After Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher got national attention for self-righteously quitting the GOP to pursue the San Diego mayor's seat as an independent, it was inevitable that Arnold Schwarzenegger would write an L.A. Times op-ed patting himself on the back for being a constructive non-Neanderthal maverick Republican. Years before he was fine-tuning the constructive maverick narrative for Fletcher, political guru Matt David was doing it for John McCain, Arnold and Jon Huntsman. But the problem for Schwarzenegger is what he leaves out of his op-ed -- his assault on the Sacramento establishment from 2003-2005 -- and what he leaves in -- implied championing of three of the left's biggest boondoggles: Obamacare, green jobs and the bullet train. If I were Fletcher, I'm not sure I'd want to be linked to Arnold. The uncomfortable truth for Schwarzenegger, Fletcher and anyone who promotes the "both sides are to blame" narrative in California is that one side has almost the power, so of course it is primarily to blame for where California finds itself. Arnold understood this from when he ran in the 2003 recall to his special election wipeout in 2005. California would have become a far saner state if Arnold had prevailed in 2005, with teacher tenure reform, a state budget straightjacket and an indirect limit on union power through "paycheck protection" over automatic deduction of union dues from public employee paychecks. But Arnold didn't prevail. And immediately afterwards, he began flailing around in the most awkward, overt legacy hunt of any politician I have ever seen. This is reflected in his onanistic L.A. Times' op-ed over the weekend. What does he knock conformist Republicans for? A thoughtful, defensible position would have been for opposing any broad changes in the tax code that might have raised taxes for some but would have promoted overall economic growth. Instead, Arnold gets on his high horse with Republicans for not going along with three of the biggest boondoggles of the modern political era: Some Republicans today aren't even willing to have conversations about protecting the environment, investing in the infrastructure America needs or improving healthcare. The first part is a reference to the green jobs boondoggle, the second to the bullet train and the third to Obamacare. It is not a partisan assertion to say that independent folks looking at all three have run away screaming over their horrible cost-to-benefit ratios. But Arnold doesn't care. He had the vision thing in spades, yunno? He wants to remind us he was for the green-jobs-will-save-us-all fantasy before Obama and Jerry Brown. That he was for the bullet train fantasy before Obama and Brown. And that between Mitt Romney and Obama, he sought the same sort of mandatory health insurance program for all Californians -- only to be thwarted by that most unlikely voice of reason, Don Perata! What's funniest of all is the way that people not in San Diego describe what's going on in San Diego. Like the NYT's David Brooks, Arnold tried to depict Fletcher as having been rebuffed by rigid GOP reactionaries, contrary to Ronald Reagan's desire for a "welcoming, open and diverse Republican Party." Two months ago, Republicans in the city of San Diego's central committee had three choices to endorse for mayor. One was Fletcher, a handsome war hero married to a Bush 43 staffer, someone with cute young kids, someone championed by former San Diego war hero-turned-mayor-and-then-governor Pete Wilson and someone whose biggest legislative accomplishment was passing a complex new law on sex offenders that was broadly if not accurately seen as a standard tough-on-crime crackdown. One was Bonnie Dumanis, the tough-on-crime San Diego district attorney who had the support of incumbent Republican mayor Jerry Sanders. She is gay, of which Bill O'Reilly, who likes to call her "Mrs. Dumanis," seems unaware. The third Republican mayoral candidate -- and the one whose victory with the city central committee led to Fletcher's quitting the party -- is Carl DeMaio -- a gay libertarian whose retail political skills are often found lacking and whose ties to San Diego are slim. So which young Republican politician's journey to the party's endorsement is more likely -- Fletcher's or DeMaio's? If you said the latter, I look forward to you naming all the other young gay libertarians whom California Republicans have rallied around. If you said the former, plainly, you're drinking the Matt David Kool-Aid. But Arnold, of course, isn't a drinker of the Kool-Aid. Since his 2005 special election wipeout, he's been a dispenser of the Kool-Aid, of the idea that Republicans share much of the blame for our local/state woes. In a state where 97 percent of the power rests with Democrats, that's nearly as ridiculous as blaming the dissidents in Pyongyang for North Korea's woes.
