California’s Solar Virtue Signal Could Put Housing Out of Reach

The California Energy Commission (CEC) said, “Eureka, we have a refulgently brilliant idea! Let’s require installation of solar panels on new home and low-rise apartment building construction.” Assuming the California Building Standards Commission ratifies the CEC’s proposal (a purported slam-dunk) it will take affect starting January 1, 2020. Less than two years from now.

”The case for this was extremely strong,” [1] CEC commissioner Andrew McAllister said. “[In] California, we do believe in climate change, we do believe in facts … It’s become clear to all of us it’s the right thing to do and that the marketplace is ready.”[2] the UPI reported.

In light of their actions, what the CEC doesn’t believe in are: 1) carbon-free nuclear power plants, 2) consumer choice, or 3) free markets. California has bent to activist pressure and already closed the San Onofre nuclear power plant. Diablo Canyon’s nuclear power plants will close in 2024 and 2025. When the Commish said, ”[T]the marketplace is ready” he didn’t mean a marketplace where you get to choose what you want. He meant a marketplace where you get to pay for what he wants. He meant delicious gooey Crony Capitalism[3], where well-healed, well-connected lobbyists convince bureaucrats to employ the lobby’s preferred remedy.

According to NPR, “Representatives from construction groups, public utilities and solar manufacturers all spoke in support of the plan, which they’ve helped the commission develop for years,” the AP reports. “No industry groups spoke in opposition.” Of course, no groups spoke in opposition: the benefits are concentrated in a few industries and the harm is dispersed among many lower income people and potential homeowners.

The result is Crony Capitalist Pork. Keeping with the meat metaphor, I have no beef with these groups representing their constituents, but I don’t have to like the result. I like markets to sort out such things. Government’s role is to enforce contracts between individuals and protect citizens from crimes against themselves or their property. Beyond that, government’s top-down approach hampers market-driven, bottom-up solutions.

And the bottom line to everyone–but especially the people on the bottom economic rung–is it effectively takes money from their pockets to pay for this scheme. Under this program, everything is going to cost more, especially housing. And not just newly constructed housing. All housing will cost more, including rentals. Look for an upturn in people looking for existing homes because they’ve been priced out of building new. This will force prices up. It is obvious that the CEC does not understand supply and demand curves, incentives, or anything from a basic economics course.

Unlike Classical Liberals, Progressives within government are sure they know not only how to diagnose a market problem, but how to “fix” it with a sure fire prescription. It’s like your nosy neighbor telling you what’s wrong with your life and has the answer to help you. Now imagine she has the power to force you to do it. That is what the CEC has done. As Veronique de Rugy writes on Reason.com, “These members of the ‘government within the government,’ produce one freedom-restricting, economy-hindering rule after another without much oversight. These rules take many forms, and few even realize they’re in the making—until, that is, they hit you square in the face.”

Photo Credit: Libertarianism.org

The progressive Los Angeles Times editorial board is all for punching you square in the face. “Of course California should require solar panels on new homes,” An LA Times opinion piece gushed.

The opening paragraph says, getting punched in the face is good for you.

The benefits of solar power are well established. Photovoltaics harness the sun to create electricity, reducing the need for dirtier forms of energy. And residents generate their own power, cutting their utility bills.[4]

There is so much wrong with this paragraph. It begs the question with “The benefits of solar power are well established.” No, the benefits of solar power are not well established. As Michael Shellenberger, President of Environmental Progress notes, If Solar And Wind Are So Cheap, Why Are They Making Electricity So Expensive? “Electricity prices increased 24 percent in California during its solar energy build-out from 2011 to 2017.” And from 2011 to 2017, California, a state whose progressive leadership is committed to renewable energy, saw electricity rates rise to five times higher than the national average. And California is not a one-off in the rate hike department. Germany, Denmark, and Spain already blazed that trail.

The Times editorial goes on to say, The energy commission’s new building standards, which require both solar panels and upgraded insulation, air filters and other efficiency measures, are expected to raise the cost of a new home by $9,500. That’s about half the cost of installing solar systems on existing homes (although tax breaks and other financial incentives can lower the bill). And homes built to the new standards are expected to use 50% as much energy as homes built in 2016 without solar panels….

