It’s 2045. You’re living in California — the greenest state in the old USA as defined by environmental perfectionists.
You are driving from the Central Valley to Los Angeles to hear Greta Thunberg lecture about how we are destroying the planet as the former teen heartthrob of the climate change crowd is now making her living jetting around the world to paid speaking engagements on aircraft still fueled by oil.
You notice the charge on your 2041 all-electric Ford Explorer is low so you pull into a Santa Nella charging station along Interstate 5.
You grumble to yourself because the only one available is a PG&E charging station. The cost for power is 30 percent higher than at other charging stations. You swear under your breath at the sad state of California leadership in the 2020s that granted PG&E rate increase to put in tens of thousands of charging stations on the ratepayers’ dime allowing the utility a new source of income that they didn’t have to divert money from their profits to install. Making it all the more ironic as you pulled into the station the podcast you were listening to was discussing how PG&E planned to come out of its fourth bankruptcy in 40 years.
You glance down at your dashboard noticing the outside temperature is 108 degrees while making note of the reading that says you have roughly 30 miles of driving charge in your batteries.
As you’re about to swipe your Apple Watch at the payment reader the charger interface goes dark.
“What is it this time?” you ask yourself.
Is there insufficient energy being generated from solar power due to all of the smoke clouds from wildfires?
Was there another power alert that prioritized keeping juice flowing to the high-speed rail trains running between Merced and Bakersfield?
Perhaps the choke points on the western power grid identified in California during the 1996 and 2011 multi-state blackouts but were never addressed due to environmentalists opposing plans to add more major transmission lines have come into play as they have been doing more and more as the years go by.
Maybe PG&E is playing Enron roulette by profiting off peak power causing momentary outages as they did leading up to their first bankruptcy?
If you think any part of this scenario won’t happen as the result of Governor Gavin Newsom banning all gas and diesel powered new vehicle sales after 2035, you obviously have been channeling Rip Van Winkle for the past 20 years of living in Profit, Greed & Extortion (PG&E) territory.
The most surprising thing about Newsom’s pronouncement is that anyone is surprised by it. The automobile manufacturers have already been hammered into submission so they weren’t caught off guard.
The people who are surprised are among those who embraced the fuzzy goal a few years back of zero emissions for greenhouse gases in California by 2045 without anyone providing details as to how that would happen.
It might interest you to know the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is on record as stating you could take every car, truck, train locomotive, farm apparatus and construction equipment off the road and you still will fall way short of meeting air quality and climate goals.
Newsom’s decree to outlaw the sale of new gas or diesel vehicles in California starting in 2035 isn’t aggressive enough to come reasonably close to the stated environmental nirvana goal of zero emissions by 2045.
Given most vehicles have a life expectancy of 15 years, the governor should have set the drop dead date for new gas and diesel powered car sale in the Golden State as 2030. Outlawing new vehicle sales that aren’t zero emission five years earlier would mean the residual gas and diesel vehicles still on the road and available for resale in the used car market would be significantly lower.
How well electric vehicles will be effective in remote locales in California where people live, work and play that has always had extreme weather — think 204 inches plus of average annual snow in Truckee and weeks of 110 degree plus weather in the Mojave Desert — is a serious question.
But the real head scratcher is how anyone that is the leader of the world’s fifth largest economy would allow placing the fate of almost everything that powers California’s economy into the hands of PG&E or any of their other for-profit crony utilities.
Imagine a rogue PG&E — as if that is hard to imagine — recklessly ignoring infrastructure upkeep, making investments with short-term profits in mind and playing footsie with state regulators being able to have a vice grip on the ability of 16 million Californians not only to power their homes and businesses but their ability to get to and from work, move goods or to simply travel.
Take the rolling brownouts courtesy of PG&E actions that led to Bankruptcy No. 1 and planned power outages courtesy of PG&E inactions that led to Bankruptcy No. 2. If the state back then had created a new market for PG&E to get even more profitable off of by eliminating gas stations how much worse would it have been?
We may moan and groan about Big Oil and the price of California reformulated gas but pump prices do drop.
When is the last time a PG&E hike was followed by a price reduction?
A company that has a proven track record of being the most costly power provider coast to coast, a safety record so sterling they agreed to plead guilty to 85 felony counts for killing 85 people, and whose reliability at times has relegated parts of its territory to Third World status is going to have the ability of 40 percent of Californians’ ability to move around at their mercy.
In what dimension does that seem like a prudent move?
Newsom should not be slammed for taking the next logical step in implementing the legally adopted legislative goal of zero emissions by 2045.
But he deserves harsh criticism for not addressing the other side of the electric car coin that is the need not just for clean power to charge batteries but electricity that is reliable and reasonably priced.
Before we turn the entire economy blindly over to the for-profit electric company cartel and assume incorrectly — as history indicates it would be — to entrust state regulators to do their jobs, Newsom needs to push for public control of power.
If not, what Newsom did Wednesday was serve up another segment of California’s economy as a sacrificial lamb to further fatten PG&E’s bottom line at the expense of 16 million people.