This Chris Reed fella, writing in the L.A. Daily News, has some good news about the California High-Speed Rail Authority: Why would the [California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers] turn on their normal allies and oppose plans for the bullet train? Because of the growing evidence that Gov. Jerry Brown thinks the only plausible way to fund the project is with the fees that heavy industries pay for the right to pollute under AB 32, the state's landmark 2006 anti-global warming law. The state Legislative Analyst's Office expects the fees from the "cap and trade" system to generate billions of dollars annually -- perhaps as much as $14 billion by 2015. There are plenty of legal precedents that appear to limit how the fees can be used. Since they are gathered to help fight pollution and reduce global warming, state finance officials say the fees must be spent for that purpose. But anyone who expects this argument to inhibit the CTA and the CFT from trying to get their hands on this immense new revenue source is hopelessly naive. .... Lawmakers in Sacramento won't get in the unions' way. Why would they start behaving honestly and ethically now? Read the whole column here. There is a very basic and obvious ploy that the CTA and CFT can use to grab AB 32 fees. Good column. I could read that guy all day and never get tired of his whining.
Like 99.9 percent of the California media, I'm not keeping all that good tabs on the implementation of AB 32's cap-and-trade system under which companies will buy and sell their pollution rights as part of the state's forced shift to cleaner but costlier energy. I may have written about it Sunday partly to make fun of Jerry, but that doesn't mean I'm an expert. So what does California's implementation look like to someone who understands the issues? It looks stalled -- maybe permanently. This is from the respected SoberLook.com economics web site: With the collapse of the CCX carbon credit trading, the only viable market based program for carbon emissions reduction has been developed at a state level in California. In conjunction with Cap and Trade, California implemented a law called California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). Recently however Judge Lawrence O’Neill issued an injunction to stop LCFS from proceeding as planned. The sticking point seems to be the discriminatory nature of the program against power generated outside the state that is viewed as hampering interstate commerce. This is why such programs are difficult to implement at the state level vs. nationally.
Judge O’Neill: "California is attempting to stop leakage of GHG emissions by treating electricity generated outside of the state differently than electricity generated inside its border. This discriminates against interstate commerce.”Legal experts now believe that this injunction will also derail California's Cap and Trade program.
Marten Law: With respect to electricity, the cap-and-trade program imposes requirements on emissions of fossil fuel-based generation in California, requiring an allowance to be submitted for each ton of regulated GHG emissions in California. In order to avoid leakage of emissions to other states, California has imposed an allowance requirement on imported electricity representing the emissions of GHGs imputed to such electricity.California Air Resources Board who sponsored these initiatives will appeal the LCFS injunction, but for now the whole program has been put on hold. My impression had been there were setbacks, but nothing big. This makes it seem like there are fundamental problems with one state trying to set up the sort of energy policy that should be developed at the federal level and, as a result, coming up with something that violates interstate commerce laws. It may be bureaucratic and idiosyncratic, but this feels like good news, which is welcome. Hat tip to the awesome MarginalRevolution.com site.
California has the second highest jobless rate of any state and has come out of the deep recession in far worse shape than America's other megastates (Texas, New York, Florida). Is now the best time to experiment with our economy in two very risky ways, one without precedent in world history and one more conventional? Sober people would say not. But thanks to Arnold, the AB 32 experiment in forcing a huge economy to absorb much higher fuel costs than rival states and nations is about to begin. And if Jerry gets his way, we'll see a squeeze on wealthy Californians that will force them to ponder this question: Is it really worth surrendering nearly half my income to live here? Be scared, Golden Staters, very scared. As bad as things now are, they could soon be much worse. By themselves, either AB 32 or the highest state income taxes on the rich bode terribly for California. If the Golden State takes away 12 percent of income in addition to the fed's 35 percent cut, how many millionaires will say it's time to bail? The following states have no individual income tax at all: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming. There are many beautiful places to live in those states, some with good weather, some with cosmopolitan charms. Why stay in Cali? And after AB 32 kicks in, forcing a massive shift away from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources, here's how many states will have cheaper energy costs than California: All of them. And yet Jerry Brown continues to pretend that AB 32 is a net positive for the economy even as it adds a unique burden to our economic competitiveness. What's particularly screwy about this argument is that in certain areas, starting with manufacturing, there is simply no dispute that energy cost is absolutely critical to staying in business. Manufacturing also provides the sort of relatively well-paying jobs that people without a college education can aspire to. But Jerry, Arnold and California Dems want to drive these jobs off. Why? Well-educated, employed greens don't like manufacturing jobs (or ag jobs, for that matter). Let them eat cake. Let us all eat cake. The state's own estimates are that the big utilities will charge residential and business customers 41 percent to 60 percent more for energy by the time AB 32 is fully online in 2020. What? You've never heard that stat before? Of course not. There has been far more media coverage devoted to the idea that AB 32 will help the economy than to the idea that imposing unique energy costs on the state's economy has a huge downside. I used to wonder how all the journos in the green tank could sleep at night. Now I have more basic concerns. Are they reproducing? "Idiocracy" here we come.
