By Paolo von Schirach
November 12, 2013
WASHINGTON – An interesting WSJ editorial (California Green Reality Check, November 12, 2013), reveals that the entire green policy of the state of California is worse than pie in the sky: it is, in fact, a horrendously expensive joke. Costly curbs on fossil fuels, combined with subsidies for zero emissions renewable energy will produce no results. According to an estimate elaborated by the Lawrence Livermore Berkley National Laboratory, (part of the US Department of Energy), even if California managed to carry out all the energy mandates that are part of its ambitious emissions curbing objectives, by 2050 overall emissions will be unchanged.
What is astonishing here is that policy-makers, starting with Governor Jerry Brown, did not know any of this, and therefore they promoted and mostly mandated costly policies that will prove to be super expensive and useless.
This does not mean that the pursuit of emission free energy is a bad idea as a matter of principle. It is a good idea. The point of this analysis is that unfortunately as of today we do not have the technological tools to make this goal into a reality. Green technologies have become much more sophisticated; but they are not yet fully developed. Whatever we have right now, it is not yet truly cost-effective; and so it cannot be brought up to scale with the speed and lower costs that we would like.
Therefore, instead of rushing to mandate the deployment of still imperfect technologies, it would make sense to invest more in R&D so that we get better, cost-effective products sooner rather than later.
Where are all the smart California scientists when you need them?
What I find most amazing in this story is that this foolish green energy policy course has been undertaken in California, arguably one of the best reservoirs of brain power in America. I would think that many of the high-tech Silicon Valley firms could have run simulations on Governor Brown’s ideas and they would have come to similar conclusions: “Noble goal; but it will not work”.
So why no one bothered to run the numbers and show this simple reality? Very simple. Because they are all prisoners of the “Green is Good” conventional wisdom; and therefore not even the top scientists would dare challenging this supposedly self-evident truth.
Ideology more important than science
Science is supposed to be about facts, and not about upholding beliefs and ideology. However, this basic standard apparently does not apply to California. Sadly, in California we see how the fear of being caught on the wrong side of a moral divide deters top scientists from investigating the issues and telling the truth. Being “morally right” is what matters, even at the cost of being wasteful and in the end stupid.