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Tilting at Windmills

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September 15, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

ENERGY....You may know this already, but the New York Times makes a point today about California's dedication to efficiency and conservation:

This is the state whose per capita energy consumption has been almost flat for 30 years, even as per capita consumption has risen 50 percent nationally.

Actually, as the accompanying graph shows, it's per capita electricity usage that's remained flat while it's increased 50% in the rest of the country. If you look at total per capita energy use, it's actually declined since 1970 (compared to a modest increase in the rest of the country). At the same time, smog levels in Southern California have been substantially reduced. And do you know why? Largely because California has passed laws forcing it to happen.

Of course, we all know the result, don't we? As the Republican Party and the corporate community are so fond of declaring, regulation like this inevitably leads to economic disaster. Businesses fail, incomes drop, and the economy goes into a tailspin. It's nothing short of a disaster.

And yet, the predictable screeching of the corporate community, delivered on pretty much an annual basis, appears to have been wrong. California's economy has been doing just fine during the decades we've pursued these policies. Imagine that.

Anyway, it's a good article, and goes to show the kinds of things we could be doing nationwide if conservative politicians could put their Chicken Little campaign contributors on hold for a few minutes and take a look at how it's possible to cut energy use dramatically and reduce our dependence on foreign suppliers without ruining the economy. The energy industry might not like the idea, but the rest of us would.

Kevin Drum 3:07 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (77)

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Comments

First.

Posted by: Brian on September 15, 2006 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

Click the link!

It says that godless homos live in CA!

Anything that they do, REAL Americans *mustn't*!

Only through rapid growth of energy usage can we defeat all the brown people who want to kill us, and create a safe, white, Christian world!

Posted by: Al on September 15, 2006 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

If Kevin Drum had his way, we'd give up our precious right to cough and choke on noxious fumes. That's not the America I want to die in.

Posted by: Al on September 15, 2006 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, America will conserve energy sooner or later. More likely later than sooner, though: As oil supplies top off and begin to dwindle, we will have conservation forced upon us. It won't matter how much you WANT to use--it just won't be there TO use.

Posted by: Derelict on September 15, 2006 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

In this era of Iraq, and Bush lying about everything is sight, etc., this is a real 'throwback' post about one of the more mundane (but still very important) 'Dems vs. Reps' issues - governmental regulation.

Sometimes it does very *very* good things for the people.

Thanks for bringing to to our attention, Kevin.

Posted by: Robert Earle on September 15, 2006 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

Like I keep saying, it's time for us to secede from this insange country. We are clearly better at this government / society thing. Plus, of course, we're better looking and can get more contestants on Survivor.

Posted by: craigie on September 15, 2006 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

Al - I don't care what country you want to die in. I just want you to die. So please, expedite the process.

PS - Religion is stupid. And fake.

Posted by: dee on September 15, 2006 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

But according to Bill O'Reilly circa 2001, the California "energy crisis" was due to excessive hot tub use.

Seriously, though, I just heard a radio ad for the Honda dealer in Berkeley, and they are giving away free tickets to "An Inconvenient Truth."

Posted by: Tom on September 15, 2006 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

California has got the best record in conservation in the country in terms of the amount of energy that they use per on a per capita basis, but they've got the most serious electricity problem in the country with rolling brown-outs because of a fouled-up regulatory scheme, because they didn't build any new power plants for ten years.

Dick Cheney

Has anyone gone to jail because of those "rolling brown-outs" or has California built a number of power plants since 2001?

Posted by: Patrick on September 15, 2006 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: "... if conservative politicians could put their Chicken Little campaign contributors on hold for a few minutes ..."

If pigs could fly.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 15, 2006 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

"Its" is possessive -- "it's" is a contraction of "it is."

Posted by: RHT on September 15, 2006 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

I had no idea we were being so efficient. I will run out right now and wasted some energy. In fact, I won't run, I'll drive!

Posted by: craigie on September 15, 2006 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

The amazing thing is that the results that Kevin describes have been achieved already, while California has not yet really even begun to implement some of its new policies to encourage the growth of clean renewable energy production, such as requiring that all new homes offer photovoltaics as a standard option.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 15, 2006 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

Seriously, though, I just heard a radio ad for the Honda dealer in Berkeley, and they are giving away free tickets to "An Inconvenient Truth."

I don't get to watch TV much, but I've seen some Honda commercials here in the Bay area where they tout their fuel efficiency. Of course, the preceeding commericial was for Hummers...