Does Jerry Brown really think he can get away with arguing, as he did Thursday, that we need to keep following the costly course laid out by the California High-Speed Rail Authority even as he unveils the most austere budget in modern state history? Or is this all kabuki before the plug is pulled? Weekend columns by Dan Walters and George Skelton make it plain that the Sacramento establishment is ready for a drastic response. Good. But what's amazing about the media finally turning on the bullet train is that they've done so even while ignoring two really powerful arguments against the boondoggle. It's amazing enough that the state would commit billions to a project that has been scorned by a half-dozen independent evaluators as wasteful, deceitful and mismanaged even as it cuts funds to the blind, disabled and impoverished elderly. But while there's been plenty of coverage of the fact that the bullet train's business plan violates state law, as far as I know I'm the only journalist who's noted that the bullet train breaks federal rules governing stimulus spending that have the force of law. Especially in a post-Solyndra era, shouldn't this, yunno, matter? Yet there's one more reason for Californians -- especially the social justice set -- to look at the bullet train and want to tear their hair out: It is a use of scant transit/transportation dollars that helps the wealthy and the middle class, not the poor. All the arguments made by Los Angeles gadfly Eric Mann against how the giant Metropolitan Transportation Authority operated hold true today for any public policy that holds fixed rail routes are better than unglamorous but inifinitely more utilitarian buses. This is from a 1996 Los Angeles Times article: Mann "accuses the agency of discriminating against minority and poor bus riders by pouring money into rail projects that will largely benefit white suburban commuters," amounting to ... a "separate and unequal system of public transportation." MTA officials deny the allegations of discrimination and defend their plans to build a network of rail lines as necessary to solve the region's traffic problems. Buses are crowded, dirty and dangerous, he complains. By contrast, trains are uncrowded, comfortable, clean and safe. One statistic he often cites: rail riders who account for 6% of the MTA's ridership are consuming 70% of the MTA capital and operating budget. Transit officials dismiss Mann ... and consider him doctrinaire. ... In the court case [targeting MTA policies], Mann's group has powerful legal allies in the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the ACLU. Robin Kelley, a New York University professor of history and African studies, sees the legal battle as an important civil rights case that attacks "a kind of class-based racism that maintains the invisible barriers." Transit agencies, "not just in L.A. but elsewhere, are getting out of the business of transporting the poor," he said. "They're moving into the business, more so than ever, of making suburbia accessible to urban cores." The MTA contends in court papers that the the rail lines, once completed, will be heavily used by minorities. Mann, however, said the lawsuit is part of an old struggle with a new twist. "Buses have been symbols of the civil rights movement since the days of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery boycott," Mann recently told author Mike Davis in the Nation. "But the issues have fundamentally changed. Then it was the right to sit at the front of the bus; now it is the right to have a seat or a bus, period." Nothing has changed in the mid-1990s. For the left, buses, because they typically use fossil fuels, are evil. So what if they're much better for helping poor people get around. Bullet trains likely to be used by the wealthy and middle class? Now they're cool. If this is social justice, social justice is a joke.
