California’s farcical approach to climate policy does more harm than good

If you live in California and spend any amount of time following the exploits of our fearless leaders in government, while also paying the ridiculously high cost of living caused by their nonsense policies, you have to work at keeping your sense of humor.

Last weekend I saw a prank video on Twitter posted by an account named “Trollstoy.” It showed aerial footage of dramatic canyons that looked like fractures in the surface of the earth. Trollstoy wrote that these were images of “the earth’s crust breaking” in Turkey following the recent earthquakes.

I retweeted the video and wrote, “New bill in the California legislature would double the vehicle registration fee and raise the income tax by 1% over $1 million to pay for giant bolts to hold the earth’s crust together. This will not do anything, but lawmakers say California must show leadership on bolts.”

Exhausted Californians didn’t even doubt that it was a real bill. Some of the comments:

“What are they smokin’ in Sacramento?”

“And these are our elected officials? God help us.”

“Californians are already being taxed to death. Enough.”

“I smell unfunded pensions liabilities through things like this, that make no sense.”

“I don’t care what kind of bolts you think you got, that is not going to stop Mother Nature.”

And my personal favorite:

“You’re on an editorial board, and a columnist, refer to the actual bill and sponsor. Don’t be a lazy reporter.”

Several readers thought it might be a joke, but were frightened that it might not be.

“Please tell me you went to work for The Babylon Bee,” one wrote.

I have not. But yes, the joke was a satire on costly laws that don’t accomplish anything, and which are passed and signed solely to show “leadership” on a trendy issue.

Take the climate policies. Please.

Senate Bill 100, signed into law in 2018, declared, “it is the policy of the state that eligible renewable energy resources and zero-carbon resources supply 100% of retail sales of electricity to California end-use customers and 100% of electricity procured to serve all state agencies by December 31, 2045.” This followed a series of similar laws that ratcheted up the percentage of electricity sold that must be produced from “eligible” renewable energy resources. One such law was Assembly Bill 32, the 2006 “Global Warming Solutions Act.”

There’s no solution in these bills. The entire state—meaning everything in it, from oil refineries to dairy cows, from massive truck fleets to compact passenger cars—accounts for only about 1% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. If California ever fell into a crack in the earth and disappeared completely, the effect on the global climate would be too small to measure. So a marginal reduction in California’s greenhouse gas emissions is useless, expensive and even dangerous.

Every summer the state lives on the edge of frightening blackouts because of the idiotic policy aimed at forcibly creating a “market” for particular types of renewable energy. We’re not even close to having enough of it, which is why Californians are nagged to turn off their air conditioning and not run major appliances after 4:00 p.m., when solar energy starts its daily slide to zip.

And more blithering idiocy: California says electricity produced by nuclear energy or large hydroelectric plants doesn’t count as renewable, even though these sources produce zero greenhouse gases.

If anyone in Sacramento sincerely believed that greenhouse gas emissions were dooming us all to the fate of a french fry, wouldn’t they favor building nuclear power plants up and down the state and slamming hydroelectric dams on every river in California? They don’t. Instead, they’re talking about shutting down the ones that still exist.

Why? Leadership! California must lead on renewable energy, as defined!

Another idiotic law that has accomplished nothing is wrecking the dreams of California families who want to buy a home. The “Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008,” also known as Senate Bill 375, forces regional planning agencies to integrate land use and transportation policies in order to meet goals of “sustainability.”

But a 10-year progress report on SB 375 that was released in 2018 by the California Air Resources Board concluded that the law had failed to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles. This despite its goal of “building compact neighborhoods where people of all incomes live within safe walking or cycling distance of daily errands,” which CARB said “could have significant climate benefits.”

Or not. But it certainly could shut down local approvals of new home construction in outlying areas, as 18 regional Metropolitan Planning Organizations shake with fear at CARB’s threat of consequences if they don’t submit plans to meet their sustainability targets.

Another piece of work is Senate Bill 743, a 2013 law that doesn’t have a catchy name but could have been called the No New Suburbs Act. SB 743 requires an evaluation of the number and length of car trips “induced” by a housing development. By placing limits on “vehicle miles traveled,” or VMT, California is able to kill off plans for all new housing construction, except urban apartment buildings near train tracks.

What has this accomplished for the earth? Nothing. Caltrans reports on its website that through 2019 (the agency didn’t post data for the pandemic years), VMT is “trending upward, undercutting policy goals around climate, equity, and safety.”

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They should double-check that “equity” assertion. The Two Hundred, a coalition of civil rights leaders, community groups and others is suing over these climate laws, alleging that CARB’s implementation of the Global Warming Solutions Act is intentionally making homeownership unattainable, exacerbating the racial wealth gap. “The shortage of affordable homes, attributed to the high cost of production (caused by state regulations) and state policies that favor multi-family rentals, is among California’s primary reasons for low homeownership rates,” the group states on its website.

And what is it doing for the climate?

Exactly as much as giant bolts would do to hold the earth’s crust together. We could repeal these damaging, pointless laws, but that probably won’t happen. As one reader put it, “Our state leadership is rebolting.”

Write and follow her on Twitter @Susan_Shelley

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