Is This REALLY The Best Way To Make Serious Energy Policy Decisions?

Presidential election years bring with them not only a Big Decision about who will lead our country, but a plethora of ballot measures at the state and local level. This year is no exception – we’re being asked to vote on a tremendous amount of policy questions (and in SF, a lot of non-binding “feel good” resolutions that have no power at all). In particular, however, voters are being asked to make some pretty major decisions about energy policy at the local level, and with 2 state propositions.
Energy policy is a complicated question at best, and our state’s experience with the disastrous “deregulation” scheme should have been a warning about the dangers of politics in energy policy. We were promised lower rates and competitive energy providers – instead we had Enron and others driving up costs and causing rolling blackouts when there was no reason for them.
Now, we’re being asked to make some serious decisions this November, and while the campaigns all use the language of Good Intentions, all seem to be hiding something in the details. People are right to be concerned about global warming and our dependence on oil from unstable regions of the world. Unfortunately, the three measures we’re being asked to vote on contradict each other, or hide what they’re really about.
Prop. H, on the San Francisco ballot, claims to be about requiring the City to use clean energy sources in the future. It even has produced campaign commercials online that claim the support of Sen. Obama and Vice President Gore for the measure (even though neither has endorsed it). More importantly, though, the measure is not really about clean energy at all – it is all about a public takeover of the power system from PG&E. Ironically, PG&E has signed the world’s largest contracts for solar and wind power – but that’s something Measure H backers won’t tell you.
There is no reason why the two should be connected at all – yet the promoters of Prop. H are playing off people’s good intentions to pass something else – and give the City the authority to take over any “utility” – even if it has nothing to do with power generation.
Likewise, Propositions 7 and 10 make many similar green promises about clean energy. What’s strange, though is that many people already in the business of providing solar or wind power oppose these, because they were written to benefit specific companies or people (such as T. Boone Pickens, the right wing oil billionaire). Even an expert would have a hard time decoding what these things really do or do not do, so it’s hard to imagine how we, the people are supposed to make a decision about this when we have our daily lives to lead and so on.
It is too bad that our Governor and our Legislature are busy posturing and politicking to perhaps come up with one comprehensive energy strategy for California, one that helps us reduce carbon emissions and provides us with stable energy supplies we need to compete globally. This patchwork of local and state measures, none of which seem to coordinate with each other, is a recipe for another energy mess like we had in the past, and it’s time citizens demanded more from our supposed leaders.
I have to believe with all the smart people we have in California, be they from academia, business, the technology sector, and so on we can’t come up with a better way to make good energy policy that will leave a positive legacy for ourselves and our planet, instead of this hodge podge of politically motivated ballot measures.

Leave a Reply