Great news, for once, on the AB 32 front, with a Fresno federal judge blocking part of California's 2006 law mandating a switch to cleaner but much costlier forms of energy on the grounds that it violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution by requiring changes in "farming and ethanol production practices in other states." This is the same clause, of course, that offers the most hope of blocking the multilevel fiasco that is Obamacare. It's also helping in the legal fight against California's manmade drought. Such utility. Can we also use it to take down Donald Trump and PETA? Well, no. But key help on three fronts is plenty. Just what is the Commerce Clause? Here's the short version from a Cornell Law School primer: The Commerce Clause refers to Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress the power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.” The Constitution enumerates certain powers for the federal government; the Tenth Amendment provides that any powers that are not enumerated in the Constitution are reserved for the states. Congress has often used the Commerce Clause to justify exercising legislative power over the activities of states and their citizens, leading to significant and ongoing controversy regarding the balance of power between the federal government and the states. The Commerce Clause has historically been viewed as both a grant of congressional authority and as a restriction on states’ powers to regulate. The “dormant” Commerce Clause refers to the prohibition, implied in the Commerce Clause, against states passing legislation that discriminates against or excessively burdens interstate commerce. The meaning of the word "commerce" is a source of much of the controversy. The Constitution does not explicitly define the word. Some argue that it refers simply to trade or exchange, while others claim that the founders intended to describe more broadly commercial and social intercourse between citizens of different states. Thus, the interpretation of "commerce" affects the appropriate dividing line between federal and state power. The Commerce Clause has been used to justify the use of federal laws in matters that do not on their face implicate interstate trade or exchange. Early on, the Supreme Court ruled that the power to regulate interstate commerce encompassed the power to regulate interstate navigation. Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. 1 (1824). In 1905, the Court used the Commerce Clause to halt price fixing in the Chicago meat industry .... . It found that business done even at a purely local level could become part of a continuous “current” of commerce that involved the interstate movement of goods and services. Swift and Company v. United States, 196 U.S. 375 (1905). .... With the advent of the New Deal, the powers of the federal government expanded into realms—such as regulation of in-state industrial production and worker hours and wages—that would not necessarily be considered “commerce” under the definitions set forth in Gibbons and Swift. As a result, prior to 1937, the Court exercised its power to strike down New Deal legislation as applied to certain plaintiffs. It found in Schechter Poultry Corp. v. US that the National Industrial Recovery Act was unconstitutional as applied to a poultry seller who bought and sold chicken only within the state of New York. 295 U.S. 495 (1935). The Court also found the Bituminous Coal Conservation Act unconstitutional. Carter v. Carter Coal Corp., 298 U.S. 238 (1936). Following his reelection, President Roosevelt responded to these attacks on his legislation by proposing what is known as the “Court-packing plan,” which would have expanded the size of the Supreme Court from nine to up to fifteen justices. Although the plan was defeated and the composition of the Court soon changed, the proposal was credited with changing the Court’s view on New Deal legislation. Beginning with the landmark case of NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., the Court recognized broader grounds upon which the Commerce Clause could be used to regulate state activity—most importantly, that activity was commerce if it had a “substantial economic effect” on interstate commerce or if the “cumulative effect” of one act could have an effect on such commerce. 301 U.S. 1 (1937). The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed segregation and prohibited discrimination against African-Americans, was passed under the Commerce Clause in order to allow the federal government to charge non-state actors with Equal Protection violations, which it had been unable to do up to that point because of the Fourteenth Amendment’s limited application to state actors. The Supreme Court found that Congress had the authority to regulate a business that served mostly interstate travelers in Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States. 379 U.S. 241 (1964). .... . In 1995, the Rehnquist Court again restricted the interpretation of the Commerce Clause in Lopez v. United States. 514 U.S. 549 (1995). The defendant in this case was charged with carrying a handgun to school in violation of the federal Gun Free School Zones Act of 1990. The defendant argued that the federal government had no authority to regulate firearms in local schools, while the government claimed that this fell under the Commerce Clause since possession of a firearm in a school zone would lead to violent crime, thereby affecting general economic conditions. The Chief Justice rejected this argument, and held that Congress only has the power to regulate the channels of commerce, the instrumentalities of commerce, and action that substantially affects interstate commerce. He declined to further expand the Commerce Clause, writing that “[t]o do so would require us to conclude that the Constitution's enumeration of powers does not presuppose something not enumerated, and that there never will be a distinction between what is truly national and what is truly local. This we are unwilling to do.” The federal government’s power was further restricted in the landmark case of Morrison v. United States, which overturned the Violence Against Women Act for its reliance on the Commerce Clause in making domestic violence against women a federal crime. 529 U.S. 598 (2000). Taken together, Lopez and Morrison have made clear that while the Court is still willing to recognize a broad interpretation of the Commerce Clause, if it does not find activity substantial enough to constitute interstate commerce it will not accept Congress's stated reason for federal regulation. The quiz is Tuesday. Be prepared.
