3rd Most Dangerous Californian Makes Bid for #1

Now-retired San Francisco financier Tom Steyer’s flashy entry into Progressive campaign financing earned him Crazifornia’s designation as the third most dangerous Californian. Here’s what we wrote then:

steyer2Steyer, a ridiculously wealthy San Francisco wealth manager, first entered our consciousness when he pumped $30 million of his own money to pass Prop 39. That’s the 2012 ballot initiative that increased taxes on out-of-state corporations and sprinkled the largess on alternative energy companies like those his company, Farallon Capital Management, owns pieces of. This year, he was the Big Spender that got Terry McCaullife, a politician so slimy he taught Bill and Hillary dirty tricks, elected governor of Virginia. If your money is in OneCalifornia Bank, move it, because Steyer owns it.

According to a New York Times report, Steyer’s gunning for #1 in this year’s ranking of most dangerous Californians.

A billionaire retired investor is forging plans to spend as much as $100 million during the 2014 election, seeking to pressure federal and state officials to enact climate change measures through a hard-edge campaign of attack ads against governors and lawmakers. …

In early February, Mr. Steyer gathered two dozen of the country’s leading liberal donors and environmental philanthropists to his 1,800-acre ranch in Pescadero, Calif. — which raises prime grass-fed beef — to ask them to join his efforts. People involved in the discussions say Mr. Steyer is seeking to raise $50 million from other donors to match $50 million of his own.

That’s some big money – and Steyer told the NY Times it might be a low-ball estimate compared to what he would spend to influence climate policy. By comparison, the long-established League of Conservation Voters spent about $15 million on campaigns in 2012.

Steyer’s San Francisco-based Next Gen Climate Action political machine is said to be targeting campaigns for Florida governor (GOP incumbent Rick Scott is … gasp! … a climate change skeptic) and Iowa’s Senate race because “a win for the Democratic candidate, Representative Bruce Braley, an outspoken proponent of measures to limit climate change, could help shape the 2016 presidential nominating contests.”

No word on what Steyer plans to spend in California. But since the state is already certifiably climate-crazed, he just might spend all his money elsewhere.

The “California Miracle” Media Frenzy

Rolling Stone BomberRolling Stone, the music magazine with a longstanding hard-left view of politics (infamously evidenced by the accompanying cover), has gone mainstream.

Like dozens of mainstream media before it, it is hero-worshiping Jerry Brown, praising him for the “miraculous” economic rebound California is enjoying. Before we question how miraculous it may be, let’s let Tim Dickenson, the author of “Jerry’ Brown’s Tough-Love Miracle” in the current issue of Rolling Stone, explain just what Jerry’s pulled off:

America’s shrewdest elder statesmen blazed a best-worst way out of California’s economic morass. With a stiff cocktail of budget cuts and hard-won new taxes, Brown has not only zeroed out the deficit, he’s also begun paying down the debt. “Jerry Brown’s leadership is a rebuttal to the failed policies of Republicans in Washington,” says Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress. “California is proving you can have sane tax systems, raise revenues, eliminate structural deficits and have economic growth.”

Fed up with the state’s own obstructionist Republicans, California voters have even given Brown a Democratic supermajority in the state legislature. As a result, the Golden State is now reasserting itself as a proving ground for the kind of bold ideas that Republicans have roadblocked in Washington – including a cap-and-trade carbon market, high-speed rail and education-funding reform.

Nobody moveAs an obstructionist Republican myself, I understand the courage it takes – and ridicule it engenders – to stand in front of a run-away train like California, hold up your measly skin-and-bone hand against the juggernaut, and scream “Halt!” I get the motivation behind trying to stop giving the state more money to spend when it has such a robust history of blowing through every penny it’s got and having less to show for it than a sailor waking up with a crippling hangover and a budding case of the clap.

Be that as it may, Dickenson is right. California voters did give the Democrats a super-majority, which in turn gives Brown everything he needs to create his legacy. Republican-weary journalists around the nation responded joyfully to last November’s election results, heralding a turn-around in California with stories that, like Dickenson’s are designed to mute small government, anti-tax Republicans everywhere.

I’m not grumbling about a better California economy – far from it. When the unemployment rate falls from 12.5 percent to 8.7 percent, as California’s has, it means formerly desperate people are getting by again, children are eating better, and businesses are getting back customers they lost. (It also means a lot of Californians gave up on the state and left for more job-friendly places, of course, but why bother pointing that out?) What I’m grumbling about is how rose-tinted Dickenson’s glasses are.

He praises Brown on the environment while ignoring how California’s toughest-in-the-nation environmental regulations, along with its Progressive tax structure, drive businesses out of state.

He loves how California is leading the way to Obamacare, while ignoring the fact that major insurers are bailing from the state’s plan, raising questions about its viability.

