain![8b]
Huge Health Costs: Billions in tangible health costs already, from combustion pollution and heat stress, that disproportionately hurt vulnerable people, including the elderly and children. Truck routes and freeways are concentrated in minority communities[ref]. Add infectious pests, and pollution from extracting fossil fuels; it all leads to increased asthma and other diseases, with decreasing quality of life, and more ER visits.
Safety & Pollution Costs:Billions in costs from contaminated oceans, coastlines, watersheds and aquifers, from fracking waste, pipeline and wellhead spills, not to mention exploding oil trains.
Fuel & Subsidies Costs:Billions in the hard dollar costs of paying the dirty fuel suppliers, forever dependent on the volatile oil market. Why? Solar and wind ’fuel’ are free, and the fossil fuel subsidies should be taken away ASAP.
The Win-Win-Win-Win-Win-Win Benefits of Clean Energy Leadership Now:
Leadership = More Jobs + Cheaper Energy + Property Savings + Environmental Savings + Efficiency Savings + Lower Healthcare Costs
More Jobs!:Billions of dollars in clean tech jobs that are not offshorable. There are far more,far healthier jobs in solar, wind, energy retrofits, and clean tech start-ups than in fossil fuels.
Cheaper Energy:Billions saved using independent, clean renewable energy, with no dependence on the fossil fuel market. Solar and wind are essentially free once the investment is paid for. California can say goodbye to extra-high energy costs compared to other States. Imagine being a net power producer! We have enough clean energy sources to do it. That's good business, and creates a strong economy.
Property Savings: Trillions. Less ocean rise saves trillions from relocating or protecting coastal cities. A better climate means a shorter fire season, and more snowpack. More snow means more water, which means more productive farms.
Environmental Savings: Billions in an environment with more stable habitats, more surviving species (priceless, really), void of explosions and toxic spills from fossil fuel wellheads, trains and pipelines. No solar panel ever exploded.
Efficiency and Conservation Savings:Billions in lower energy costs. There are many examples: For example, electric motors are 3+ times more efficient than internal combustion engines, and they often last 300,000 miles. So electric vehicle energy costs are a fraction of gasoline’s—free if you own solar panels.
Lower Healthcare Costs: 100’s of Billions: Eliminating combustion pollution saves hard dollars, prevents illness and provides a better quality of life for all. Lessening killer heatwaves saves lives. More affordable food means a healthier population.
California Leadership Benefits
As Dr. Jacobson says, the primary barriers preventing 80% reduction in petroleum use and in converting 80% of fossil fuel infrastructure to renewable by 2030 are political and social. So, 50% should be very achievable. California “Can Do” spirit will make it happen, unlike Western States Petroleum Association front groups and Big Oil’s paid-for friends who say Californians “just can’t do” this.
The strongest final versions of SB 350, SB 32 and SB 185 will be a great step in California’s continued climate leadership, influencing the nation and the world. The question is really, will our political willpower be enough soon enough? Plenty of evidence exists that our clean energy future will both save the planet and save money. The only losers we see in the bright, cool and clean future pushed for in these bills are fossil fuel companies, who advocate for and profit by their hot, dirty, toxic, costly and, ultimately, fatal, “Business As Usual”.
With our unique global role, California leadership can change the world. By leading the way to a clean global energy future we can both save money and help bring the climate back toward stability, instead of chaos. California’s CAN DO unique climate leadership benefits us all.
[a1] “California is a global leader in combating climate change, but it hasn’t been enough“http://www.dailynews.com/environment-and-nature/20150718/california-is-a-global-leader-in-combating-climate-change-but-it-hasnt-been-enough
“Dealing with climate change won’t be easy” http://www.modbee.com/opinion/article29793676.html
[a3] MarkJacobson, “Dirty Energy, Clean Solutions Conference” Keynote Speech, (2014, San Francisco) https://vimeo.com/101105738
 Cashing in on All of the Above:http://priceofoil.org/content/uploads/2014/07/OCI_US_FF_Subsidies_Final_Screen.pdf Pg 22
 It's official: July 2015 was the hottest month on record
 California battles unprecedented wildfire, fueled by drought
 Estimated social cost of climate change not accurate, Stanford scientists say http://news.stanford.edu/news/2015/january/emissions-social-costs-011215.html
 The Cost of Climate Change http://www.nrdc.org/globalwarming/cost/contents.asp “$1.9 trillion annually (in today's dollars) by 2100”
 Pentagon Signals Security Risks of Climate Change
[6b] The Impacts Of Sea-Level Rise On The California Coast http://pacinst.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/21/2014/04/sea-level-rise.pdf
Also: SEA LEVEL RISE: THREATENED AREAS MAP
THE ECONOMIC COSTS OF SEA-LEVEL RISE TO CALIFORNIA BEACH COMMUNITIES http://www.dbw.ca.gov/PDF/Reports/CalifSeaLevelRise.pdf
 Study Finds Coastal Flooding From Sea Level Rise May Cost $100,000B Annually by 2100 http://ecowatch.com/2014/02/11/coastal-flooding-sea-level-rise-cost-annually/
 New Research Warns Of Catastrophic Food Shortages Due To Unchecked Climate Changehttp://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/06/23/3672339/society-collapse-climate-food-shortages/
 Climate change, wine, and conservation
 Health and Climate Change: Accounting for Costs
 The High Cost of Fossil Fuels (2009)http://www.environmentamerica.org/reports/ame/high-cost-fossil-fuels
“Between 1990 and 2006, 51 large oil spills in the United States resulted in the expenditure of between $860 million and $1.1 billion in removal costs and compensation for damages.”
 UK “Fossil Fuel Price Projections”
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/360598/DECC_2014_fossil_fuel_price_projections.pdf “2035: Low: 75.0, Central: 135.0, High: 190.0”
 Jobs from Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (2009)http://www.eesi.org/files/101909_jobs_factsheet.pdf
 Putting renewables and energy efficiency to work: How many jobs can the clean energy industry generate in the US?https://rael.berkeley.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/WeiPatadiaKammen_CleanEnergyJobs_EPolicy2010.pdf “An expanded technology analysis and envelope would include more up to date information on coal and natural gas employment estimates, further elaboration on CCS costs and employment benefits, and inclusion of ‘‘smart grid’’, storage, ocean energy and other emerging technologies.”
 Renewable Energy as a Hedge Against Fuel Price Fluctuationhttp://www3.cec.org/islandora/en/item/2360-renewable-energy-hedge-against-fuel-price-fluctuation-en.pdf
 Comparing Energy Costs per Mile for Electric and Gasoline-Fueled Vehicles http://avt.inel.gov/pdf/fsev/costs.pdf
 “Energy Efficiency as a Low-Cost Resource for Achieving Carbon Emissions Reductions” http://www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/documents/suca/ee_and_carbon.pdf “Energy savings potentials range from 8.5% to 26.3%”
 Benefits of Renewable Energy Use
http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/our-energy-choices/renewable-energy/public-benefits-of-renewable.html#bf-toc-1 “between $361.7 and $886.5 billion”
 Providing all global energy with wind, water, and solar power, Part I: Technologies, energy resources, quantities and areas of infrastructure, and materials