Leafs and Volts

In the last week I have seen six (Nissan) Leafs and three (Chevy) Volts in my area. I’m in Redwood City/Menlo Park, in the Silicon Valley area, so you would expect more rapid adoption of electric cars. (The very first Leaf sold in the United States was in Redwood City.) But still, this is more than I expected and a lot of the Leafs still have the dealer plates. So they were probably back-ordered and a shipment just arrived.
My aunt is considering buying a Leaf. I’m thinking of getting the new Ford Focus Electric. We have a 2007 Focus, and we love it. My Honda Accord is 11 years old now… and the electric Focus comes out soon…
Here’s the thing about electric cars. Have you ever had to repair your refrigerator motor? Almost the only maintenance you’ll ever need on an electric car is replacing tires and lubricating bearings. There is no water pump. There is no timing belt. No valves to adjust. No fuel filter. No oil changes. No exhaust system…
One more thing: Ford and SunPower announce deal to bundle electric cars with rooftop solar power Ford has teamed up with our own SunPower to offer a special deal on a rooftop solar system. The system doesn’t directly charge the car — the system feeds power into the grid during the day and you charge the car at night from the grid. You could make a profit on the power, by the way, if you only count the car-charging, but it will knock down your electric bill enough to pay for itself either way. From the story,

The “Drive Green for Life” program is designed to provide the cars’ owners the opportunity to fuel their vehicles with clean energy and have a carbon-free driving experience.
SunPower will offer a 2.5-kilowatt rooftop system, which should provide enough electricity to fuel an electric car that travels about 1,000 miles per month, for less than $10,000, after the federal tax credit. Typically, SunPower charges at least $18,000 for a system of that size.
“This is a great opportunity to take solar mainstream,” said SunPower CEO Tom Werner. “We’re thrilled to provide electric car owners with a clean source of fuel.”

So here we are, finally getting away from being tied to the oil system and the (literally) centralized power structure.
Update – Saw two more Leafs just this evening.

What Do They Expect For Their Money?

Just in case you were wondering who has a stake in the outcomes of this election, what do you think they will expect after giving such an incredible amount of money as we are seeing in this election?

Prop 23 kills California’s energy law, which is triggering so many “clean energy” startups that are competing with the giant oil companies.  Prop 26 kills the state’s ability to impose fees on polluters.

Continue reading

Deceptive Mailer: Vote For Greener California

There is a mailer reaching California’s voters titled Vote for a Greener California, with a label that says “Californians Vote Green.”

This mailer is deceptive.  It says to vote for Proposition 16, the “PGE Initiative.”  This is a paid endorsement, and is designed to trick people into thinking there is an environmental reason to vote for a proposition that actually keeps people from being able to buy green energy. The California Secretary of State’s website shows that PGE paid $40,000 to be part of this mailer:  (While you’re there, look how much they paid for “Petition Circulating.”)


Please do not be fooled by this mailer.  Speak Out California recommends voting no on Proposition 16.  It is a proposition that enforces PG&E’s monopoly if it passes. 
Others have noticed this mailer.  At Calitics see Warning: Fraudulent(?) Mailer, and Prop. 16, Slate Mailers, and Voting ‘Green’ at Infospigot.

Tranquillon Ridge and Logic

I’m reading Robert Cruickshank’s post at Calitics, titled, What the Louisiana Oil Spill Tells Us About Tranquillon Ridge.  Summarizing, another oil-spill tragedy is unfolding in the Gulf because of offshore drilling and “offshore oil drilling presents an inherent and ongoing risk to the environment and the economy.”  He concludes,

Approving the Tranquillon Ridge project means we are again running a significant risk of a major and devastating oil spill striking what is one of the most unspoiled parts of the California coastline (the remote west-facing beaches of Santa Barbara County).

If a paragon of new offshore drilling technology can fail this catastrophically, it should cause Californians to seriously reconsider whether allowing new drilling off our coast is worth the considerable risk. As our oceans are already facing the stress of pollution, overfishing, and global warming, offshore drilling seems like the last thing we would want to do to our oceans, our beaches, our wildlife, and our economy.

I think this is an emotional reaction, not a logical reaction.  My understanding is that the Tranquillon Ridge deal is not “allowing drilling off our coast.”  Drilling is already occurring off the coast, and we all hate it.   

But this deal does not set up any new platforms, drilling rigs, etc.  It allows PXP to drill at an angle from existing platforms, but in exchange it sets up a date when they stop drilling, dismantle the platforms, and go away.  

Without the deal they can stay.

