California's Long Hot Summer—and Ours

To supply shortages on everything from silicon chips for cars and household appliances to food, including baby food, this summer promises an exceptionally miserable shortage—electricity in California, and other things elsewhere in the country. California energy officials warned that the state lacks sufficient capacity to meet electric demand if other extreme events—perfectly predictable ones by the way—like heatwaves, and wild fires, and drought –occur.

Days later the Wall Street Journal observed that “power-generating capacity is struggling to keep up with demand, a gap that could lead to rolling blackouts during heat waves and other peak periods as soon as this year.” It's easy to make fun of California for its absurdly unrealistic, aggressive "climate-change" energy policies, but these warnings are now spreading “from California to Texas to Indiana,” but I pick that state because it is the most absurd.

It’s not the variations in weather we should blame. It’s weather—we have always had variations due to La Nina, wildfires, and drought. It’s why energy producers have always built in excess capacity. It’s idiotic policies, not least of which is retiring power plants before they can be replaced by "renewables" or conventional energy. Of course, the most idiotic of all policies is the notion that depriving people of needed energy will make it possible to control the climate which in their fantasy world is heating up at an unprecedented and terrifying rate because of CO2 emissions.

I did that?

National economies are intricate webs of interrelationships in which monomaniacal planners lack the sophistication of natural supply/demand operations of millions of actors—us, the consumers. Take one small example: as the electrical-generating capacity in California increasingly fails to meet demand, California has encouraged the purchase of electrical vehicles, instead of gas or diesel-fueled vehicles, and has mandated electrical home ranges instead of gas. When predicable electricity shortages again occur this summer, millions of Californians will be unable to store food, or cook it, or drive to get some from somewhere. And they’ll be hard pressed to find water to drink, wash in, or grow food with because of similarly nonsensical water policies which are diminishing hydro electrical generation.

Reliability of supply of something as critical to health and welfare as electricity should never be dependent on intermittent sources like wind and solar. Maybe some day someone (Elon Musk, for example) will invent large batteries to store their output so it will be available when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun isn’t shining, but we aren’t there yet, and until we are we simply cannot replace conventional electrical generating power plants with them.

As for hydro, for years now La Nina’s hot winds have reduced available hydropower, not just in California, but in surrounding states on the Western grid as well, including parts of Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas, Wyoming and Mexico and all of Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. If that grid goes down because of shortfalls in hydro power it could take days or weeks to restart it.

Lake Oroville, Calif.

Two of the largest reservoirs which supply hydro power to the state are at such low levels it will not take much for California to go dark. The water level in Lake Mead in Nevada is so low in fact, they are recovering bodies from what once were its depths. The man-made lake provides hydro electricity via  the Hoover Dam, and that electricity goes to Nevada and Arizona on a western grid connecting to California. Last year the warnings were made clear—doubtless it’s worse now.

Of course, California could fix things but its Coastal Commission will not allow desalination plants to be built along its very long coast, which would make more water available for hydro power production, nor will it store reserve water. It just empties that water into the sea, choosing instead to drain the reservoirs and in the process weakening their possible contribution to generating power. This year two of its largest reservoirs are already noticeably depleted before the heat of summer. Lake Oroville is another hydro site that California relies heavily on and it’s already low:

This week, Shasta Lake is only at 40 percent of its total capacity, the lowest it has ever been at the start of May since record-keeping began in 1977. Meanwhile, further south, Lake Oroville is at 55 percent of its capacity, which is 70 percent of where it should be around this time on average.... Last year, Oroville took a major hit after water levels plunged to just 24 percent of total capacity, forcing a crucial California hydroelectric power plant to shut down for the first time since it opened in 1967. The lake's water level sat well below boat ramps, and exposed intake pipes which usually sent water to power the dam.

California's Air Resource Board just passed a regulation banning gas-powered generators by 2028. If this survives legal challenge and becomes effective, it will be hardest on those in remote rural areas and make self-help when the grid goes down impossible. If you live in California, I strongly recommend you buy a generator now or spend the rest of your summers in the dark without food or air conditioning.

The best climate change for California would be a sharp shift in the political winds. But given the state's headlong plunge into self-destruction, that's not likely to happen any time soon.