Yes, the new standards will increase the cost to build homes and apartment complexes. That’s a concern in California, which is in the midst of a housing crisis because it failed for years to build enough homes to keep up with population demand. However, energy-efficiency investments save money over time. The energy commission estimated the new standards will add $40 per month to the average new home mortgage payment, but save $80 per month on heating, cooling and lighting.

The installation cost appears correct though it may turn out to be higher. It is the anticipated savings in energy that they expect that should trouble you. Federal and state governments continue to press for efficiency as a way to save fuel (in order to lower greenhouse gas emissions). And they are usually dead wrong. Too often, government officials do not consider The Energy Efficiency Paradox. Basically, if you save money on one thing, you have money for more of that thing or of something else. If your house is better insulated you might opt to make it cooler or warmer to be more comfortable. You might take a drive to the beach with your savings or buy a bigger car.

And the mandate will be a tax on other rate payers. According to Severin Borenstein,  E.T. Grether Professor of Business Administration and Public Policy at the Haas School of Business writing to Commissioner Weisenmiller, “The savings calculated for the households are based on residential electricity rates that are far above the actual cost of providing incremental energy, so embody a large cross subsidy from other ratepayers. This would be a very expensive way to expand renewables and would not be a cost effective practice…”  In a nutshell, the LA Times editorial board and the CEC cooked the numbers.

The state is spurring innovation and job creation in the clean-energy sector. (California is ranked first in the nation for solar industry jobs at 86,000 — seven times more than the second-ranked state.)

Whenever you hear about government “spurring innovation and job creation” it is to cover the noise of cash being sucked from your bank account. Pork rarely innovates anything. And, the number of jobs is not a good thing. It is the opposite of a good thing for the majority of us—the people paying for electricity and for stuff made with that electricity. The electricity made with solar costs more because it takes forty people in solar to produce the same amount of electricity produced using natural gas. Lots of Jobs per KWH is Bad, not Good. [5]

The Times board sums up their argument with, At the moment, there’s simply no better way to reduce the power demand and greenhouse gas emissions from new residential developments than combining solar power with more energy-efficient designs. The long-term savings, both to homeowners and to the environment, are well worth the up-front cost.

I can think of several reasons for the editorial board lobbing this insane whopper. The possibility that I favor is they have their heads so far up their asses they can’t see more obvious possibilities, such as nuclear.[6] Robert Bryce said in a talk he gave, “There has been a continuing pursuit of density, and, more particularly, power density. And yet now when it comes to energy production, we are told we should go the other way. Toward low power density…. This makes no sense. I’d call it insane but it would be an insult to crazy people.”

In an insult to crazy people, California is requiring a hella-expensive feel good virtue signal and shutting down its power-dense, carbon-free nuclear power plants and replacing them with natural gas and coal (forget the solar panels—they all make power at the same time—driving down the value of the electricity they produce.)

Insane. 

 


Footnotes

  1. No. He lies like a cheap rug. Cardboard suitcases are stronger than this case’s raison d’être. The case isn’t very strong at all. 
  2. Translation: “The fix is in.”
  3. Also known as cronyism, venture socialism, corporatism, mercantilism, or just plain horse droppings. “Unlike in a free market capitalist system, under crony capitalism it is often more profitable for businesses to spend resources lobbying legislators for handouts in the form of grants, loans, or tax advantages, and protections against competition in order to increase their profits.  In turn, the government’s willingness to hand out special privileges promotes the politically well-connected rather than those who seek to earn the preference of investors and consumers based on merit. The gains of such activities usually accrue to the businesses and politicians involved at the expense of consumers and taxpayers.” http://library.intellectualtakeout.org/library/business-and-economics/free-market-capitalism-vs-crony-capitalism
  4. See Footnote 1
  5. Imagine going to Burger King for dinner and, by law, each BK must employ 40 times the people it would normally at $15 per hour to make your meal. The result is one hellaciously expensive burger.
  6. “Of all ignorance, the ignorance of the educated is the most dangerous. Not only are educated people likely to have more influence, they are the last people to suspect that they don’t know what they are talking about when they go outside their narrow fields.”- Thomas Sowell

Post to Twitter

California Warns Cell Phone Users

Lately people have been losing their goddamned minds over the repeal of so-called Net Neutrality. The idea seems to be that more government oversight, regulation, nappy wiping are sure to protect us from naughty and not nice corporations who just care about money.

