What Green Policies Did For California?


More so than any other state, California has embraced so-called green energy. The state has banned offshore drilling, passed draconian auto emissions standards, imposed wind and solar energy mandates with Governor Jerry Brown setting a goal of 50% renewable energy by 2030. But what have these policies done for Californians?

Over the 1990s, California’s electricity generation capacity decreased by 2% while consumption increased by 11%, an unsustainable trend. Fuel economy standards actually make cars less safe, costing thousands of lives over time and antipollution regulations accelerated California’s deindustrialization, aerospace manufacturing shifted to states with lower energy costs. In the ten years to 2015, Southern California’s industrial base shed 60 percent of its workforce. That means a socially regressive economy.

Highest Poverty Rate

California has America’s largest number of billionaires, but also its highest poverty rate at 23%. California’s no growth planning policies increase downward mobility, particularly among Latinos – California born Latinos actually have shorter life spans than their parents. For California’s elites who live within five miles of the coast – the folks who run the state – air conditioning is a renewable resource provided by the cool waters of the California current.

But many in the state’s impoverished lower-middle class live a hundred miles away in the sweltering interior. On the coast in liberal Marin Country the average summer electricity bill is $250 a month, but in the San Joaquin Valley, it’s twice as high. How have those suffered from California’s green policies not managed to change things?

Enormous Political Spending

One reason is enormous political spending by special interests, but there’s also an intellectual history. California universities have long been home to thinkers like Paul Ehrlich, author of the 1968 bestseller The Population Bomb, which wrongly predicted millions of deaths due to development and overpopulation.

California Governor Jerry Brown seems to have been influenced by Norwegian philosopher Arne Næss – author of Small Is Beautiful, that phrase is one of the central planks of Brown’s first term in office. Næss opposed economic growth and industrial development because “the earth does not belong to mankind.” Most people care about the environment, but every policy comes with tradeoffs, and pretending there are none for “green” policies don’t do humanity any good.


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