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Richard "Ric" Grenell. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Richard Grenell Calls for Common Sense California Infrastructure

The only politician on the West Coast willing to support common sense infrastructure: nuclear power, desalination, and natural gas

By Edward Ring, March 23, 2021 2:49 am

California resident Richard Grenell, an American diplomat and politician who served in both the Trump and George W. Bush administrations, has been making some unusual and very welcome noise on Twitter. Interspersed amid his more conventional conservative commentary are calls for California to invest in infrastructure, and not just any infrastructure.

On March 20, Grenell tweeted “I hereby order an LNG terminal to be built ASAP on the West Coast of the United States (preferably in California).” Later that day, he added “I hereby order multiple desalinization plants to be built in California. And I also hereby order new Nuclear power plants to be built in California.”

It’s too bad Grenell isn’t running California. He is not only emphasizing “infrastructure,” an overused, wonky term that is an obligatory part of every politician’s stump speech, quickly forgotten once they take office. Grenell is emphasizing the right stuff.

Each of these projects is considered off-limits by the green technocrats that run the state. You know, people who will pad their personal wealth by additional billions as they sell us the hardware to “manage” our consumption of energy and water. Sold as “incentive based” conservation, the tech companies, working closely with extreme environmentalist pressure groups, want to surveil and ration these building blocks of prosperity.

What Grenell understands is not only will the projects he’s advocating make rationing unnecessary, eventually they will lower the cost to ordinary consumers for these commodities.

Nuclear power ought to be the easiest policy choice, but despite new plant designs that makes nuclear power safer than ever, California is moving backwards instead of forward. After shutting down the San Onofre nuclear power plant in 2013, a plant that could have been retrofit as easily as it’s now being decommissioned, California’s PUC is now planning to shut down Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

Beyond safety concerns, which ought to be easily addressed in an honest political and media debate, there are economic arguments against nuclear power. But they don’t hold up. The capital costs to build nuclear power plants are coming down because of modern innovations that offer smaller-scale, modular, plug-and-play systems. Most of the excessive capital costs are driven by excessive regulatory hurdles.

Least credible, but often cited as well, is the argument that continuous electricity will overwhelm storage resources during periods of full sun or high winds, which put surplus renewable power onto the grid. California exports power during these periods, and is the nation’s number one importer of electricity when renewable output falters. There are only two solutions: more continuous power, and more storage capacity. Breakthroughs in the cost of electrical storage are bringing those costs down. But if California is determined to convert millions of vehicles and homes to all-electric power, clean nuclear power needs to be part of the solution.

Desalination, while equally anathema to environmentalist extremists, at least has a chance in California. One large plant already operates, the Carlsbad plant near San Diego. Against frantic opposition, another plant is moving towards approval in Huntington Beach. Combined, these plants will provide 120,000 acre feet of water per year, while drawing only 60 megawatts of power, no more than it takes to pump this water through California’s extensive aqueducts into Southern California. And while desalination is absolutely vital to offer another source of water to over 20 million Californians who live in the state’s arid south, it also is economically feasible.

Currently over 2.5 million acre feet are pumped from north to south to supply the water districts of Southern California. It would require a construction expense of at most $15 billion – that is the “California price,” that takes into account decades of permitting delays, litigation, labor negotiations, and absolutely perfect environmental mitigation built into the designs – to build a 1.0 million acre feet per year desalination capacity onto the California coast. That equates to less than $200 per rate paying household per year, before issuing general obligation bonds to lower that burden still further.

With a combination of desalination and wastewater reuse, California’s southern coast water districts could become 100 percent independent of imported water. Along with the resiliency and abundance this would impart to residents, imagine the benefits to farmers and environmentalists that could put all that water to good use upstream.

Completely off the table, for no good reason, is development of natural gas. California sits on over 12 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves, yet has to import natural gas. To cope with this, along with “climate change,” California’s policymakers are attempting to gradually eliminate use of natural gas in California. This is an incredibly costly, ultimately futile act, since fossil fuel consumption worldwide isn’t about to slow down, nor should it. The fast track to prosperity requires cheap energy, and the best thing that can happen to the global environment is for developing nations to quickly achieve universal prosperity, since prosperity is invariably accompanied by lower birthrates. Shall the planet support 12 billion humans, or 9 billion humans?

Back in the more sensible 1990s, the prestigious Worldwatch Institute used to harp on the role of natural gas as the essential “transitional fuel,” cleaner than coal or oil, and necessary to buy humanity time until totally clean energy – nuclear fusion, hydrogen – could become commercially feasible.

Grenell deserves praise for being the only politician, certainly on the West Coast, who is willing to support common sense infrastructure: nuclear power, desalination, and natural gas.