Well if more oversight, regulation, and having your bum wiped is your thing, here comes the State of California to the rescue with a warning about cellular phone use.

Photo credit: Rico Shen, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2205234

Well it is not completely their fault. For the released text you can thank Joel Moskowitz, director of the Center for Family and Community Health at the University of California, Berkeley. California health officials had been working on cell phone guidelines since 2009, and Moskowitz sued the state to be able to see them.

According to the officials, guidelines put out by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2014 made their guide unnecessary. Still there were people who felt that California Department of Public Health (CDPH) must have been hiding something. After all, wasn’t there a study on rats where they received the two types of radiofrequency (RF) radiation, used in the telecom industry, for two years; where the control group died, earlier than the test groups, and with no tumors? While only the males in the test groups developed tumors.

Wait. What? That’s right. The rats that received the (non-ionizing) RF radiation lived longer than the control group. I’m not suggesting that using your cell phone will extend your lifespan, but there is one inconclusive study.

So while you sip your cancer-causing latte and check Facebook on your mobile device, you can read the CDPH issued guidance on mobile phones:

The new CDPH guidance includes practical steps both adults and children could take to reduce exposure to radio frequency energy from cell phones. That includes:

 

  • Keeping the phone away from the body
  • Reducing cell phone use when the signal is weak
  • Reducing the use of cell phones to stream audio or video, or to download or upload large files
  • Keeping the phone away from the bed at night
  • Removing headsets when not on a call
  • Avoiding products that claim to block radio frequency energy. These products may actually increase your exposure.

 

Post to Twitter

California’s Chemophobic Political Science

Without chemicals life would be damned hard.

Greetings from Chemophobifornia

Alcohol is a chemical, for crying out loud, and without it, many of us find life damned hard. Oh sure, there are other important chemicals too, I suppose. Salt is a chemical and sort of important. Water is a chemical; it’s useful in making beer and wine. Oxygen is a chemical; it’s got my vote for breathing. And Adenosine triphosphate is a chemical that, like beer, without it, life would be damned hard (it’s an energy-carrying compound found in the cells of all living things).

Yep, chemicals are the stuff of life. Yet for many the word “chemical” conjures thoughts of meth labs and industrial factories, even the dictionary says so. A chemical is, “a compound or substance that has been purified or prepared, especially artificially.” The dictionary’s definition must have been written in Chemophobifornia, Land of Proposition 65.

In 1986, we Chemophobifornians passed Proposition 65, “The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act,” aka, the Lawyer Full Employment Act. The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) explains what the act was meant to do, “[Proposition 65] was created with the intent of improving public health through reductions in the incidence of cancer and adverse reproductive outcomes that might result from exposure to potentially hazardous chemicals.” ACSH points out the law has not exactly lived up to its purpose, “the law makes no mention of level of exposure, which means that it doesn’t really indicate the level of risk, or indeed if any health risk actually is present from some trace amount of some allegedly toxic chemical.” (italics in original)

Welcome to California, home of chemophobia and flawed risk assessment. Photo source Timberati.com.

It is because of the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act that we have Prop 65 signs in every California Starbucks. Lawyers sued to warn customers that coffee beans at Starbucks—and this is true—have been roasted.

Welcome to the Hotel Chemophobifornia

Disneyland Prop 65 Warning

Prop 65 warning in a grocery store. Photo source Timberati.com.

Prop 65 warning on a car window. Photo source Timberati.com.

