Californians pay too much for utilities, and it’s getting worse.
In February, California residential customers paid an average of 19.15 cents per kilowatt hour, high above the national average of 12.62 cents per kilowatt hour, according to the latest data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The national average cost of electricity is down from 12.78 last year, but the cost in California is up from 18.68.
The state’s climate agenda is a major reason for the rising cost of electricity. In 2006, California enacted AB32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, setting a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Since then, the state has moved the target to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
Utilities are now required to use more costly renewable sources — specifically wind and solar energy — to generate 50 percent of the electricity they sell by 2030. Additionally, the state’s “cap and trade” program requires utilities and refineries to obtain a permit for each ton of greenhouse gases emitted. The passed-along expense of the permits raises electricity bills, gasoline prices and the cost of everything moved by truck.
Yet in conversations with the editorial board of the Southern California News Group, elected officials have shown little concern about the rising cost of energy, or its consequences.
Gov. Jerry Brown dismissed concerns that the higher cost of energy was increasing poverty in California. He told the editorial board that if poverty was a problem in California, the state would have voted for Donald Trump in 2016, as did economically hard-hit states like Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said the high cost of transportation fuels would be solved by technology. He pointed to the development of flying cars as an example of rapid technological change.
Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who told the editorial board that he was proud to have taken the city off coal, said it was important to be “sensitive” to costs but didn’t propose any changes to the policies that are raising them.
Then there’s the cost of water.
Because of lawsuits and legislation stemming from 1970s-era laws to protect endangered species, the amount of water pumped south from the Sacramento — San Joaquin River Delta has been cut in half since the 1980s. That has led to plans for water tunnels, stormwater capture and groundwater cleanup that will bring new and massive costs to water and tax bills.
Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, has proposed a bill — H.R. 23, the GROW Act — that he said “reforms onerous federal laws, such as the Central Valley Project Improvement Act and the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Act, that have severely curtailed water deliveries and resulted in hundreds of billions of gallons of badly needed water being flushed into the ocean.”
H.R. 23 passed the House last July and is in the Senate, but a joint statement of opposition from senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris appears to have doomed its chances of becoming law.
Asked by the editorial board why she is opposed to the Valadao bill and if she is monitoring the rising cost of water in Southern California, Sen. Feinstein said she did not know why she had taken that position and would have to ask her staff.
Your utility bills are high and going higher in California. Even worse, the people who have done this to you don’t know, don’t care and don’t intend to do anything about it.
Susan Shelley is a columnist for the Southern California News Group.
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