Cheap Seats 2022 By Rich Trzupek
California Dreaming - 09/21
By Rich Trzupek
The once sane state of California recently passed a law that will ban the sale of gasoline powered vehicles within its borders starting in 2035. The California Air Resources Board praised the measure, saying “the proposal will substantially reduce air pollutants that threaten public health and cause climate change.”
What exactly constitutes “substantial” reductions? After poking about the Energy Information Administration (EIA) a bit, it appears to this writer that making California all electric is pretty inconsequential from an environmental point of view, even if it can be done, which is very doubtful.
The law does not outlaw driving gasoline powered vehicles in the state, it merely bans their sales within the state. Like most draconian measures its unlikely that the ban will do much to change the mix of vehicles on the road, it will merely shift where people who chose to drive gasoline powered vehicles purchase them. Automobile dealerships in Oregon, Nevada and Arizona ought to send thank you notes to Sacramento.
While recognizing the implausibility to eliminating use of the internal combustion engine in California, it’s interesting to examine what would happen if such a thing were possible.
First of all, California would need to come up with more power – a lot more power. According to EIA data the state consumes about 2,625 trillion Btu of energy annually producing electricity. Motor vehicles consume an additional 1,465 trillion Btu of energy from gasoline. If one is not using gasoline, the energy has to come from somewhere. The 1,465 trillion Btu represents around 21,000 megawatts of electrical generating capacity that would have to be added to the grid. That’s about as much energy as a mid-sized state like Illinois requires on a typical summer day.
Currently, wind and solar power represent about 20 percent of California’s energy portfolio, generating about 7,000 megawatts on average. If all the additional electrical demand is to be met by wind and solar, they would have to quadruple that portion of their portfolio. Possible? Maybe. Expensive? More and more eyesores? More and more bird strikes? More and more rolling blackouts? You bet.
Would the fantasy save planet earth? Ignoring the fact that building and operating all those windmills and solar farms use fossil fuels and ignoring the fact that you’d have to have fossil fired backup power because neither wind nor sunlight are reliable energy sources, you get a theoretical carbon dioxide emissions reduction of about 24 million tons per year.
Sure, 24 million tons sounds like a big number, but it’s really not. That’s about as much China emits every 12 hours. Or to look at it another way, given that global carbon dioxide emissions are about 36 billion tons per year, California’s fantasy would reduce that number by about 0.03 percent.
The simple fact is that if you really think we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it’s all about China. America could reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to zero and the amount of carbon dioxide would still continue to increase based on China’s past and projected rate of growth. Did you know, for example, that last year world wide coal consumption hit an all-time high? That didn’t happen because of coal-fired power plants in the United States using coal. Our coal fired generation capacity continues to dwindle. The bulk of the coal is going to China and, to a lesser extent, India.
But we are talking California, so solving a pretend problem using a pretend solution shouldn’t surprise anyone.