Posted by: gq on September 15, 2006 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

California has not yet really even begun to implement some of its new policies to encourage the growth of clean renewable energy production, such as requiring that all new homes offer photovoltaics as a standard option.

Why bother with research into potential gold mines like renewable energy? We have ANWR and I believe Exxon or some other oil company found oil in the Gulf. We need to encourage the tapping of new oil sources.

BTW, I was being sarcastic.

Posted by: gq on September 15, 2006 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

"Its" is possessive -- "it's" is a contraction of "it is."

and that's one of the dumbest exceptions in the entire English language.

Posted by: cleek on September 15, 2006 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

The rest of the country will catch up or quite probably drown, which I am not sure is such a bad thing. I recall seeing or reading somewhere that were sea levels to rise like they are predicted to, most of the midwest would be under water. This of course would reduce the red states and thus the red state welfare we pay.

Of course some enterprising individual will come along and say that the drowning of the midwest was the direct result of God being angry for at which point fundies everywhere will wonder what happened as the "heartland" of fundamentalism will have once and for all been drowned.

Posted by: Dreggas on September 15, 2006 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

The whole language is a set of exceptions. Accept it. Move along.

Posted by: craigie on September 15, 2006 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin

As a native Californian, (N Cal at that), I wish this data said what you wish it does. Unfortunately it may only tell us that electricity intensive industries have been driven out of state. We would need to know how the residential vs industrial usage and trends break out. Who know - maybe agribusiness has gotten that much more energy efficient. But perhaps it is just acreage being converted from rice to homes. I don't think we can prove anything from these data as they are.

Posted by: martin on September 15, 2006 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

It would be interesting to see how this holds up now that development has pushed more heavily into the valleys and deserts where air conditioning is a necessity.

Posted by: Brittain33 on September 15, 2006 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

What is with that y-axis? It is labeled incorrectly.

Posted by: Bill Hicks on September 15, 2006 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

All that tainted bagged spinach that will now go to waste: can it be made into bio-fuel?

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on September 15, 2006 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

"Rolling Brown-Outs" Where is Dave Barry to note that sounds like a name for a rock group?

I prefer it as polite term for the task of mucking out the stable.

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on September 15, 2006 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK
It would be interesting to see how this holds up now that development has pushed more heavily into the valleys and deserts where air conditioning is a necessity.

This is hardly a new development; so I wouldn't expect change. Development in those areas has increased the whole time under consideration already, its not like Californians just started living in the Central Valley last week.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 15, 2006 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

"Its" is possessive -- "it's" is a contraction of "it is."

and that's one of the dumbest exceptions in the entire English language.

Sorry to go off-topic here, but that is not an exception: The cat is his (not hi's); the dog is hers (not her's). He's (he is) a cat lover and she's (she is) a dog lover.

On-topic: That "quaint" conservation idea really works, doesn't it?

Posted by: J David Eisenberg on September 15, 2006 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

A study (PDF) published in March 2005 by The Energy Foundation found that "Residential and commercial rooftop space in the US could accommodate up to 710,000 Megawatts of solar electric power ... for comparison, total electric-generating capacity in the US today is about 950,000 MW."

The same study found that "the potential US market for grid-connected solar rooftop PV could reach 2,900 MW per year by 2010, assuming that the solar industry can achieve a breakthrough price of $2.00-$2.50 per installed watt. This would be enough new electricity, brought online in just one year, to power more than 500,000 average US homes [...] representing an annual market of about $6.6 billion (equipment and installations)."

A July 2005 article in the San Francisco Chronicle reported that "Investors along Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park are pouring money into solar nanotech startups, hoping that thinking small will translate into big profits [...] Nanosys and Nanosolar in Palo Alto -- along with Konarka in Lowell, Mass. -- say their research will result in thin rolls of highly efficient light-collecting plastics spread across rooftops or built into building materials. These rolls, the companies say, will be able to provide energy for prices as low as the electricity currently provided by utilities, which averages $1 per watt."

One year later, in June 2006, Nanosolar announced that "it now has $100 million in funding to take its breakthrough photovoltaic (PV) solar electricity technology into volume production" and "it has started executing on its plan to build a volume cell production factory with a total annual cell output of 430MW once fully built out, or approximately 200 million cells per year, and an advanced panel assembly factory designed to produce more than one million solar panels per year."

