Sunday, September 17, 2006

California Leads The Way

Friday's New York Times published a couple of charts that show per-capita electricity consumption has stayed bascially flat in California since the mid-1970s, while per capita use nationwide has risen more than 50 percent. How did they do it? By having the political will to enforce relatively simple requirements for energy efficiency in home appliances and other big electricity users. True, California's electric rates are 40 percent higher than the national average, according to the Times. However, because they consume much less electricity, users pay comparable bills.

These charts were part of an article about California's bold initiative to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020. Reading this, I was left thinking: What the hell is wrong with the rest of us? Depending on who's doing the measuring, California's economy ranks with Italy, Spain, or China for gross domestic product. And the state's economy has generally performed as well or better than the rest of the U.S. economy. So much for conservation measures being bad for business—that's an argument that I find incredibly frustrating to hear. If our leaders had even a glimmer of foresight they'd be pouring every resource they could into making the U.S. the world leader in renewable energy, new energy technologies, and energy-efficient devices of all kind, so we could control our own destiny as oil reserves are sucked dry. Imagine the business opportunities that await for the country that develops the dominant energy supply of the 21st and 22nd centuries. Imagine selling energy to Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, instead of groveling to buy it. If such innovation happens in the U.S., it will be despite the fumbling efforts of the oil addicts in Washington. I hope it happens in California—they deserve it.

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