There is a concern that they won’t honor the deal.  Fair enough.  So let’s say that, seeing as how they are in the oil business, there is perhaps a 99% chance that they will try to wiggle out of the deal.  That still leaves a 1% chance that they will honor the deal, stop drilling, dismantle the platforms, and go away.

Even a 1% chance that they will honor the deal leaves us all better off than we are today.  Take the deal.

Disclaimer – Hannah-Beth Jackson, who founded Speak Out California, is working with EDC on the Tranquillon Ridge project.  I am currently a volunteer with Speak Out California and the associated Institute for the Renewal of the California Dream. While I’m not paid my association with HBJ might influence my views.

Getting Solar Energy Stimulus Spending Right In California

This guest post is by Natasha Chart of Campaign for America’s Future.  The post first appeared at the Blog For OurFuture.

Thanks to $24 million in stimulus funding, Solar Power, Inc., a company that manufactures solar panels in China to install in the US is exploring opening a solar panel manufacturing plant in Sacramento, CA, to go along with a 10 megawatt solar power installation in the area.

There are no timelines for the projects, but Solar Power chairman and CEO, Steve Kircher seems optimistic. In a press release, he said, “Expanding our manufacturing base to California will significantly enhance our ability to meet growing demand for our solar system development expertise and our top-ranked solar panels across the U.S.”

While it’s great to get results like this from the stimulus, passing a clean energy bill at the federal level, for all the inherent problems, would create a lot more of the same. I expect that in the long run, the expansion of investments in clean energy will be more useful for reducing carbon emissions than many other, more direct attempts to regulate carbon. The reason I think that is because it will begin creating positive incentives that tie people’s livelihoods to the clean energy economy, which is a much-needed shift in the political dynamic that will ease the way towards necessary future reforms.

As David Roberts continues to point out so lucidly, shifting behavior and understanding incentives is probably the most important task of building a clean energy economy.

Fortunately, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, seems to be of a roughly overlapping opinion about the importance of the job incentive:

… Similarly, in the energy sector we need to retool the existing generation and distribution networks with cleaner forms of generation, open markets to innovators who will build power lines that lose fewer electrons and connect new sources of clean power to users, and reward investors for installing more efficient ways of using electricity. Creating the right framework for our communications networks led investors to commit about $850 billion to rebuild those networks. With the right set of policies, it is reasonable expect a similar explosion of private sector investment in the energy sector. This will result in consumers paying less for heating, cooling and lighting, and America’s energy sector will be firmly based on abundant, cheap and clean fuels. Nothing will pull innovation into the energy sector more than wind farms demanding better storage technology, solar farms demanding better ways of capturing and converting sunlight into electricity, and appliances and electric vehicles that can talk to the grid if it is smart enough.

There are other areas of the economy where Americans can and should find new jobs. In the energy sector we not only will need millions of employees, but we also know that those millions will help us achieve independence from foreign oil and an end to the pollution of the environment from carbon emissions. The trifecta of huge employment, national security, and protection of the environment is a winning ticket for America. …

And by “America”, Markey thankfully seems to mean all the Americans who need jobs, and a lot more jobs, quickly, because young and older, most people have to work for a living and don’t care how the stock market is doing.

So, more like this, please.

What is the Puzzle with Jerry Brown?

Why won’t Jerry Brown just announce that he is running for Governor?  Why won’t he campaign?  Why is he letting Meg Whitman get so far ahead of things in this campaign?  Does he just assume he has it “in the bag?”

I suspect that is exactly what he assumes.  My take on Brown is that
Democrats who were around when he was Governor and later when he ran for
President in 1992 are going to support him, many quite strongly, and they
regularly let him know this
.  I suspect it is hard for him to go anywhere without stopping to shake a hand and hear from someone who tells him what a great Governor he was, that his ideas on energy and the environment were so far ahead of their time, that he should have been elected President, etc.

So he probably feels a wind at his back
wherever he goes.  This is for sure: the “moonbeam” things Brown was about like
energy and the environment and unions have proven to be the right things.  I wrote about this almost a year ago, 

He was called “Moonbeam” and mocked, but he was right, and we were right, and the country needs to come to terms with this so we can move on and finally DO right.

. . . It is 30 years later and the country needs to get past that mocking of the people who were right. But the mocking and obstruction by entrenched interests are still in the way of letting us move on and do the things we need to do for the economy, the country, and the planet.

The problem with this is that it really is 30 years later now.  This is
2010, and that pool of people just isn’t big enough by any means.  You
have to be “a certain age” to even care.  He needs to find a way to reach out and be relevant to people who were not around when he was Governor or when he ran for President.