He gives Brown good marks on education because spending is up, but ignores the fact that California’s schools continue to slide. Eighty-six percent of schools in the state fell short of No Child Left Behind goals this year.

And worst in the world of objective reporting, he fails to mention any of the many troubles that threaten California’s future economic vitality.  The voter-approved 2012 tax hike Brown championed isn’t permanent, so the current bump in revenues will drop in just over three years when the sales tax increase ends, and peter out the following year when the sales tax increase ends.

Meanwhile, Brown is not attending to the state’s fundamental fiscal instability. He isn’t proposing changes to the state’s over-reliance on income taxes on the wealthy. His lifelong fondness of public employee unions is keeping him from addressing the unfunded liabilities the state, its counties and cities carry in their employee pension plans. And his long-running, red-hot love affair with Mother Nature doesn’t bode well for any meaningful effort to make the state less regulated and therefore more business-friendly. In fact, the state’s renewable energy goals and carbon taxes are going to drive up energy costs (we’re already $3.90/kilowatt hour more expensive than the national average) and make electricity less reliable. That will force even more businesses to leave.

Rolling Stone can have its fun and write happily about all the cool stuff that happens when Republicans are minimized to irrelevance. Let’s see how well they cover the impending, inevitable consequences of having too many Democrats in the wheelhouse.

Fill ‘Er Up – If You Can!

Oh, for those halcyon days of $2.99 a gallon!

Oh, for those halcyon days of $2.59 a gallon!

Gas prices have gone up in Southern California every day for more than a month. The average price for a gallon of regular is now $4.31 – 59 cents more than it was just a month ago.

There are two primary factors behind the hike, both of which are straight Crazifornia:

First, an unusually high number of California refineries are undergoing maintenance. If we could import oil from other states, this wouldn’t be as big a deal, but we can’t. Why not? See the next reason.

Second, on top of the maintenance, refineries are beginning the annual spring-time switchover from “winter blend” to cleaner-burning “summer blend.”  Required by California’s air quality eco-crats, summer blend is brewed to evaporate less quickly in the summer heat. The conversion shuts down refineries, temporarily dropping supply and driving up prices.

Special blends also wipe us out during periods of unexpectedly high refinery maintenance.  There are about 20 different blends around the country, all different, all trying to accomplish the same thing. If there were an agreement between the states to all have the same blends, we could bring in gasoline from other states during these maintenance periods. (Assuming that “greener-than-you” California would deign to having anything less than the toughest standards.)

It’s all apparently hooey anyway, because when Gov. Brown prolonged the sale of winter blend in response to high gas prices in 2012, we were told air quality would not be hurt:

State air pollution regulators said Monday that California’s air quality is not expected to worsen appreciably after the governor ordered the release of a dirtier blend of gasoline to help slash record-high pump prices. …

Gil Duran, a spokesman for Brown, said the governor looked at all the options available, particularly scientists’ prediction that such a change would not have a significant effect on the environment and “when he learned this could increase the supply by 8 to 10 percent, it just made sense.”

It’s past time for the eco-crats to make a case for the continuation of this silliness. I doubt very much they could prove the benefits of California’s special blends outweigh the costs.

Jerry Brownout

SONGSI was at a presentation this morning on the now year-long shut down of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). One of its two reactors was shut down last Feb. 1 because of pinhole leaks in some water pipes – a serious issue – and the other closed Jan. 31 for routine maintenance, but is now under the same regulatory hold as the other one.

The Southern California Edison representative said we got through last summer with SONGS off-line only because of the lucky alignment of four factors: (1) New transmission lines went on-line so more power could be brought in from elsewhere, (2) Different places in the service area had hot spells at different times, (3) Edison was able to buy power from the AES natural gas-fired power plant in Huntington Beach and (4) people conserved.

This year, only #4 remains certain. No new transmission lines will go on-line this year. Who knows what the weather will bring? Whatever it is, it’s unlikely to be as flukey as last-years migrating hot spots. And that AES plant? Oh, we can’t get even a single kilowatt of power from it this year.

carbon-emmissions-global-warmingWhy not? It’s sitting there. The natural gas line is still connected. Well, it turns out AES sold the plant’s carbon credits at this year’s California carbon credits auction.

My friend Brian Probolsky asked SCE’s guy, “Do you mean a make-believe slip of paper could be the difference between brownouts and getting through the summer without problems?”

The SCE guy didn’t understand the question. It’s this: Just because AES sold its carbon credits on the plant this year in California’s costly, harebrained and doomed to accomplish nothing carbon cap and tax auction, does that REALLY mean that come an emergency, the plant will just sit there?

The answer, unfortunately but not at all unexpectedly – this is California, after all – is yes. The sick and frail, deprived of air conditioning and medical equipment, could be dropping like Europeans in a summer  heatwave, and Jerry Brown’s carbon auction would trump their very lives.