These signs are—excuse my fucking French—fucking everywhere. Hotels, motels, mini-marts, coffee shops, pit stops, fast food restaurants, slow food restaurants, parking garages, gas stations, grocery stores, amusement parks, car dealerships, car repair shops, nursery and hardware stores, nail care, hair care, beauty parlors, massage parlors (I don’t have firsthand knowledge, so to speak, on that one), etc.

“…it’s largely not because the warnings are necessary or meaningful,” food lawyer Baylen Linnekin wrote in a Reason article, “Eat Food and Die”, “but because the state—or even private individuals or their heroic lawyers—can sue those who fail to display these worthless signs.” If it’s a business big enough to be sued, it has a Prop 65 warning sign. These signs stoke cancer fears from chemicals, especially those that sound odd or unfamiliar and faintly ominous to many.

Into this quagmire of cognitive dissonance, step chemophobic special interest groups, purporting to represent the public while quacking pseudoscience. These activist environmental organizations conflate facts into slogans and sound bites to parade them around proudly as though they were scientific fact. Worst of all, these groups have the ears of politicians and bureaucrats in California. California’s fear of chemicals is their foil. Value signaling is their currency.

One of these groups, the Environmental Working Group (EWG—aka the Environmental Worrying Group), applauds California as leading the way in chemically induced fear.

“An analogy might be helpful here,” says ACSH regarding EWG’s messaging technique. “Domesticated dogs come in a huge range of sizes from tiny Chihuahuas to huge Mastiffs. They also come in a huge variety of personalities, from breeds which you could easily trust with a baby to those which have been bred for aggressiveness and which have been known to maim and kill people.  If anti-dog activists were to propose that any dog should be avoided and that people should move to towns that exclude all dogs, most people would dismiss the idea as ridiculous.” So, when your state is recognized by EWG as being progressive and “good,” that’s bad. It means you have been had. Your wallet will be lighter; you’ll be paying more but getting nothing in return.

Josh Bloom—who holds a Ph.D in organic chemistry and is Senior Director of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the American Council on Science and Health—has posted the scientific equation that groups such as EWG use:

“Honest discussion of dose = (Less money)2

Be Afraid. Be Very, Very Afraid.

On July 5, 2017 (tomorrow as I write this), California’s State Water Resources Control Board—the California entity that enforces the federal Safe Water Drinking Act (not to be confused with Prop 65, “The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act,” confused?, that’s exactly what they want you to be)—is scheduled to consider lowering the limit on perchlorate (four oxygen atoms attached to one chlorine atom) because, and this is true, present-day instrumentation is more sensitive. (My open letter to them here)

The ability to detect chemicals at ever lower levels has led to a conflation of hazard and risk. Hazard is the potential thing happening, say water poisoning. Risk is the possibility of this thing happening, you have to drink water (a lot of water).

Here Josh Bloom exposes an exposé on lead levels in baby food by the Environmental Defense Fund:

“EDF‘s analysis of 11 years of FDA data found:

  • Lead was detected in 20% of baby food samples compared to 14% for other foods.
  • Eight types of baby foods had detectable lead in more than 40% of samples.
  • Baby food versions of apple and grape juices and carrots had more samples with detectable lead than the regular versions.

“Source: ‘Lead in food: A hidden health threat. FDA and industry can and must do better.’

“I’ll take it a step further. If we had analytical instrumentation even more sensitive than the incredibly sensitive detectors that now exist, lead would be detected in 100% of baby food, 100% of other foods, and 100% of all apple and grape juice. It’s a damn good thing that instrumentation isn’t more sensitive. Think of how many children would be in danger then.”

I wonder if California’s State Water Resources Control Board knows that “every person and animal that ever lived has an average of about 20,000,000 plutonium atoms in their bone marrow,” Brian Dunning of Skeptoid points out, “simply because we live on this planet.”?

I am sure with sensitive enough equipment, we could find plutonium, one of the most dangerous substances on earth, in our water; I bet that California’s State Water Resources Control Board would go apeshit.

Part 2 soon: Value Signaling Left Turns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post to Twitter