With Climate Week 2020 events underway in California this week, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order requiring sales of all new passenger vehicles to be zero-emission by 2035 and “additional measures to eliminate harmful emissions from the transportation sector.”
The Governor’s Executive Order also addresses “closure and remediation of former oil extraction sites.”
Newsom announced Wednesday he will aggressively move the state further away from its reliance on “climate change-causing” fossil fuels. Newsom is also expected to announce he will abolish the use of natural gas and propane appliances.
California has been unable to keep the electric grid functioning during heat waves, but Gov. Newsom issued an executive order stating all residents must have electric cars by 2035.
As climate and environmental activist Michael Shellenberger said Wednesday on Twitter responding to Newsom’s latest order, “If you care so much about the climate why are you trying to close California’s last nuclear power plant? Diablo Canyon: – provides clean energy to 3M people – is needed to fuel EVs – is set to be replaced by fossil fuels, creating CO2-equivalent to adding 2M cars to road.”
If you care so much about the climate why are you trying to close California's last nuclear power plant?
– provides clean energy to 3M people
– is needed to fuel EVs
– is set to be replaced by fossil fuels, creating CO2-equivalent to adding 2M cars to road https://t.co/C4LkhY15TG
— Mike Shellenberger (@ShellenbergerMD) September 23, 2020
This latest “green new deal” order coincides with a newly released, state-by-state report on the capital cost associated with “electrification” for states and the nation. The report by The Energy & Environment Legal Institute, and its accompanying data spreadsheet, was authored by Tom Tanton, E&E Legal’s Director of Science and Technology Assessment.
Electrification is converting the entire economy to use electricity as a fuel.
In a California Globe interview, Tanton said the push to electrify everything is a key component of the national Green New Deal. However, his study focused solely only on the cost of energy electrification – which is almost worse given the potential costs.
He said his study is intended to open a dialogue to discuss what it will take to achieve total electrification, as well as to show that “it’s pretty damn expensive.”
“The estimate for annual energy expenses directly and indirectly paid by households will likely increase by at least $5,000 per household. Annual consumer expenditure for energy would roughly double,” the report found.
According to the report, electrifying the entire nation, with a goal of eliminating the direct consumption of fuel and reducing climate change emissions, would cost between $18 trillion and $30 trillion in first costs. Going all renewable, says Tanton, will force costs to the high end of the range – $30 trillion.
“The US currently derives about 35% of its electricity from natural gas but have also nearly doubled their use of renewable fuels in the past decade, from 9% to 17%, according to the EIA,” the report says. “This growth however doesn’t account for the electricity generated from non-renewable sources during periods of peak electrical demand. Whether it is peak load or normal operating times, policy makers must understand how the variables in utility operation impact the fuel availability and cost.”
Also, constructing and implementing an “all-electric” nation will include two other significant costs: stranded assets and deadweight losses. The bottom line is that electrification is not a cost-effective means of reducing carbon emissions from commercial or residential buildings nor the transportation sector.
Tanton says there are other ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“Electrification of everything is a poor means to reduce greenhouse gasses and exposes customers to more frequent outages. Further, we’d just be substituting one set of environmental impacts for another,” said Tanton. “There are several other more environmentally-friendly and cost-effective means to accomplish this goal, and we simply can’t afford to electrify everything as the report clearly shows.”
Removing carbon directly from the atmosphere, rather than reducing emissions, can be accomplished by improving agricultural practice and enhancing the carbon storage of soil, Tanton said in the report. “A great deal of carbon, once in the soil, is now in the atmosphere. We have lost two thirds historical soil humus to the atmosphere, representing 476 gigatons of CO2 and for a sense of perspective – all of mankind’s other activities since 1860 have released a total of just 250 gigatons of CO223. A mere 2% increase in the carbon content of the planet’s soils could offset 100% of all greenhouse gas emissions going into the atmosphere.”
Tanton said that electrification will destroy decades of diversification by the market, tying consumers to a fragile yet monolithic electric grid. The electric grid is ill-equipped for extreme conditions, like extended heat waves or polar vortex cold snaps, without blackouts, as just happened in California. “The likelihood of outages will increase with the considerable increase in demand associated with electric cars, removing natural gas from buildings, and other electrification moves. Building a more robust grid to handle such extremes would add perhaps $7 trillion to the costs.”
The report notes that Texas would lead the way in terms of total electrification costs at $3.157 trillion, followed by California at $2.823 trillion. What’s even more frightening is the per capita costs of such an expensive and destructive experiment. For example, each resident of Louisiana can expect a bill of $166,065, while Wyoming citizens would be on the hook for $158,961 apiece, and those in North Dakota would face a tab of $133,847.
Tanton, who lives in California and formerly a Principal Policy Advisor with the CA Energy Commission (CEC), has witnessed first-hand the devastation wrought by attempts at complete electrification.
“California’s rolling blackouts and cataclysmic forest fires are not the results of climate change. They are the direct result of poor leadership and destructive energy policies that should be rolled back in my state and others before it’s too late,” Tanton said.
The link to the report: Cost of Electrification: A State-by-State Analysis and Results