This is the future.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 15, 2006 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Hedley: "Rolling Brown-Outs" Where is Dave Barry to note that sounds like a name for a rock group?

It does, doesn't it? Based on events of the past week, I'm planning on starting bands called "Viewers Like You" and "Gut Flora" (the dog's, the dog's, not mine!).

Dreggas: I recall seeing or reading somewhere that were sea levels to rise like they are predicted to, most of the midwest would be under water.

Have never felt Lake Michigan is a good stand-in for a real ocean. Seaside property will be mine at last!

Posted by: shortstop on September 15, 2006 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

This reproduction of the chart is missing a digit; the top number on the Y axis should be "12,000", not "2,000" (confirmed against the print edition).

Posted by: Nathan Williams on September 15, 2006 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for the compliment. I have always said the key to efficient energy use is the construction of massive heavy load, high speed asphalt throughfares throughout Southern California. After you build it, you can just pack em in.

Posted by: Matt on September 15, 2006 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Thomas1, you retard, that's not 2,000, that's 12,000 kwh. It's a single scale. Read the goddamn article before you open your big mouth.

The U.S. average is 11,997 kwh per capita; California is the most energy-efficient state, using 6,732 kwh per capita.

Posted by: S Ra on September 15, 2006 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

"It's not labeled incorrectly -- starting in the 1970's, the rest of the nation REDUCED electric consumption, down to less than 2,000 kwh currently per person on average -- California is still way up around 8,000 kwh per person on average. We also don't know if the national average takes into account California's stats either."

Err, no.

Parody or mendacity? So hard to decide.

Posted by: Urinated State of America on September 15, 2006 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

Conservatives will point out that economic growth in California could have been more rapid without the stringent emmissions controls and forced conservation measures. They may even argue that wages would be higher, but for the fact that the employers were investing money into these imposed conservation measures.

Posted by: fcadmus on September 15, 2006 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

Thomas1 wrote: "It's not the future, SA, if California keeps growing so fast and hogging up to 8,000 kwh per person."

The March 2005 Energy Foundation report I linked to above, which found that "residential and commercial rooftop space in the US could accommodate up to 710,000 Megawatts of solar electric power" also found that "California alone has the potential for about 40% of the total building rooftop market potential -- through a combination of favorable sunlight levels and high retail energy prices."

Also, keep in mind that while this report found that fully exploiting avaiable capacity for rooftop photovoltaics can produce nearly 75% of the USA's current total electricity generated from all sources, there is also vast potential for producing additional electricity from centralized, larger-scale photovoltaic plants in appropriate sites and from wind turbines (both large scale "wind farms" and small-scale residential/commerical wind turbines).

As electric utility executives Dave Freeman and Jim Harding wrote in The Seattle Post Intelligencer on 8/10/2006, regarding Nanosolar's technology:

"Thin solar films can be used in building materials, including roofing materials and glass, and built into mortgages, reducing their cost even further. Inexpensive solar electric cells are, fundamentally, a 'disruptive technology' [...] Much like cellular phones have changed the way people communicate, cheap solar cells change the way we produce and distribute electric energy [...] the prospect of this technology creates a conundrum for the electric utility industry and Wall Street. Can - or should - any utility, or investor, count on the long-term viability of a coal, nuclear or gas investment? The answer is no."


Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 15, 2006 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, as the accompanying graph shows, it's per capita electricity usage that's remained flat while it's increased 50% in the rest of the country. If you look at total per capita energy use, it's actually declined since 1970 (compared to a modest increase in the rest of the country). At the same time, smog levels in Southern California have been substantially reduced. And do you know why? Largely because California has passed laws forcing it to happen.

What's most remarkable about this, Kevin, is that the rate of population increase for California 1990 to 2000 was actually slightly higher (13.6%) than for the nation as a whole (13.1%).

http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/06000.html

Posted by: JeffII on September 15, 2006 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

fcadmus wrote: "Conservatives will point out that economic growth in California could have been more rapid without the stringent emmissions controls and forced conservation measures. They may even argue that wages would be higher, but for the fact that the employers were investing money into these imposed conservation measures."

So what? So-called "conservatives" are always saying stupid things, since so-called "conservatives" in America today are nothing but brainwashed mental slaves of corporate-funded right-wing extremist propaganda, who are incapable of independent thought and who think and say whatever Rush Limbaugh and Fox News tell them to think and say.