In the winter of 2000-01, California was caught up in a wrenching energy crisis when a flawed energy deregulation plan and a lack of power-generating capacity forced utilities to vastly overpay for energy on the spot market, to the benefit of Enron and other companies gaming the situation. Did the state learn from this and strive to protect ratepayers? Nope. In fact, it's happening all over again -- this time as an outgrowth of AB 32's requirement that the state gradually switch to cleaner but much costlier sources of energy. The Sac Bee's Dan Walters lays out this nightmare deja vu scenario in his column today -- but he doesn't note the parallels to 2000-01: While the technological pathway to a low-carbon society is clear – more solar panels, more windmills, more battery-powered cars, more trolleys and trains and so forth – the costs of massive conversion will be hefty. One hint comes from a report prepared by the Division of Ratepayer Advocates, an internal watchdog at the Public Utilities Commission, which is goading utilities to meet the tough renewable standard. The division's report says, in effect, that the PUC's pressure on utilities is causing them to sign renewable energy procurement contracts at costs that are well above those from standard, gas-fired power plants. A PUC allocation mechanism designed to hold down those costs has been totally consumed by the flood of contracts, the report says, and the PUC "has approved nearly every renewable contract filed by the utilities, even when contracts rate poorly on a least-cost, best-fit basis." So far, the utilities are committed to spending – and their ratepayers to financing – at least $6 billion in above-market power costs, with more to come. $6 billion! $6 billion that's coming out of ratepayer pocketbooks! That is not a small sum. More from Walters: California's average retail electric rate of 13.24 cents per kilowatt-hour is already the ninth highest in the nation, 50 percent above average. And when those "renewable portfolios" come online, power bills will ratchet rapidly upward. All toward what end? Well, of course, AB 32 was how California helped save the world. It inspired the rest of the globe to shift to cleaner energy, thus reducing the release of emissions that contribute to global warming. Except, of course, it didn't. So the only upside from AB 32 was that it made Arnold and the green-blooded Dem lawmakers from the Bay Area and West L.A. feel good about themselves. The parallels with the 1996 law that set up a flawed energy deregulation plan in California are obvious. Both it and AB 32 were rushed to passage without full consideration of the real-world effects. Both it and AB 32 led to lawmakers patting themselves on the back and telling the world they were visionaries positioning California for a better future. And both blew up, providing a way for private energy suppliers to grossly overcharge state utilities -- and once again forcing Californians to spend billions more on energy because of the incompetent trendiness of those they elected to run the state. But at least we'll have all those green jobs, right? Well, no. No, we won't. Thanks so much, Arnold, thanks so much, state lawmakers, thanks so much, California media green cheerleaders. Y'all are doing a wonderful job.
