Energy

California is a resource-rich state. Our economy has now surpassed Brazil's to be the 7th largest in the world. While some of these resources ARE energy, such as oil and natural gas, all of them, to one degree or another, consume energy. Thus, while we can produce prodigious amounts of energy, we consume even more prodigiously. The result of this is that California remains quite dependent upon energy from elsewhere in varied forms. Most prominently, California remains heavily dependent upon petroleum for our transportation needs. This is problematic.

Solving such a problem of dependence is not easy. But, the state has not stood idly by. The California Energy Commission was founded in 1974 and is made up of five Commissioners. The agency espouses seven core responsibilities: advancing state energy policy; achieving energy efficiency; certifying thermal power plants; investing in energy innovation; transforming transportation; developing renewable energy; and preparing for energy emergencies.

Due in large part to bipartisan efforts and the efforts of the Commission itself, California is today the indisputable leader in energy efficiency in the United States. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), electricity consumption has been "nearly flat over the past 40 years while the other 49 states increased their average per capita use by more than 50 percent [1960-2010]," despite California's steady population growth during the same period. California residents have saved an estimated $65 billion over this period, seen their electricity rates drop to 25% below the national average (Californians pay the ninth lowest electricity rates in the nation; for instance, we pay nearly $700 less than the average Texas household per year for power), and this efficiency has over time eliminated the need in California for some 30 power plants.[1]

Moreover, thanks to the Commission’s efforts, California leads the nation in the development of renewable energy sources. California’s top sources of alternative energy are biomass—obtaining energy from agricultural or natural growth crops; cogeneration—a process by which industrial waste heat or steam is utilized to generate electricity as a byproduct; geothermal—which takes advantage of naturally released energy from, for instance, geysers to produce electricity; and, of course, wind and solar—both of which primarily convert these energies into usable electricity. Other promising alternatives designed to reduce dependence upon oil, such as production of methanol from biomass sources, are also being aggressively worked on.[2]

I support the Commission’s mission and their efforts at diversifying California’s energy resources. Our state needs to continue to diversify its energy sources. Investment now will bring the state, and the nation, lower prices in the long-term, which will in turn facilitate robust and sustainable economic activity.

[1] See http://focus.senate.ca.gov/sites/focus.senate.ca.gov/files/climate/ca-success-story-FS.pdf for more information

[2] Adapted from Rawls & Bean, California: An Interpretive History, 8th Ed.., 2001

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