These days, any time someone starts out saying "I'm a conservative", everything they say after that is going to be rote recitation of scripted talking points.


Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 15, 2006 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

What's most remarkable about this, Kevin, is that the rate of population increase for California 1990 to 2000 was actually slightly higher (13.6%) than for the nation as a whole (13.1%).

Like I said, we're better than you.

Posted by: craigie on September 15, 2006 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

How much of this can be explained by an increase in the low income/undocumented population which will most likely use less power per capita?

Posted by: danh on September 15, 2006 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

Is anyone surprised that this administration gets away with these crap? Look at how the mainstream media catapults the propaganda.

Posted by: BigJohn on September 15, 2006 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

Most energy-hungry indistries locate to where energy sources are - aluminum smelters in places with Hydro, Iron and Glass in places with Coal, etc.

California hosts more of the Internet, another energy hungry industry.

I'm really just wondering how it's even possible for California to be so energy-efficient. My appartment complex just replaced all the lamps with fluorescent lamps - lamps that my grandparents put in their home when this apartment was built. We have more TVs, more computers, more just about everything than the national average...

...And our homes are less efficient. More homes in California have been, or are, being built with very little insulation. Admittedly, most of the state probably doesn't need it more than half the year, but the month or two the temperature is outside norm...

I wish the article said how we did it.

Of course, whenever I travel away from the west coast, I always feel as though I'm moving back in time and out of the civilized world.

Posted by: Crissa on September 15, 2006 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, are you going to fix your image in the post? It cuts off the leading '1' in the 12,000.

Posted by: Crissa on September 15, 2006 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

I wrote: "These days, any time someone starts out saying 'I'm a conservative', everything they say after that is going to be rote recitation of scripted talking points."

And the raving nutcase "mhr" immediately shows up, feverishly reciting the most idiotic scripted right-wing extremist talking points, just to prove my point.

mhr drooled: "I have a solution for you all, a place where you can find millions of like-minded people who think just like you, where you will have a leader you can respect and admire- buy one-way tickets to Cuba. You will love it there."

Of course, unfortunately for mhr, he can't buy a one-way ticket to the country where he would find millions of people just like him and a leader that he can respect and admire, because Nazi Germany doesn't exist any more.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 15, 2006 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

Its is not an exception. It's a continuation of the pattern for other possessive pronouns. So Its:It::His:He::Her/Her::She::My/Mine:I

Posted by: don Hosek on September 15, 2006 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

Conservative's flawed thinking assumes all costs are expenses, not capitalized assets. It also assumes that no benefit and/or efficiency arises from alternative energy sources. When the foundation of your thinking is rotted, the whole structure is flawed.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on September 15, 2006 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

You have it all wrong, Kevin! California is doing well in SPITE of energy and emissions regulation--not because of it! Proposition 13 is the source of all of California's bounty.

(And the reason for its relative energy efficiency and tolerable smog levels, of course.)

Posted by: Jim on September 15, 2006 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

It appears that the inane left is sick and tired of just about everything in the United States...where white Christians threaten no one because... I have a solution for you all, a place where you can find millions of like-minded people who think just like you, where you will have a leader you can respect and admire...

[YAWN]

I'll just settle for any place mhr isn't.

Posted by: cyntax on September 15, 2006 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

How much of this can be explained by an increase in the low income/undocumented population which will most likely use less power per capita?

Uh huh. Go look at the Times' chart of energy use by state. Now see if you can spot the correlation between the states that use the least energy (per person) and the states that are the most Blue.

Coincidence? I think not.

Posted by: craigie on September 15, 2006 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

If California can net import no oil from the Middle-East, can we stop sending our California National Guard troops to the Middle-East to secure oil supplies?

It's only fair.

What's un-fair, is when California gets to a point where we release zero carbon, net. But we'll still all fry from Global Warming.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on September 15, 2006 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

-- say their research will result in thin rolls of highly efficient light-collecting plastics spread across rooftops or built into building materials.

SA - Solar is definately the next major investment I'm making on my house, and I've been thinking about this for about the past 5 years. I have not found a good vendor yet that is offering anything like what's mentioned above for retail sale.

Much of the cost of these systems is in cabling and converters (technically "inverters" - to convert DC-to-AC). The thin-film type technology is intriquing, as is the built-in roofing materials, but the former would have a durability problem (during storms, etc.) and the latter; well, how do you wire all those shingles?