Arnold Schwarzenegger's speech at the climate change conference last Thursday was overshadowed by Gov. Jerry Brown's red-meat speech for green true believers, but it was a piece of work -- 20 minutes or so of him telling the crowd how great he was because of AB 32 and how great they were for thinking he was great. In addressing climate change, the rest of the world doesn't "have to have any debates -- just follow California," Arnold said. "Going green is great for the economy. It's great for job creation." Groan. Where are all the ballyhooed "fact check" journalists on junk like this? Shouldn't the recent reports in The New York Times and The Washington Post finally embolden the rest of the media to hold greens to the same standards as other powerful groups? The argument we're supposed to believe is that sure, a forced switch to cleaner but costlier forms of energy will hurt some parts of the economy and transfer more costs to consumers and to businesses, but the upside of a flourishing green economy will more than make up for the pain that California suffers. This theory hasn't panned out anywhere in the world. It was a huge flop in Spain. The respected McKinsey consulting group said last year that green jobs would be a niche in the economy akin to semiconductors and that it was simply wrong to liken the green sector to mass manufacturing such as automobiles or steel-making. But for years, greens and their media allies have made the nutty conflation that having skepticism about green happy talk on the economy equals heretical questioning of climate change conventional wisdom. It doesn't. Finally, in recent months, the two most powerful newspapers in the U.S. bothered to take this crucial issue seriously. In August, The New York Times offered a withering assessment: In the Bay Area as in much of the country, the green economy is not proving to be the job-creation engine that many politicians envisioned. President Obama once pledged to create five million green jobs over 10 years. Gov. Jerry Brown promised 500,000 clean-technology jobs statewide by the end of the decade. But the results so far suggest such numbers are a pipe dream. .... A study released in July by the non-partisan Brookings Institution found clean-technology jobs accounted for just 2 percent of employment nationwide and only slightly more — 2.2 percent — in Silicon Valley. Rather than adding jobs, the study found, the sector actually lost 492 positions from 2003 to 2010 in the South Bay, where the unemployment rate in June was 10.5 percent. Federal and state efforts to stimulate creation of green jobs have largely failed, government records show. Two years after it was awarded $186 million in federal stimulus money to weatherize drafty homes, California has spent only a little over half that sum and has so far created the equivalent of just 538 full-time jobs in the last quarter, according to the State Department of Community Services and Development. .... Job training programs intended for the clean economy have also failed to generate big numbers. The Economic Development Department in California reports that $59 million in state, federal and private money dedicated to green jobs training and apprenticeship has led to only 719 job placements — the equivalent of an $82,000 subsidy for each one. In September, a Washington Post report on the green-jobs program that the Obama administration had hyped for more than two years showed that it was a flop, both in general and compared to what we were told it would accomplish. WASHINGTON — A $38.6 billion loan guarantee program that the Obama administration promised would create or save 65,000 jobs has created just a few thousand new jobs two years after it began, government records show. The program, designed to jump-start the nation’s clean technology industry by giving energy companies access to low-cost, government-backed loans, has directly created 3,545 new, permanent jobs after giving out almost half the allocated amount, according to Energy Department tallies. President Barack Obama has made “green jobs” a showcase of his recovery plan, vowing to foster new jobs, new technologies and more competitive American industries. ... Obama’s efforts to create green jobs is lagging behind expectations at a time of persistently high unemployment. .... “There are good reasons to create green jobs, but they have more to do with green than with jobs,” Princeton University economics professor and former Federal Reserve vice chairman Alan Blinder has said. .... The Energy Department says the green-jobs program is still on track to meet its employment goals. It claims credit for saving 33,000 jobs at Ford Motor Co., about half of the Detroit automaker’s entire hourly and salaried U.S. workforce. ... Several economists said they doubt the loan program saved 33,000 jobs at Ford. “I always take these job estimates with a big grain of salt,” Josh Lerner, a Harvard Business School professor who has written about failed government efforts to stimulate targeted industries, said in an e-mail. “There tends to be a lot of fuzzy math when it comes to calculating these benefits (regardless of the party taking credit for the program).” Even it if were true, what about the farcical aspect of claiming that the biggest achievement in green jobs was in helping keep intact the jobs at a company whose main gig is making vehicles burning fossil fuels? More than HALF of the green jobs touted by the Obama White House were at Ford. The green jobs are to our environmental and economic policies as the WMDs were to Bush 43's Iraq policy: a key rationale for profoundly important decisions that turned out to be a lie. When will the media allow itself to climb out of the green tank and point out the WMDs ... err, the green jobs ... are missing? Or maybe it's not just Arnold smoking the green crack. To rephrase my earlier point, questioning what appear to be repeated and calculated lies about green jobs is not akin to wanting pollution to kill us all. It's just not. In most places, it is what used to be called Journalism 101. UPDATE, 9 P.M., DEC. 20: Thanks to John and Ken of KFI AM 640 for doing a full segment on this post. Yeah, I know, the link gets their station wrong, but it's easier to navigate than the KFI link, which requires you hunt for this in a much longer overall audio clip.