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15 thoughts on “Richard Grenell Calls for Common Sense California Infrastructure

  1. Have to admit, I’m not bought into the nuclear fuel option 100%, given our underlying seismic risks (See Fukushima & “China Syndrome) but I will admit that Grenell makes a lot more sense than 98.4% of the current crop of CA legislators, and 100% from the Bay Area.

  2. Where are the 4 massive reservoirs that have already been approved by voters. Where are the 2 Sacramento Delta Tunnels that were going to be used to capture flood water from Northern California rivers during strong rain events and feed it to the Aqueduct system already in place. When are we going to learn how to manage water, again. The real drought is in Sacramento.

  3. Ballot harvesting will destroy anyone who seeks to tame the public union’s cash bull. Stay home, don’t waste your money on a terminally ill patent.

  4. The author is deeply misinformed. ” After shutting down the San Onofre nuclear power plant in 2013, a plant that could have been retrofit as easily as it’s now being decommissioned …”

    First, San Onofre was not shut down by the PUC (Public Utilities Commission). The Public Utilities Commission’s authority is over electric rates. It has zero regulatory authority over nuclear safety. That’s the job of the Federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

    Second, Southern California Edison voluntarily closed San Onofre after the plant blew radioactive steam into the environment. Edison determined that its experimental replacement steam generators could not be repaired. They knew the plant was unsafe and could never be operated at full power again.

    Third, it would have cost billions to replace Edison’s experimental replacement steam generators with the same reliable Westinghouse generators that it had before. What’s more, because Edison was operating an unlicensed nuclear power plant, with souped-up experimental generators, they were 100% responsible financially for the failure.

    Finally, Southern California Edison’s top executives escaped their legal responsibility to pay for the defective steam generators by engaging in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the ratepayers.

    At that time, the PUC was run by Southern California Edison’s former CEO, Michael Peevey. Edison’s executives met secretly with their former boss in a hotel room in Warsaw Poland, and hashed out a secret PUC-approved bailout deal at YOUR EXPENSE. The criminal conspiracy is documented in the Department of Justice Criminal Search Warrant here:

    https://publicwatchdogs.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/18-page-Affidavit_-KMBT_C28015122814410-1.pdf

    1. Charles you are mostly correct and the worse part of it is that the insurance companies were able to skate so naturally PUC approves the cost on to the rate payers. The whole event is a disgrace and a tremendous waste of assets. However, there is enough infrastructure remaining that could be re-used with the ultra-safe modern and much more compact reactors on the market today. CA is like an alcoholic, it has to get to the bottom in its insane quest to use windmills and solar panels to maintain its economy and one day it will wake up and get it s act together.

      1. Stephen T. Harris, First, I’m not “getting” your comment on the insurance companies. If you are operating an unlicensed vehicle, your auto-insurance is void. The same principle applies to an unlicensed nuclear reactor, which is why a publicly funded bailout was necessary for San Onofre. Second, the industry has always touted the idea that its latest generation of reactors can’t possibly fail. That was the claim for Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. Third, the “new” designs, such as molten salt and Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) bring a host of additional problems. Molten Salt reactors still have no way of safely storing the deadly waste that is created, and SMRs will distribute “School-bus-sized” reactors that run on deadly nuclear waste in every neighborhood or mud-hut village in Africa. Sound great, until you relaize that these are inviting terrorist targets, and that nuclear waste is also absolutely essential for the production of modern nuclear weapons. There is far better, cheaper, less risky, and more immediate solution: Energy storage. Right now California actually pays money for other states to take its electricity because we generate too much solar power on sunny days. Instead of pouring billions of dollars into a dead-end last century technology like nuclear energy, our science should be focused on finding ways to store energy.

        1. Notwithstanding your regurgitation of talking points from the Sierra Club regarding nuclear power, you’re crazy if you think wind and solar power (with adequate storage or not) can fully replace gas, oil, coal, and, no doubt, hydroelectric. It’s nuts. Period. Nuclear power has to be part of the mix if there is to be enough energy to power a growing global economy. If you don’t like nuclear power as it is, figure out how to fix it.

  5. This man is ideal for Governor of California, given its peculiarities in who it wants to be governed by. Personally, I feel that the 35% of the state that is “conservative” or voices long drowned out, were to get together with the 35% Spanish speaking population in CA, that would be an insurmountable block that even the unions, private and especially the public ones, could not stop. The idea that Central Americans will vote democrat so lets bring in all the illegals is an anathema to legal Spanish residents as much as anyone else that is sentient. Witness the counties in Texas along the Rio Grande that flipped into solid red voting for the first time ever last year.

  6. Misappropriation of Americans taxes is a criminal offense in America, politicians are spending taxes and federal funds on wrong issues.

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