This stuff is coming. A guy down the street from me doubled-up on panels (installed twice as much as he needs to power his home) and not only is he immune to the frequent power glitches we get in our area, when our oh-so-efficient free market does what it does best, but he also makes about $300 a month selling power back to the electric company. NET.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on September 15, 2006 at 7:55 PM | PERMALINK

SA - Solar is definitely the next major investment I'm making on my house, and I've been thinking about this for about the past 5 years.

Where do you live? Someplace sunny, obviously.

Consider a geothermal heat pump. Very efficient.

Posted by: Red State Mike on September 15, 2006 at 8:15 PM | PERMALINK

Where do you live? Someplace sunny, obviously.
Consider a geothermal heat pump. Very efficient.
Posted by: Red State Mike on September 15, 2006 at 8:15 PM | PERMALINK

Someplace sunny.

I'm not sure what a geothermal heat pump is -
But I don't live anywhere near any volcanos or hot springs, so geothermal anything is unlikely. And I don't really need a heat pump. I don't use any air conditioning at all, and I use a gas heater pretty sparingly for a few months, at night, during winter.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on September 15, 2006 at 9:00 PM | PERMALINK

The citizens of CA still consume electricity at about 10X the rate of what the average world citizen uses.

An average rate that Drums/Gores of the world believe will result in the destruction of the environment in less than 10 years.

For Drum to use the citizens of CA as an example of energy conservation just displays his ignorance.

Posted by: mark on September 15, 2006 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, any state near an ocean has a flatter temperature curve over the year, and therefore less need to consume lots of energy per person to heat or cool.

I wonder if it'd be possible to even out for temperated-ness?

Posted by: Crissa on September 15, 2006 at 10:28 PM | PERMALINK

And how does his solar power system make him immune to power glitches at night?

It has one end marked + and another one marked -. It's called a battery, dumbshit.

Posted by: brooksfoe on September 15, 2006 at 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, any state near an ocean has a flatter temperature curve over the year, and therefore less need to consume lots of energy per person to heat or cool.

I wonder about this. CA has the wonderful Mediterranean climate, true; but whatever you gain on not heating in the winter, you might lose on air-conditioning in the winter, in much of LA. No?

Posted by: brooksfoe on September 15, 2006 at 11:35 PM | PERMALINK

its not like Californians just started living in the Central Valley last week.




No, but the numbers are pretty damn big. Riverside is gaining about 90,000 a year and has added about 800,000 since 1990; San Bernardino has added 600,000 since then. No coastal county has grown more than 5% since 2000, while the big inland counties have grown by 15%-25%. They're starting from smaller bases, sure, but the balance is shifting.

If your state population grows by 10%, and that growth is all effectively in the extreme heat zone (because that's where the new housing is going up, and people moving to the coast displace others inland), that's going to affect the per capita usage to some degree. I don't live in California, but my electricity bill goes up from like $30 to $150 a month when the window units go in in late June.

Posted by: Brittain33 on September 15, 2006 at 11:37 PM | PERMALINK

I have a vague recollection of postponing bathing during the Great Drought of the late(?) 80s (or was it the early 90s?) while growing up in the LA area; it felt ascetic.

But I think all that was offset by those "mental health" days I would take later in high school (the joys of private schooling - their per-student funding doesn't depend on students actually being present, which meant that as long as you showed up on occasion in the dress code and with the proper haircut [for the benefit of those ancient blue haired trustees who bankrolled the place, and the occasional visiting celebrity looking for a school for their little monster] those occasions you had [a la Dick Cheney] "more important things to do" all was well) and drive through the Santa Monica Mountains all day listening to that Janes Addiction live record.

Posted by: Linus on September 15, 2006 at 11:41 PM | PERMALINK

CA has the wonderful Mediterranean climate, true; but whatever you gain on not heating in the winter, you might lose on air-conditioning in the winter, in much of LA. No?

No.

Granted, we are not quite as wimpy as some of our neighbors, but we probably run our air conditioning a total of about 24 hours in a year. A few hours a day, for a few really hot days. That's it. That's what a temperate climate is.

Posted by: craigie on September 16, 2006 at 12:08 AM | PERMALINK

Solar technology is near a cost/tech turning point where suddenly everbody's going to have it. Like cell phones.

I think the price of energy has more to do with this than regulations, though.