New York Times' report that "global emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel burning jumped by the largest amount on record last year" is one more bat to the face of those dumb enough to argue AB 32 is good policy. It was only good policy if the world copied California, as Arnold predicted. Not gonna happen. Soon it will be obvious geoengineering is the way to go, as the "Freakonomics" authors wrote. In the mean time, California's economy will be brutalized by higher energy prices that achieved nothing besides letting Schwarzenegger run around the world playing the role of Global Green Giant. That is certainly a small price to pay for our ex-gov's ego trip, don't you think? But at what point will the California media finally start thinking about the contrast between the way the world was expected to react to AB 32 in 2006 and how it's actually reacted? Maybe never. The Green Tank is enormous, and it needs to be, given all the California journos who are in it. Let's go back to what was said about AB 32 five years ago after its passage with a typical 2006 analysis piece on the news pages: Greenhouse gas plan may waft across U.S.; Backers hope other states follow California lead. By Chris Bowman. Bee Staff Writer / MAIN NEWS; Pg. A1 If history is any guide, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's pioneering plan to cap industrial greenhouse gases promises to enlist other states and, perhaps, the entire country in the fight to slow global warming. California repeatedly has pushed the frontiers of emission controls -- first to strap catalytic converters on tailpipes, first to mandate zero-polluting cars -- only to find itself a trendsetter, bucking predictions of economic doom. This time, however, the Golden State is making a quantum leap. The mission statement in the Global Warming Solutions Act that sits on Schwarzenegger's desk is nothing short of revolutionary: "Placing California at the forefront of national and international efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases." Other states, even nations, would have to follow California's lead to make any measurable difference. How's that working out? Not so well. When will anyone point this out on the front page of the Sac Bee? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? Now let's go back five years and look at an AB 32 analysis on the opinon pages. This was by Curtis Moore in the Los Angeles Times: Besides AB 32, California legislators have sent five other environmental bills to the governor to sign this month. One requires that electricity production create no more pollution than that associated with one of the most advanced generating technologies. Two others boost Schwarzenegger's "million solar roofs" plan and fuel cells -- which, when using hydrogen, produce only pure water and electricity, with zero pollution. Yet another law would impose a $30 fee for each container at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles -- possibly the largest aggregate source of global warming pollution west of the Mississippi -- to help pay for cleansing the air. And finally, the Legislature also passed a bill requiring that by 2020, at least 50% of new passenger cars and light-duty trucks be clean, alternative-fuel vehicles, such as hydrogen, plug-in hybrids and flex-fuel vehicles. It's not certain that the governor will sign all of these initiatives into law, but it would be a shame if he didn't. Taken together, they represent the most comprehensive and rigorous attack on air pollution adopted in a generation, one that is certain to be adopted throughout the world -- and one that just might save it. Certain to be adopted, huh? How’s that working out? Not so well. When will anyone point this out on the opinion pages of the L.A. Times? On any page of the L.A. Times? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? Now that these confident predictions have proven wrong, isn't that, yunno, news? Remember, I'm not writing this as a global-warming skeptic. I'm writing this as a skeptic of how California is responding to the issue. And I'm also writing this as someone who is genuinely baffled at how this crucial part of AB 32 is the subject of ZERO follow-up print reporting. None. Because an awful lot of journos who probably have stacks of plaques either have to be in the green tank or have suffered amnesia not to point out the key premise of AB 32 didn't come true, and, as a result, AB 32 is dumb policy.The
Since AB 32's adoption, I've been astounded by the superficiality of the media's coverage of the law, which forces the state to shift to cleaner but much costlier forms of energy. Having one state pursue such a policy more or less unilaterally is economic suicide. Says who? Not a "global warming denier," to use the green movement lingo. Says President Obama's own energy secretary! Attention, green California journos who don't think you're in the tank but probably are: Isn't this a story? energy and I really think the value is in including the so-called external costs that are not folded into the direct price now, but if a country does not do that, in order to protect the American industries, we ought to think about something like that. Chu thinks the competitiveness gap problem is so significant that if the U.S. had adopted cap-and-trade, he was willing to risk a trade war by imposing sanctions