Do you think for a moment the earth would notice whether or not the plant fired up again? Of course not. But environmentalist hand-wringers, including our governor, a super-majority of our legislature and eco-crats would, so it’s not going to happen.

Should electricity brown-outs and black-outs return to California this summer, remember this: It wasn’t problems at San Onofre that caused them. Problems in the thinking of California’s leadership did.

The Impossibility of the Possible

“Ho, Ho, Ho! was the caption for my agency’s 2006 Christmas card.

Waaay back in the mid-1970s, I read a book called “Earth, Energy and Everyone” that presented a number of alternative energy sources with the promise that with their adoption, America would no longer need foreign oil by 2000.

What year is it again? 2012?

One of the more memorable technologies presented in the book was tidal generation of electricity. Reversible generators would be placed in narrows where tide currents run strong, and each rising and ebbing tide would run through them, generating juice. But, as usual, it turns out there’s one little rub to this bright idea:

Scientists and whale-protection groups are sending a resounding message to [British Columbia] that it is unacceptable to consider energy-generating tidal turbines in critical habitat for threatened northern resident killer whales. …

Paul Spong, director of the OrcaLab, a Hanson Island whale research station, said he was shocked to discover the [proposal]. …

“It is outrageous that this idea is even being considered in vital orca critical habitat,” Spong said. “The population is officially threatened and critical habitat is designated to help them. To me, it’s preposterous to put something there that would further endanger a threatened population.” (link)

Closer to home in Crazifornia, we see the same thing, as environmentalists rally to stop plans for large-scale wind and solar power generation facilities.

San Francisco environmentalists foolishly want to remove Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite, which not only is an important source of water for the city, but also generates 350 kilowatt hours of electricity annually without burning an ounce of nasty stuff.

One of the leaders of the Restore Hetch Hetchy organization, Spreck Roskrans, wrote recently on Water Policy Professionals, a LinkedIn group I sponsor, that the loss of hydroelectric power would be no big deal:

Hydro production would be diminished by about 350 gWh per year – a significant but not insurmountable amount – about the same as the Trinity River Restoration Program which was broadly supported.

To this, another group member, Stuart Robertson, responded:

We can count on one hand the number of replacement supplies developed for the Trinity loss by coupling the thumb and first finger – “0”. Knowing what is required is different than understanding/recognizing that which can be accomplished in this regulatory environment.

Indeed. California has not permitted a significant new power plant in 30 years, and is hard at work making its current plants unviable. Unelected state eco-crats recently banned once-through cooling in power plants, a cost effective way to cool the plants by pumping seawater in, through and out of the plant. The practice kills too many fish larvae in the opinion of the eco-crats, so it  has to be replaced with huge cooling towers to hold water that will be cycled through the plants again and again.

Who do you see to get permission to construct those cooling towers? The California Coastal Commission – or, as I call it in Crazifornia, the Star Chamber of the Coast. If I owned one of those plants and faced the entrenched hostility of the Commission, I think I’d just shut it down and go into some other business.

Fish larvae counting maybe.

Crazed Greenies Suffer a Defeat

I knew Measure F, the San Francisco ballot measure that would destroy the city’s primary water supply in a massive grovel to the Earth Goddess, would fail.

It was worth watching anyway. If the measure were to get any more than 40 percent of the vote, it would be a clear sign that the looniest of the eco-loons still had a credible power base.

Measure F would have started the process of removing San Francisco’s primary water supply, Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite. Deep green environmentalists wanted San Franciscans to surrender one of America’s most reliable and best-tasting water supplies, then spend $10 billion to restore the Hetch Hetchy Valley to its primordial splendor and develop conservation and recycling programs to replace the water with cleaned-up urban runoff and sewage.

Even San Franciscans, who went 83.2 percent for Barack Obama yesterday, could see the measure was eco-stupidity, and 77 percent voted against it. After days like yesterday, look for silver linings wherever you can find them.

Crazifornia in CalWatchdog: 37 Is the New 65, a Field Day for Trial Attorneys

The good folks at CalWatchdog have just published a column by me on Proposition 37, a major business-killer that’s on this November’s ballot.

Prop. 37seems innocuous enough. If it passes, farmers, food processors and retailers will have to tell consumers if genetically modified stuff is in their products.

Jim Wheaton, job killer

It was written by Jim Wheaton, the same Berkeley-educated lawyer who wrote much of Prop. 65 back in 1986.  Prop. 65, which uses “chemicals known by the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects and other reproductive problems” in lieu of genetically modified foods, has proven to be a great shake-down tool for trial lawyers, who have pocketed nearly half a billion dollars in settlements and costs from corporations that have fallen short of the proposition’s onerous reporting requirements.

Wheaton’s litigation mill, cleverly camouflaged as the Environmental Law Foundation, has made $3 million off Prop. 65. To guys like Wheaton and outfits like ELF, Prop. 37 is simply good marketing – opening up a new market for exploitation.

