Sarega: It is Time to Protect California’s Energy Diversity

Sarega: It is Time to Protect California’s Energy Diversity

An op-ed by Andrew Sarega, City Councilman of La Mirada, California, published on June 11, 2019 in the Los Angeles Daily News:

The benefits of diversity are seemingly everywhere in California. We celebrate different lifestyles, religions, cultures, music, languages, cuisine and geography. The value of diversity can be seen in other ways, too, practical ones such as the popularity of mutual fund investments, eating a balanced diet or making sure an NFL team has a playbook with multiple options.

Everywhere one looks, we see the value of diversifying. If all your eggs are in one basket, you are more vulnerable should something happen to your basket. Diversifying makes obvious sense.

While California needs to harness its sun, wind and water to make us more energy independent, some people are blindly trying to make California 100 percent electric.

Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Daily News

Certainly, most people want to continue expanding energy sources that are earth-friendly. But wearing electricity-only blinders is misguided on numerous levels.

Whether transitioning to electric vehicles or “de-carbonizing” buildings, the importance of a multipronged approach to renewable energy has gotten lost or ignored – even energy sources that are renewable, sustainable, and help the environment.

First, relying on a single source of energy is a dangerous proposition. The last time California regulators tried to micromanage the energy market was two decades ago when the state was gripped by a massive energy crisis that brought electrical shortages and skyrocketing consumers prices. Rolling blackouts threw hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses into darkness and zero power.

Second, consider that our electrical grid is computer based. Hackers – inside the U.S. or around the world – pose a serious threat.

Last summer, the New York Times reported that “State-sponsored Russian hackers appear far more interested this year in demonstrating that they can disrupt the American electric utility grid than the midterm elections, according to United States intelligence officials and technology company executives.”

Third, a shift toward a 100-percent electrical society reneges on the promise of building a vibrant and innovative California. There have been incredible innovations involving many different types of energy sources that are already helping California meet its carbon-reduction goals.

Major developments are taking place in the natural gas and propane industries, which has the flexibility to meet the needs of rural Californians. A growing number of California dairy farmers are converting methane into renewable natural gas, which would help California meet its carbon-reduction goals.

An electricity mandate would kill all of these advances.

While most people like and appreciate electricity, they cannot and should not have to imagine a world with only one source of energy.

Fourth, even if demand for electricity explodes, can California realistically provide enough renewable electricity? For the foreseeable future, the answer is no. And according to the Los Angeles Times, new demand will “tax a system already fragile, unstable and increasingly vulnerable to outside forces.”

Fifth, other sources of energy are simply better for the environment and our California lifestyle. Home and professional chefs prefer cooking with gas – as do consumers who grill with propane. Electricity is not exactly portable. How will restaurants and homeowners conveniently provide outdoor heating without tripping over dozens of extension cords?

Consumers also are vehemently opposed to being stripped of energy choice. By a margin of 5 to 1, Californians prefer natural gas for home heating and cooking. And 80 percent of voters oppose laws that would take away their natural gas appliances.

While most people like and appreciate electricity, they cannot and should not have to imagine a world with only one source of energy. Like everything else, energy diversity needs to be celebrated and promoted as a key to a clean and green future.