Does he realize this?  If he is not meeting a lot of the people to whom he just isn’t
relevant and who just don’t care, he might not be picking this up at all.  But it just is the case.  He needs to start campaigning and saying things that are relevant to the 21st century of he is going to win this election.


$11B In More Bonds–Is There A Better Way To Solve Our Water Wars?

Here at Speak Out California, we’re trying to bring some clarity and varying perspectives to the water wars that have been the hallmark of California politics since statehood. With the fight for precious water resources dividing the state along geographic as well as ideological lines, it is important that we bring you all sides of the debate….just in case anyone wants to really try to solve the problem for the betterment of the state.  While accusations are flying fast and furiously from north to south and east to west (and all places in-between)we hope the truth will emerge from healthy dialogue such as we hope to bring you here at Speak Out California.

The following post is the second in a series from Carolee Krieger whose organization, C-WIN, has been a leading resource in fighting to make sure we have enough water to keep our state going. Here are her comments. We welcome yours as well–especially from opposing points of view.  — HBJ

California and Its
Water Crisis


California is not running out of water; our water is just being badly mismanaged for the profit and greed a few people.  There are a few facts that we all need to be
aware of when thinking about this complex question:


  • ·        
    80% of the developed surface water in California
    is used by agriculture; 40% of that water is used to grow cotton, alfalfa and
    irrigated pasture.
  • ·        
    Only 11% of all the developed surface water is
    used by all the people, lawns, swimming pools and showers.
  • ·        
    The cost to agriculture for much of its water is
    subsidized by the taxpayers.
  • ·        
    Many of the crops grown, like cotton, are
    subsidized by the taxpayers.  In some
    years, the farmers are paid not to grow it.
  • ·        
    1.3 million acres out of a total of 9 million
    acres of farm land in California is poisoned with salt, selenium, arsenic, and
    other toxic metals.  Taking this
    land  out of production would free up
    almost 4 million acre feet of wet water.
  • ·        
    The California State Water Resources Control
    Board, the agency with the fiduciary responsibility to grant and revoke all
    water rights permits in California, including the State Water Project and the
    federal Central Valley Project, has publically stated in their July 2008
    Strategic WorkPlan, that they have issued 8 1/2 times more water rights permits
    that actual water exists in the Delta watershed.  So every drop of water has been promised 8
    1/2 times over.

    The solutions are simple to understand and make a lot of
    common sense.  But because of greed and
    entrenched power, these solutions are very difficult to achieve politically.

  • ·        
    Retirement from agricultural production of all
    1.3 million acres of poisoned farmlands in the federal Central Valley Project
    and the State Water Project.  Redirect
    some of the current subsidies to encourage production of something California
    really needs; clean solar energy.  All of
    these lands are in semi desert; this could be a win/win solution.
  • ·        
    Remove the “paper water”, the water
    that isn’t real, from all State Water Project and Central Valley Project
    contracts and abide by long established law protecting the area or origin and
    senior water rights holders.  The State
    Water Resources Control Board could and should do this.
  • ·        
    Enforce the Clean Water Acts and other water
    laws.  A good place to start would be to
    give the State Water Resources Control Board protection from political
    influence and adequate funding to do its job.
  • ·        
    Uphold the Public Trust Doctrine.  Our public resources, especially water, must
    be managed for the good of all; the people and the environment.
  • We must stop allowing subsidized crops to be grown with subsidized
    water on poisoned lands.

    We must stop allowing the system to be gamed by people and big corporations for personal profit.  Once such abuser gained over $200 million by selling “paper water” that
    he had “banked” in an underground aquifer to the federal Environmental
    Water Account.  This speculator got his $200
    million; the fish, however, never got their water; it was only “paper

    Carolee Krieger, President, founded C-Win
    in 2001. She helped lead the campaign to prevent delivery of State
    Water Project water to Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties. On
    behalf of the Citizens Planning Association (CPA), Carolee also led the
    fight against the Monterey Amendments to the State Water Project
    contracts. These amendments attempted to deregulate the State Water
    Project, give away public assets to private special interests for
    profit and make “paper water”, water that doesn’t exist, legal.  C-WIN
    has led the fight to stop speculative development in Southern
    California based on “paper water.”  C-WIN is currently focusing its
    efforts on the fight to save the San Francisco Bay Delta and keep the
    salmon from going extinct.  She brings to C-WIN her passion for
    protecting public trust resources and stopping wasteful use of water in

    PCL: Water package brings subsidies, not solutions

    As the dust settles on the late-night water deal passed in Sacramento
    on Thursday and touted as the next-best-thing to mother’s milk, the
    environmental groups are starting to speak out about the deal and what it really
    means….for the environment, for the consumer and for the future of
    California’s water crisis.
    Here is the Planning and Conservation League’s take on the deal.  Please feel free to share your thoughts and comments with us.