Posted by: fred on September 16, 2006 at 12:11 AM | PERMALINK

statistics are lies
new techonolgy is the work of the devil
progress leads to death
I want my mommy

Posted by: Republican deadender on September 16, 2006 at 12:39 AM | PERMALINK

Um, this would be really cool if it were true that a few simple public policy steps could cut per capital energy consumption in half. Unfortunately, though California is better than average, the data doesn't say what you and the article are trying to make it say.

The consumption data is from here. You can see that there are three components that matter - residential, commercial, and industrial. Residential and commercial electricity consumption should be fairly apples to apples comparable between states. Industrial will not, since the mix of industries will change radically. As an extreme example, states with high aluminum production or oil refining or steel making, which are electricity intensive, will have a higher per capita industrial electricity consumption, irrespective of public policy. The graph includes industrial, which is a mistake -- it is more refelective of industry mix than true energy efficiency.

If you leave industrial out, and compare just residential and commercial electricity use per capita, California is much more average. The graph you show is actually a better illustration of the success of CA not becoming more efficient, but in exporting its pollution to other states. No one in their right mind would even attempt to build a heavy industrial plant in CA in the last 30 years. The graph is driven much more by the growth of industrial electricity use outside CA relative to CA.

I would suspect that it has also been driven by the migration over those same 30 years of air conditioning in hot states, primarily the south, as incomes in this region have grown and even the poor can afford air conditioning. This is good news, not bad.

Finally, I think there is also a cogeneration measurement problem in the stats. California industry leads the nation in Cogen projects (a good thing and a smart energy step). Cogen works a bit differently and I suspect it may lead to some underestimation of CA industrial electricity use.

Please, is there anyone in the "reality-based community" that cares that their data really is saying what they think it is saying??

Posted by: Coyote on September 16, 2006 at 4:33 AM | PERMALINK

Of course, unfortunately for mhr, he can't buy a one-way ticket to the country where he would find millions of people just like him and a leader that he can respect and admire, because Nazi Germany doesn't exist any more.

There's always North Korea! Kim Il-Jung is always so ronery, I'm sure he could use a few good American sycophants.

Posted by: Dustbin Of History on September 16, 2006 at 5:35 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure what a geothermal heat pump is -

It is a heat pump, but it uses the ground as the heat source and sink, not the air. Superefficient, since the ground stays a constant 50-60 degrees year round (think visit to cave in summer).Nothing to do with hot springs or volcanos.

http://www.geo4va.vt.edu/A2/A2.htm

Posted by: Red State Mike on September 16, 2006 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

I checked with a contractor last year about solar last year.

Out of pocket, $4000 with a payback of 3.7 years, normally less but we don't use much electricity so it takes longer. After that, one sells it to the grid.

Better half nixed it, said the neighborhood would not support it, architectually.

Isn't it strange that with the prevailing winds West to East, that those on the West Coast seem more concerned with clean air than those on the East Coast.

Wonder what the environmental impact of covering the Mojave Desert with solar panels would be?

Posted by: Sky-Ho on September 16, 2006 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

These are misleading statistics.

Subtract out all the heavy industry that has left California (including the now mostly-closed oilfields) that consumed a large fraction of both electricity and natural gas and you'll see something much closer to the national average.

Even Google is moving, despite a sweetheart deal with the local co-op. Companies do respond to price signals, no matter idyllic the area (and irrespective of governments squeezing the balloon by subsidizing one class of energy users over another)

California is far from, say, Japan, where the traditional home heats only the main living room (and it's not unusual to wake up to exhaled frost).

We have an advantage that others have yet to match. We get twice the product out of every barrel of oil (compared to anyone else). If the world wanted to conserve, they'd ask us to consume their share to create goods and services. Granted, the poorer you are, the least productive and efficient is your energy use (where the worst is using something like a kerosene lamp to read by - worse than an SUV and more deadly).

Posted by: Ari Tai on September 16, 2006 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

Typical case of lying with statistics by an incompentent. Drum ignores the impact of central air conditioning in South and the encouragement of heat pumps in winter to use surplus generation capacity. Whether Drum is ignorant of the change in usuage of electricity I cannot say. Bu he ignores the fact that the California climate does not require the same level of AC that south does and the use of heat pumps for heating in rest of country.

Posted by: PaulV on September 16, 2006 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

I have done some more digging on the stats I mention ed above. Here is an update:

This would be really cool if it were true that a few simple public policy steps could cut per capital energy consumption in half.  Unfortunately, though I am willing to posit California is better than average (as any state would be with a mild climate and newer housing), the data doesn't say what Drum and the article are trying to make it say. 

