Reviewing the 2008 November California propositions — Prop 10

Basic information about Proposition 10 — “ALTERNATIVE FUEL VEHICLES AND RENEWABLE ENERGY. BONDS. INITIATIVE STATUTE.”

Umbrella yes-vote site.

Umbrella no-vote site.

From one billionaire sponsor of a proposition to another — but T. Boone Pickens works in different realms than Henry Nicholas III, thankfully.

On the face of it it’s almost like I’m getting past propositions reheated up at this point — alternative energy! transportation issues! bonds! So there’s something that feels a bit deadening right about now — maybe I’d feel differently approaching it if I had looked at it first of the twelve, I’m not sure.

A friend of mine put it to me this way, though:

i think that while undoubtedly SOME money will go into t. boone’s pocket, it could be a small price to pay for millions of dollars in research, subsidies for end-users, etc. right now i’m a “yes” voter, but i wish there was a “yes, but…” option.

I’m with that, but from a different angle, namely my current concern about bonds and budget and less the lining of T. Boone’s wallet. As it stands, I see nothing about his general approach that is somehow self-contradictory, as has been alleged — if someone who has grown rich off a resource is thinking, “Hmm, looks like it’s time to diversify for the long term,” then why be surprised if he tries to do so and seeks to swing public opinion his way? Whether or not you like that approach, of course, is another matter.

Ultimately, I’m deciding on this one the same way I’m deciding on 1 — while I’m not entirely thrilled with it all, I do think there is some sort of sense in investing for the future here, and this has more potential and interest to me. Further, there doesn’t seem to be the internecine environmental warfare going on here than with 7, at least on first blush.

A conditional but ultimately hopeful YES.

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Reviewing the 2008 November California propositions — Prop 7

Basic information about Proposition 7 — “RENEWABLE ENERGY GENERATION. INITIATIVE STATUTE.”

Umbrella yes-vote site.

Umbrella no-vote site.

Okay, first off — I have to admit to a raging headache this morning. So this is not going to be much of an in-depth discussion.

However, part of the problem is that this is yet another huge proposition covering a lot of ground, tackling everything from governmental regulation to predictions in the energy market, and therefore trying to concentrate on its various facets would be hard under the best of circumstances, admittedly.

On the face of it, anything acknowledging future problems in maintaining energy standards and encouraging use of renewable standards is a good thing. However, there’s a large push against 7 from a variety of clean-energy supporters and groups, and I figure where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Further complicating matters, however, are the responses from other groups accusing *those* groups of being sellouts…and down the rabbit hole we go. (I was considering linking to a variety of arguments and comments to illustrate all this, but my headache was bad enough as it was.)

Two things, however, stood out in the official analysis which made me wonder a bit about the effaciousness of this proposition. To quote:

In its findings and declarations, the measure states that, in the “short term,” California’s investment in solar and clean energy (which would include the implementation of the measure) will result in no more than a 3-percent increase in electricity rates for consumers. However, the measure includes no specific provisions to implement or enforce this declaration.

In the long run, there are factors that may be affected by the measure that have the potential either to increase or to decrease electricity rates from what they otherwise would be. For example, to the extent that the measure advances development of renewable energy resources in a manner that lowers their costs, electricity customers might experience longer-term savings. On the other hand, the same cost factors that could lead to short-term electricity rates that are higher might also lead to higher long-run electricity rates. To the extent that the measure requires electricity providers to acquire more costly electricity than they otherwise would, they will experience longer-term cost increases. It is unknown whether, on balance, factors that could increase electricity rates over the long term will outweigh those that could decrease electricity rates over the long term. Therefore, the long-term effect of the measure on government costs is unknown.

It has to be acknowledged that, after all, not every measure’s full impact can truly be judged until it is passed and enforced. Still, it’s these sorts of variables that make me wonder about the proposition, much more so than who is supporting it or which person is a shill and which isn’t. The fact that energy companies are against 7 is somewhat troubling — it’s also noteworthy that both the Democratic and Republican parties are against it while the Green party is for it. But something about this feels an overpromised wish, a solution that is biting off more than it can chew. More’s the pity, given the subject of the measure.