    Planning & Conservation League: PCL: Water package brings subsidies, not solutions

    “In the middle of the night while most Californians were
    sound asleep, the state legislature passed a package of bills and a
    bond that rewards bad actors instead of solving the water needs of real
    people and the environment. The corner piece of the new deal is an
    $11.1 Billion taxpayer-funded scheme that will appear on the November
    2010 ballot.

    We are extremely disappointed that the Legislature passed up an
    opportunity to make real progress on addressing our state’s water
    needs. The Planning and Conservation League’s main objective in
    negotiations on the Delta package has been to secure dedicated instream
    water flows through the Delta and the San Francisco Bay for endangered
    and threatened fish populations.

    Instead the Legislature capitulated to pressure from big corporate
    water interests and passed a package full of outdated ideas and the
    same policies that have lead to the current crisis. In the end, the
    original goal of substantive water reform to restore the fragile Delta
    ecosystem does not come through in this package.

    Instead of dedicating the water flows that endangered and threatened
    fish species in the Delta need to recover, the package leaves
    Californians with no regulatory assurance that water will be there for
    the fish – even the legislatures’ own staff told them this portion of
    the bill was unenforceable. This will worsen the fishery collapse and
    lead to even more restrictions on water supplies.

    Instead of insisting on reducing reliance on unstable Delta water,
    the package continues the status quo of unsustainable pumping that will
    further devastate the fishery and lead to more litigation.

    Instead of holding people accountable when they illegally divert water,
    the package makes it harder for state agencies to enforce the law.

    Instead of asking the beneficiaries to pay for new water projects,
    this package relies on more borrowing and for the first time ever
    allows taxpayer subsidies for new destructive dams that will cripple
    our environment and our economy.

    While the policy bills represent a missed opportunity, the passage
    of an $11 Billion bond was most shocking. Incredibly, the Legislature
    once again pulled out the taxpayers’ credit card even after the State
    Treasurer warned them the state has already gone over the limit for
    responsible borrowing. Even more disheartening is that they did this
    after the independent Legislative Analyst staff gave clear warning that
    the $700 million annual debt service would result in annual General
    Fund program cuts equal to one-fourth of the entire UC Educational
    System or three times the budget of the Department of Public Health.

    With this package, powerful interests will get billions of our
    dollars for pet projects that they would not pay for if they had to use
    their own money. For instance, billions of dollars would be used to
    build destructive dam projects that are so cost inefficient, even the
    few that could benefit won’t pay for them.

    “The Planning and Conservation League is disappointed that the
    Legislature hung the fate of endangered Delta fish species out to dry.
    Next November it will be the voters’ turn to tell these powerful
    interests No – No to more binge borrowing, No to more subsidies, and No
    to devastating the Bay Delta ecosystem,” said Charlotte Hodde, Water
    Program Manager, Planning and Conservation League.

    The Planning and Conservation League (The League) partners with
    hundreds of California environmental organizations to provide an
    effective voice in Sacramento for sound planning and responsible
    environmental policy at the state level.

    California Water Issues

    While water in California is just about the Holy Grail, it is so complex and arcane as to leave most Californians glassy-eyed when it is discussed. Nevertheless, it is important to try to understand what this latest effort by the legislature means to those of us who believe the environment needs to be protected, water not be squandered to the
    wealthy and influential at the expense of the rest of us, and those who stand to benefit most financially pay their fair share of the cost.

    Discussed below are responses to those specific issues by two very knowledgeable sources: Assembly Budget Chair, Noreen Evans, and citizen water maven and activist, Carolee Krieger.

    While the legislature and others (see George Skelton’s take on the bill here) are spinning this as a great victory, others see the compromises that have been made as untenable.

    We’ll be doing more on this—trying to explain the water wars and commenting on it from a progressive perspective in the days and weeks ahead. Because the issue is bound for the 2010 ballot, with an $11B bond attached, the discussion and debate on this deal are far from over. — HBJ

    Statement by Assemblymember Nora Evans:

    Evans Comments on Passage of State Water Bond

    — The State Legislature passed an $11 billion water bond, along with a package of policy bills addressing water conservation and groundwater monitoring.  The following is a statement from Assemblymember Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa), Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, about the bond.

    “This water bond is an historic achievement for all the wrong reasons.  It was crafted behind closed doors, never received a public vetting, and was passed on the fly in the middle of the night by legislators who lacked an adequate analysis of it.  It brings our debt burden to historic new levels.  And, for the first time, it requires the public across the state to finance half the cost of new dams and reservoirs benefiting
    private interests.