The consumption data is from here.  You can see that there are three components that matter - residential, commercial, and industrial.  Residential and commercial electricity consumption may or may not be fairly apples to apples comparable between states (more in a minute).  Industrial consumption, however, will not be comparable, since the mix of industries will change radically state by state.  As an extreme example, states with high aluminum production or oil refining or steel making, which are electricity intensive, will have a higher per capita industrial electricity consumption, irrespective of public policy.  The graph Drum and the NY Times uses includes industrial consumption, which is a mistake -- it is more reflective of industry mix than true energy efficiency.

Take two of the higher states on the list.  Wyoming, at the top of the per capita consumption list, has industrial electricity consumption as a whopping 58% of total state consumption.  KY, also near the top, has industrial consumption at 50% of total demand.  The US average is industrial consumption at 29% of total demand.  CA, NY, and NJ, all near the bottom of the list in terms of per capital demand, have industrial use as 20.6%, 15.1%, and 16% respectively.  So rather than try to correlate electricity consumption to local energy regulations, it is clear that the per capita consumption numbers by state are a much better indicator of the presence of heavy industry.  In other words, the graph Drum shows is actually a better illustration of the success of CA not in necessarily becoming more efficient, but in exporting its pollution to other states.  No one in their right mind would even attempt to build a heavy industrial plant in CA in the last 30 years.  The graph is driven much more by the growth of industrial electricity use outside CA relative to CA.

Now take the residential numbers.  Lets look again at the states at the top of the per capita list:  Alabama, South Carolina, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas.  Can anyone tell me what these states have in common?  They are hot and humid.  Yes, California has its hot spots, but it has its mild spots too  (also, California hot spots are dry, so they can use more energy efficient evaporative cooling, something that does not work in the deep south).  These southern states are hot all over in the summer.  So its reasonable to assume that maybe, just maybe, some of these states have higher residential per capita consumption because of air conditioning load.  In fact, if one recast this list as residential use per capita, you would see a direct correlation to summer air conditioning loads.  I can't find installed air conditioning capacity by state, but this table of cooling degree days weighted for population location is a really good proxy.  (Explanation of cooling degree days). You can see that states like Alabama and Texas have two to four times the number of cooling degree days than California, which should directly correlate to about that much more per capita air conditioning (and thus electricity) use.

In fact, I have direct knowledge of both Alabama and Texas.  Both have seen a large increase in residential per capita electricity use vis a vis California over the last thirty years.  Granted.  But do you know why?  The number one reason is the increased access of the poor, particularly poor blacks, to air conditioning.  It is odd to see a liberal like Drum railing against this trend.  Or is it that he just didn't bother to try to understand the numbers?

OK, now I have saved the most obvious fisking for last.  Because even when you correct for these numbers, California is pretty efficient vs. the average on electricity consumption.  Drum attributes this, without evidence, to government action.  The NY Times basically does the same, positing in effect that CA has more energy laws than any other state and it has the lowest consumption so therefore they must be correlated.  But of course, correlation is not equal to causation.  Could there be another effect out there?

Well, here are the eight states in the data set above that the California CEC shows as having the lowest per capita electricity use:  CA, RI, NY, HI, NH, AK, VT, MA.  All right, now here are the eight states from the same data set that have the highest electricity prices:  CA, RI, NY, HI, NH, AK, VT, MA.  Woah!  It's the exact same eight states!  The 8 states with the highest prices are the eight states with the lowest per capita consumption.  Unbelievable.  No way that could have an effect, huh?  It must be all those green building codes in CA.  I suspect Drum is sort of right, just not in the way he means.  Stupid regulation in each state drives up prices, which in turn provides incentives for lower demand.  It achieves the goal, I guess, but very inefficiently.  A straight tax would be much more efficient.

Please, is there anyone in the "reality-based community" that cares that their data really is saying what they think it is saying??

More here.

Posted by: Coyote on September 16, 2006 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

"Even Google is moving..."

Actually, Google here in Silicon Valley is looking to expand their huge facilities here. They just donated free WiFi to the whole city of Mountain View.

Posted by: valleyboy on September 16, 2006 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

California has reduced its smog considerably? Something has felt vaguely Wrong, the past few years, and that seems to be it. I moved to So.Cal in 1943, and consider that it just isn't Natural to breath stuff you can't actually see (and taste).

