WSJ: "Is This Man Talking California Into Nuclear?"
From yesterday’s Wall Street Journal…
Journal readers know Michael Shellenberger for his long, grueling campaign to persuade fellow environmentalists to be reasonable. Now running as an independent for governor of California, he seems to be making some headway even in the country’s capital of climate nonsense.
Last year this column noted the encouraging world-wide movement toward nuclear power, a reliable zero-emission energy source that global warmists should love but often oppose. Mr. Shellenberger, who’s been proudly pro-nukes for years, wrote at the time on Substack:
National leaders around the world are announcing big plans to return to nuclear energy now that the cost of natural gas, coal, and petroleum are spiking, and weather-dependent renewables are failing to deliver.
Now it seems that Mr. Shellenberger’s entry into politics just might be encouraging even California Democrats to begin to finally acknowledge energy reality. Sammy Roth reports for the Los Angeles Times:
With the threat of power shortages looming... Gov. Gavin Newsom may attempt to delay the long-planned closure of California’s largest electricity source: the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant.
Newsom told the L.A. Times editorial board Thursday that the state would seek out a share of $6 billion in federal funds meant to rescue nuclear reactors facing closure, money the Biden administration announced this month. Diablo Canyon owner Pacific Gas & Electric is preparing to shutter the plant — which generated 6% of the state’s power last year — by 2025.
“The requirement is by May 19 to submit an application, or you miss the opportunity to draw down any federal funds if you want to extend the life of that plant,” Newsom said. “We would be remiss not to put that on the table as an option.”
He said state officials could decide later whether to pursue that option. And a spokesperson for the governor clarified that Newsom still wants to see the facility shut down long term. It’s been six years since PG&E agreed to close the plant near San Luis Obispo, rather than invest in expensive environmental and earthquake-safety upgrades.
Yes, it’s only a baby step, there are plenty of caveats, and perhaps Mr. Newsom is just another governor who instinctively lunges for federal funding. But Mr. Roth notes that the politics are moving in a positive direction after an era of antinuclear zealotry:
A recent UC Berkeley poll co-sponsored by The Times found that 44% of California voters support building more nuclear reactors in the Golden State, with 37% opposed and 19% undecided — a significant change from the 1980s and 1990s.
The poll also found that 39% of voters oppose shutting down Diablo Canyon, with 33% supporting closure and 28% unsure.
It turns out that many voters actually prefer to keep the lights on. Who would have guessed? Mr. Roth adds:
The governor said he’s been thinking about keeping Diablo open longer since August 2020, when California’s main electric grid operator was forced to implement rolling blackouts during an intense heat wave. Temperatures stayed high after sundown, leaving the state without enough electricity to keep air conditioners humming after solar farms stopped producing...
Newsom spokesperson Anthony York said the governor’s decision to reconsider Diablo Canyon’s closure timeline was driven by projections of possible power shortages in the next few years. Those projections, he said, came from the California Independent System Operator, which oversees the electric grid for most of the state.
Mr. Newsom told the Times that reliable electricity is “profoundly important.” Good call. Perhaps it has occurred to the governor that his constituents might need even more electricity in the future, given the burdens that Mr. Newsom and his fellow Democrats are busy placing on the state’s economy. The Journal’s Austen Hufford reported this week:
New state and municipal laws are driving a transition away from puttering, gas-powered lawn mowers and leaf blowers and toward battery-powered versions. California, the largest state by population, is set to ban the sale of most gas-powered lawn tools, starting with model year 2024 products...
Alan’s Lawnmower & Garden Center, a seller of tools for professional landscapers, is redoing showrooms at its two locations in Southern California to promote battery-powered equipment. When the process is done, about one-third of its floor space will be dedicated to electric models of equipment made by Stihl and other companies, said owner Paul Sullivan.
Mr. Sullivan said most of his customers will only switch because of the new rules.
“Nobody is happy about it, except the all-green battery manufacturers,” he said.
This expensive transformation of course goes way beyond landscaping. Russ Mitchell recently reported in the L.A. Times:
More than a third of new passenger cars and trucks sold in California in 2026 would have to be zero-emission vehicles under a new proposal from the California Air Resources Board.
To get there, electric cars would have to nearly triple last year’s market share of 13% in four years.
The 35% mandate would mark a major step toward the total ban on sales of new vehicles with internal combustion engines starting in 2035 under an order issued two years ago by Gov. Gavin Newsom. The EV mandate would hit 68% by 2030.
Will consumers go along? Interest in electric vehicles is on the rise, especially with gas prices that often top $6 a gallon.
But the air board, known as CARB, acknowledges that less expensive battery technology, more public charging stations and strong marketing campaigns will be necessary. Or, as the board put it in a report released Wednesday, “this consumer change will require continued improvements in electric vehicle technology, owner support and conveniences, as well as successful strategies to communicate the benefits to potential buyers.”
... A total-dollar taxpayer cost on the switch to EVs has not been put forth by CARB or by Newsom’s office. But new spending will be required.
Will it ever. Even an immediate, full embrace of nuclear energy by Mr. Newsom right now likely wouldn’t be enough to avert the pain of this transition. This column should also note that California’s forced march to electric vehicles will make those happy green-battery manufacturers very busy—maybe too busy.
The Journal’s Sean McLain and Scott Patterson recently reported:
Rivian Automotive Inc. Chief Executive RJ Scaringe is warning that the auto industry could soon face a shortage of battery supplies for electric vehicles—a challenge that he says could surpass the current computer-chip shortage.
Car companies are trying to lock up limited supplies of raw materials such as cobalt, lithium and nickel that are key to battery making, and many are constructing their own battery plants to put more battery-powered models in showrooms.
“Put very simply, all the world’s cell production combined represents well under 10% of what we will need in 10 years,” Mr. Scaringe said last week, while giving reporters a tour of the company’s plant in Normal, Ill. “Meaning, 90% to 95% of the supply chain does not exist,” he added.
Let’s hope that this election season brings more discussion on the best ways to enable reliable, affordable energy for people in California and across the country. And if Gov. Newsom is ready to consider new ideas for the Golden State, perhaps he’ll want to ponder the words co-authored by Mr. Shellenberger and quoted in the Journal in 2013:
Once upon a time, social justice was synonymous with equal access to modern amenities—electric lighting so poor children could read at night, refrigerators so milk could be kept on hand, and washing machines to save the hands and backs of women...
Now, at the very moment modern energy arrives for global poor—something a prior generation of socialists would have celebrated and, indeed, demanded—today’s leading left-wing leaders advocate a return to energy penury.