I vote a ‘should have been better’ NO.

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A quick thought today on science — specifically solar power

First, check out this story in the LA Times today, which I think we can trust because it doesn’t have anything to do with obsessive fanboys in jail:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Southern California Edison plan to announce today the country’s largest rooftop solar installation project ever proposed by a utility company. And on Wednesday, FPL Energy, the largest operator of solar power in the U.S., said it planned to build and operate a 250-megawatt solar plant in the Mojave Desert.

The projects would help California meet its goal of obtaining 20% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010. In 2006, about 13% of the retail electricity delivered by Edison and the state’s other two big investor-owned utilities came from renewable sources such as sun and wind, according to the California Public Utilities Commission.

Energy experts were struck by the size of the two projects, which would bolster the state’s current total of about 965 megawatts of solar power flowing to the electricity grid.

“Five hundred megawatts — that’s substantial,” said spokesman George Douglas of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. “Projects of that size begin to show that solar energy can produce electricity on a utility scale, on the kind of scale that we’re going to need.”

The Edison rooftop project will place photovoltaic cells on 65 million square feet of commercial building roofs in Southern California. The cells will generate as much as 250 megawatts of electricity — enough to power about 162,500 average homes, based on the utility’s estimate that one megawatt would serve about 650 average homes.

This excites me for a lot of reasons, so to backtrack a bit — in the late seventies, perhaps the last (and only?) time there was a sense of general societal alignment all around on the matter of energy efficiency and renewable resources, solar power was present but for a lot of reasons didn’t get the traction it should have done. Saying Reagan’s administration killed off a lot of the enthusiasm overstates but not by much — in contrast, I remember writing for and getting a kid-friendly ‘Welcome to the White House’ brochure in 1979 or so, which contained a photo of Carter showing off a solar panel that had apparently been installed in one area of the building itself.

Meantime, there were a few Disney tie-in comics around the time — the kind of gently cheap and cheery things that the company did pre-Eisner — where Mickey and Goofy encountered Enny, a sunlike creature whose name was short for ‘energy,’ of course, and he taught them about doing things like not washing one sock at a time. (Goofy was apparently prone to doing just that, the poor sap.) Then there was Sunshine Porcupine and…well, I could go on.

For me, this is all part and parcel of the general sense of dreamy sf/utopian wonder that to me was just part of how people thought at the time, at least from my eight year old or so perspective. I mean, who wouldn’t want O’Neill-style space stations and mass drivers on the moon? With time I can look back both with fondness on it all and how my thoughts (and the many dreams put forward) were only so much conditional evanescence, as much driven by the impulse of getting out of dreary reality into a future that was still heavily Star Trek-centric in the mass mind as it was based in serious considerations.

However, sometimes that intertwining is necessary — I’ve been reading an excellent book, After Sputnik, which is the tie-in volume to a Smithsonian exhibit covering fifty years of the space race since the launch of said satellite, and a bit of trivia was discovering that the original serious rocket pioneer, Russian Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, credited his initial explorations into such matters due to a mass media smash hit of its day, Jules Verne‘s From the Earth to the Moon. The question of art inspiring science inspiring art etc. is its own one but it was intriguing to realize how the cycle had been in placed from the start — as was noted with Arthur C. Clarke’s recent passing, he credited the pulp fiction of his own era for driving his own impulses forward, and similar stories can be told on a variety of fronts.

Solar power is by default a much more grounded affair — gathering the energy from the sun we orbit around and converting it into use here — but like many things sf dream has become simple and basic reality (as I think I remember reading in a piece some years back, we are all nerds now — my getting the iPhone was just me waiting for the best level of nerdery to come along, really), and seeing that this project is about to launch makes me pretty thrilled. It’s not a magic bullet, but it is a concentrated step forward that we’ll see repeated more and more — one of my friends was seriously considering a solar panel installation at his house a few weeks back, and there’ll be other stories to come.

And right now it’s a beautiful day out. Perfectly appropriate timing!