    By passing this bond, the Legislature is flirting with financial disaster.  Already, the state is unable to pay for services demanded by Californians.  We’ve just gone through three horrific state budgets to close a $60 billion gap.  And, more troubles lay ahead.  We face an $8 billion gap next year and a $15 billion gap after that.

    When discussing recent state budgets, the governor and others said the state could not afford to fully maintain its universities, community colleges, HIV/AIDS services, poison control centers, domestic violence shelters, state parks, health care for children, and in-home care for seniors and the disabled.  Paying back this water bond will come at the expense of these services that Californians expect.

    It’s the same tired story all over again.  The Central Valley and Southern California plan to take water from the North by building a peripheral canal.  The rub is that they want Northern California to pay for it
    too.  All Northern Californians get from this bond is the privilege of paying the bill.”

    Response from Carolee Kreiger, President California Water Impact Network (C-WIN):

    completely agree with Assembly member Evans, this water bill package
    will be financially devastating for the California taxpayers; and that
    it is only going to benefit private interests…corporate agriculture
    on the Westside of the San Joaquin River and developers in southern
    California like Newhall Ranch and the Tejon Ranch. 

    this package goes even further; it is attempting to turn 150 years of
    water rights law on its head…giving the most junior water rights
    holders (the State Water Project contractors and the Central Valley
    Project contractors) the ability to take water away from senior water
    rights holders (the Delta farmers and the Sacramento Valley farmers and
    the area of origin stake holders.)  This will assure a generation of
    lawyers a lucrative future.

    Moreover, this package will put another layer of bureaucracy into a system that doesn’t fund or allow the existing bureaucracy, the State Water Resources Control Board, to do its job.  Will they allow the new bureaucracy to function if it doesn’t give them what they want?  I don’t think so.

    And the salmon will continue to go down-hill toward extinction; the
    fisherman and the lucrative sportfishing industry will continue to crumble.  And all this for a sector of California agriculture that is less than 1% of California’s economy.  This does not make sense.

    And perhaps most chilling; it will not produce any more water.  The $11 billion is the down payment on a $80 billion bill that will not produce any more water; just take water away from farmers with senior water rights but not enough power to protect them and give that water to junior water rights holders who have bought off the legislature.  And it will decimate the Delta and the environment.”

    Carolee Krieger, President, founded C-Win in 2001. She helped lead the campaign to prevent delivery of State Water Project water to Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties. On behalf of the Citizens Planning Association (CPA), Carolee also led the fight against the Monterey Amendments to the State Water Project contracts. These amendments attempted to deregulate the State Water Project, give away public assets to private special interests for profit and make “paper water”, water that doesn’t exist, legal.  C-WIN has led the fight to stop speculative development in Southern California based on “paper water.”  C-WIN is currently focusing its efforts on the fight to save the San Francisco Bay Delta and keep the salmon from going extinct.  She brings to C-WIN her passion for protecting public trust resources and stopping wasteful use of water in California..

    Modern Governoring

    What does it mean to be a “governor?”  What does it mean to “govern?”

    In the news, the Governor has threatened to veto 700 bills in an attempt to force the legislature to do his bidding on water policy.

    700 important items all held hostage, trying to stampede and scare the legislature to do something in a hurry, while terrible scare stories circulate on talk radio and throughout corporate media.  Does this sound like a familiar tactic?

    Water policy is complicated because over many decades wealthy real estate developers bought permission to build huge swaths of housing in dry area, so water needed and needs to be piped in from  … somewhere else.  And huge agricultural interests make a lot of money using water that used to be heavily subsidized, meaning the people paid for the water and a few wealthy corporate interests pocketed the profits.

    At the same time there is less water to go around.  We have had three years of below-average rainfall, which is possibly a permanent condition because of climate change (which Republicans deny is happening).  And the destruction of the environment and fisheries and groundwater caused by past bad practices is catching up, so hard choices must be made.  Does our government protect the people, the environment, corporate profits?

    So on one side of this we have giant corporations and the short-term profits they suck out of our communities and state, and of people who are where they are after being lured there for the sake of those short-term profits, and who eat the way they do because government had been “persuaded” (paid) to subsidize the water for the sake of those short-term profits.  People need water to drink even if they do live in a desert and need to eat and have gotten used to food that costs less because the water has been subsidized.  (But maybe they don’t need to water their driveways and nice lawns.) 

    On the other side we have the long-term interests of most of the people and of the environment.  See if you can guess which side the Republicans and the Governor are on?