What happened to the Jerry Brown of old?
You know the one, circa 1975, when he thought small, talked about the era of limitations, worried about the little guy, and was called Governor Moonbeam. It’s time he gets someone to channel the late Jacques Barzaghi, a long-time aide that B.T. Collins — Brown’s chief of staff in 1976 – credited with letting Jerry Brown be Jerry Brown.
No matter what you think of the reconstituted Peripheral Canal — the $25 billion plus invisible straw Brown wants buried as twin tunnels to alter the Delta for Southern California and big farming interests — or the high speed train that initially will go nowhere, Brown has been doing a fairly reasonable job steering the Golden State. At least until he tore a page from the playbook of another former chief of staff — Gray Davis.
Remember Davis as California’s governor? He made it possible for Arnold Schwarzenegger to become governor. He did that by throwing rank and file Californians to the wolves by turning the economy over lock, stock and barrel to the power companies. Davis opened the wallets of Californians to the likes of PG&E, Southern California Con Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric by pushing deregulation.
Remember deregulation and the promise of lower electrical bills? Remember what we got instead? High power bills, rolling brownouts, reduced front-line PG&E personnel, and a corporate culture that made it possible for PG&E to take out a San Bruno neighborhood and kill eight people in the process.
In fairness to Davis, he expected an entirely different outcome.
Now Brown is trying to outdo his protégé.
He’s pushing a plan to give PG&E et al greater control over our pocketbooks. He wants to pave the way for the power companies that we all know and love to take away business from the oil companies by aggressively pushing electric cars. Of course no one has mentioned how they will do that. PG&E is already requesting a $654 million rate hike that will cost a typical customer up to $2 a year to add 25,000 charging stations in its service territory so it can make more money selling electricity.
This is all being done to make California greener with the byproducts of Californians having less green in their pocket. Honestly, I have no problem buying into short term financial pain for a better outcome. But here’s the rub: By making the power companies key to Brown’s oil use reduction strategy he’s enslaving the state’s economic future to a handful of for-profit ventures such as PG&E.
What makes no sense about Brown’s proposal is how short-sighted it is compared to the long-range benefit he touts from other massive initiatives such as the high speed rail and the twin tunnels.
For PG&E to generate more power without using “green sources” they’d have to blanket a considerable amount of California real estate with solar farms, put in place bird slice and dice wind farms, and dam a few more rivers. Nothing like destroying nature to go green.
And while there is a legitimate argument that electric cars won’t work for a number of Californians with their current and expected range limitations, it is a given there are two places most people that drive could charge an electric car long enough to make sense — when they are asleep or when they are at work.
Since that’s the case, why even pick the big power companies as the state’s solution? The reason that question matters is that it is almost a given the state won’t be able to resist — or PG&E et al will lobby and argue the case — granting generous tax credits and other government freebies.
How else does a company like PG&E make $4.85 billion in profit over three years and not pay income tax?
Since the state is going to make someone losers and someone winners to achieve political objectives, why does it have to be the big profitable, non-taxpaying companies or the financially well off ?
In Manteca alone, there are nearly 1,000 alternatives in place to making PG&E richer to achieve a state green policy initiative — residential rooftop solar systems. They are currently designed and put in place to serve that home’s electrical needs. Why not make it so those that put in such systems to overdesign them so they can sell excess power to someone that has an electric car and needs to charge it at home but has no alternative than to buy from PG&E?
PG&E customers, after all, have been charged for all of the infrastructure PG&E uses either as detailed in rate increases or when they buy a new home. PG&E requires the developer to put in all electrical infrastructure and turn it over them for free. That cost is collapsed by the developer into the price of the home. It means it costs PG&E nothing to add customers that will increase their profits. That’s the same exact model they have already proposed to employ to get 25,000 charging stations in place.
PG&E should be allowed a nominal transmission charge and that’s it.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.