on nations that didn't follow suit! When you hear something as stark as that, the idiocy of the claim that AB 32 will be benign goes from a dull background hum to the sound of a dozen 747s landing simultaneously. If you believe AB 32 will be benign -- that having energy cost 40 percent to 60 percent more in Cali is no big deal -- I've got a subdivision in Perris you might be interested in. If you believe AB 32 will be benign, for the good of our society, I hope you don't have children. Cap-and-trade died, of course, in Congress, and when it was controlled by Democrats. Why? Because the rest of the world, in economic free fall, was backing away as fast as it could from cap and trade. In Congress, if not in Sacramento, the insanity of unilaterally forcing your energy prices to be much higher than economic rivals was apparent. This was the best reason by far to back Prop. 23, the November 2010 measure that would have suspended AB 32 until joblessness plunged. But did a single story in the L.A. Times, S.F. Chronicle or Sac Bee coverage even make this point? Not according to Nexis. Maybe when the competitive disadvantage caused by much higher energy costs kicks in and starts killing California's ag and manufacturing (for starters), then the obvious flaw with going it alone on cap-and-trade will sink in with journalists. By then, though, it may be too late for manufacturing and other industries. Dumb de dumb dumb. What did California do to deserve such wafer-thin coverage of a policy with such huge long-term implications? What could possibly have created such horrible karma for this utter journalistic malpractice to afflict us all? No, California didn't invent reality TV; Britain and Japan were way ahead of us. No, we didn't invent the "it bleeds, it leads," vulgar, celebrity-obsessed local news template, although Tom Snyder did the state of the art version of it at KABC in the 1980s. Googling suggests it was pioneered in Australia and Britain (hat tip to Rupert Murdoch). So what did we do to deserve a media that won't cover a law that will make 12 percent unemployment seem like the good old days? That thinks Energy Secretary Steven Chu has the same credibility as a "global warming denier"? I'm taking nominations. This has promise.So does this one. But this one is pretty strong.As Arnold said back in fall 2006 when he paused after long hours patting himself on the back, an AB 32 approach only works to help the climate and to not create economic upheaval when most states and nations have similar policies. Otherwise, the climate doesn't improve, and the few governments that do adopt such a policy -- as California did -- are at a competitive disadvantage. Arnold repeated this common sense in a March 2010 letter to the air board after reports it was eager to gear up implementation of AB 32: I strongly support a more carefully phased approach to development of an auction [of emission allowances] system, beginning with a very small percentage of allowances... [The state’s approach should mesh] “as seamlessly as possible into a comprehensive national strategy ... Given the importance of interstate and international trade to California’s economy, we must design our program to ensure that California companies are appropriately positioned to compete under any future federal or international program. Arnold was still governor at the time. But he got next to zero ink for pointing out this inconvenient truth. The obvious downside of AB 32 unilateralism never does. Somehow, skepticism about the practicality of AB 32 has become tantamount to being a "global warming denier." So does that make President Obama's energy secretary, legendary UC Berkeley physicist Steven Chu, a denier? This is from Chu's March 17, 2009, testimony to the House Science and Technology Committee after a discussion of, among other issues, what the U.S. should do if other big polluter nations didn't adopt cap-and-trade type policies to reduce carbon emissions: You're raising a very important issue. The cap-and- trade bill will likely increase the cost of electricity, and so, it's on the Administration's plan of using a significant part of that money. First, there are two issues. There is the poorer part of society that has to be guarded against, and so, part of the Administration's plan has been to try to ensure that the poorer segments of our society are not really hurt. With regard to increasing the costs, let me go straight to the heart of the matter. Many of these costs will be passed on to the consumers, but the issue is how do we interact in terms of the rest of the world? If other countries don't impose a cost on carbon, then we would be at a disadvantage. I think the only way to do this, and already the Administration and others have talked about it, that you have to think about if you have something that's manufactured in another country that is not imposing, including the cost of admitting the carbon because there's a cost in admitting the carbon, right, to society, if Country X doesn't do this, then I think we should look at considering perhaps duties that would offset that cost. Just as we're beginning to talk about that in terms of even what we call local pollution costs like sulfur dioxide and natural dioxide. That will help level the playing field. Now, in the end, I think, one hopes that all countries will include the costs of this