More OnTopic, it sure seems to me that we waste an enormous amount of electricity -- and energy in general, and water (most of which comes from the north, and doesn't just flow downhill from there, even though it looks like it on the maps) than we used to. And I, with no apparently-drastic change in lifestyle, am using more electricity than 50 years ago -- only part of which can be accounted for by having substituted microwave for natural gas in much of my cooking. Paying much attention to electricity usage does seem a bit silly -- what really counts, I think, is total energy, though that would be much more difficult to account for, and especially to parcel out per state. (Who gets the credit/debit for the coal burned in the Four Corners area to produce electricity imported to California, for example, or for the elecricity used to produce the ammonium sulphate & other fertilizers used in California to produce crops that are exported to other states?) And what about these electric-powered cars touted (though not much, recently) as "petroleum-saving" even though the elecricity they use consumes more petroleum to generate than conventional gasoline-based ones would use? Simplification isn't always useful.

Posted by: Don Fitch on September 16, 2006 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

SecularAnimist wrote: "These days, any time someone starts out saying "I'm a conservative", everything they say after that is going to be rote recitation of scripted talking points."

Not "any time", perhaps. I rather often start by saying "i'm a conservative..." followed by "..liberal (both in the lower-case, please)" because I've come to the conclusion that most significant Changes produce (un-intended) ill effects at least as bad as the Problems they were meant to solve. Consider the results of the radical changes the Current Administration has made during the past six years -- resulting in a country I hardly recognize, and am sometimes tempted to disown.

As far as I can see, the (Neo-)Conservatives have reversed the meaning of "conservative" (as they have of so many other words) so that it now means "anti-Republican". (Sheesh! I'm getting to old to cope with stuff like that.)

Posted by: Don Fitch on September 16, 2006 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know why you assumed it was me stealing your handle, GOP. It wasn't.

Stupid regulation in each state drives up prices, which in turn provides incentives for lower demand.

Well, but then, not so stupid, eh?

Posted by: craigie on September 17, 2006 at 1:03 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: dd on September 17, 2006 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

Hey Coyote,
What Drum is really saying is that we should keep our own backyards pristine and export our pollution elsewhere. Which is what Californians do when they buy any product made outside of the state. Since there hasn't exactly been a boom in new manufacturing facilities in California in the last thirty years that's liable to be a lot of the non-ag products they use every day.

On a larger scale I now understand why people like Drum _love_ Kyoto. In this way we can clean up America and just as Green states such as California "export" their pollution and energy use to other states we can export our pollution and energy usage to the Third World nations that are barely affected by Kyoto.

Yeah...evil conservatives.

Posted by: Quilly Mammoth on September 17, 2006 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Coyote really destroyed you...didn't he Kev

Posted by: reality based? on September 17, 2006 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

For the record, California actually has 16 distinct climate zones that range from the Mediterranean coastal areas to Death Valley (average summer temperature of 98 degrees) to the Sierra Nevada Mountain range (average winter temperature 17 degrees.) There is no other state in the US that has the climate range of California.

California (along with most of the other "blue" states) also has one of the most aggressive energy efficiency programs in the country. The CPUC has used funds collected from rate payers state-wide to upgrade commercial and industrial facilities across every area served by one of the big three utilities. On the residential side, vast information campaigns and rebates have pushed the number of Energy Star rated refrigerators sold annually in California to 42%, Energy Star rated clothes washers to 60% and Energy Star rated dishwashers to 90%. Title 24 regulations on new construction now mandate insulation, energy efficient windows, efficient lighting and efficient heating and cooling systems.

California leads the nation in certified Energy Star buildings as well as Energy Star qualified homes.

We are the most energy efficient state because we have to be. If we can reduce load, especially peak load, we won't need to build any more power plants that waste resources and generate more pollution, which is the whole point of energy efficiency.

Posted by: arteclectic on September 18, 2006 at 12:14 AM | PERMALINK

By percentage, Energy Star Compliant new homes for 2005:
Alaska - 84%
Nevada - 43%
Iowa - 42%
New Jersey - 36%
Texas - 31%

California's is a big, whopping 12%.

http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=qhmi.showHomesMarketIndex

California is still second in qualified new homes by count (Texas leads) because California has so many new-house permits. If it is a count, California will lead it, in pretty much any category.

Posted by: rvman on September 18, 2006 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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