Here’s the lead-in to my column. Please click through to CalWatchdog to read the rest.

The warm, caring hands of government are poised to protect us once again.  Just like how California started protecting us in 1986 from chemicals it knew, in its wisdom, could cause cancer, birth defects and other reproductive harm, it may soon be protecting us from those nasty genetically engineered foods.

In 1986, it was Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act. I began to understand how sleazy that proposition was when I got a frantic call from a homebuilder client just a couple months after it passed.

“I’m going to have to put warning signs on all my new model homes or I’ll get sued,” he moaned. “What’s it going to do to sales if people have to walk by a cancer warning to go into one of my models?”

I told him not to worry because his competitors would have to post similar signs.  But I was curious why a model home would need a Prop. 65 warning.  After all, a brand new home is hardly a toxic sump of the sort the Yes on Prop. 65 ads had frightened Californians about.

“Well, for starters,” he said, “estrogen and testosterone are both on the Prop. 65 list of known carcinogens, so unless something other than men and women is going through my models, I’m going to have to post the signs.”

That was when I realized California had become what I’ve come to call “Crazifornia,” a state that has become a state of disaster. And it will be even more of a disaster if Proposition 37 passes this November.


Melting Mirrors – Only in Crazifornia?

This story reminds me of the old conundrum:  What do you do when the endangered snake is eating the endangered bird? Or, in this case, what do you do when the energy efficient windows are eating the energy efficient car? And yes, it happened in a fairly crazy part of  Crazifornia – Studio City.

STUDIO CITY (CBS) — A SoCal woman says the energy efficient window installed in a neighbor’s condominium is melting the plastic components on cars parked in her carport.

Heather Patron if Studio City was dealing with a mystery regarding her Toyota Prius. …

Patron then observed a powerful beam of light that was reflecting off the window of a next door condominium, casting a concentrated beam over her carport.

CBS2’s Randy Paige placed a thermometer in the pathway of the beam on a partially cloudy day. The temperature registered over 120 degrees in less than five minutes.

Read the entire story on the CBS LA-Channel 2 website.  It’s pretty  hilarious.  But what’s even more amazing than a melting Prius is this: The City of LA investigated and said there are no code violations involved. Really?  With all the inventive ways LA  has come up with to control everyone and charge fees for everything, you’d think they’d be able to come up with at least one decent code to fling around.

Hat-tip to @LAPearce.

Regulating the Rocket’s Red Glare

The Daily Caller picked up my latest opinion piece, Regulating the Rocket’s Red Glare, about California’s war against fireworks shows. I’ve written a lot about this phenomenon, and it’s recently taken a turn for the worse with a decision in San Diego that could have statewide ramifications.  Here’s the lead:

It should come as no surprise that the leftist legislators and authoritarian bureaucrats who run California are vehemently opposed to fireworks shows. After all, the shows are always fun and usually patriotic.

And against them they are. The California Coastal Commission has led the charge with a multi-year assault on the Sea World theme park in San Diego, which blasts fireworks over Mission Bay every night. That effort shipwrecked on the rocks of Sea World’s considerable political clout and even more considerable legal budget, so the Commission looked for a more vulnerable, less wealthy target.

It found that in the Fourth of July fireworks show put on by local business owners in the tiny, picturesque hamlet of Gualala on the northern California coast.

Please click through to read the entire piece here.


CalWatchdog on Crazifornia’s Regulatory Reform Charade

CalWatchdog recently picked up my column on the charade of regulatory reform in California, which points out how recent efforts to reform the California Environmental Quality Act are limited, complicated and indicative of just how crazily over-regulated California has become.  Here’s the lead:

California Gov. Jerry Brown may try to make political hay out of his recent signing of three “regulatory reform” bills into law. But the bills (AB 900, SB 292 and SB 226) really serve best to illustrate just how grossly over-regulated California has become.

Take AB 900, for example. Please.  It specifies certain types of projects that can qualify for expedited processing under the onerous, labyrinthine California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). But — no surprise — it’s really more complicated than that.  It’s more like it designates projects that can attempt to get through CEQA easily, but the reforms themselves are complicated and, worse, they’re untested by California’s green-leaning courts.

Among projects eligible for supposedly expedited processing under AB 900 are infill projects that are highly energy efficient.  Never mind that vacant hulks of these sorts of projects clog the California cityscape, unrented and unloved.  The California dream remains a suburban one of back yards and cars. And despite what urban planners and environmental activists preach, we’re not yet ready to emulate New Yorkers and Inside-the-Beltway folks and live in cramped high-rises by train stations.  Does AB 900 make it easier to process suburban subdivisions? Oh, please. Do you have to ask?

Read the rest of the post – and some very interesting comments about the effect of over-regulation on California’s dairy farmers – here