Votes for Clean Energy in California

I’m not a California voter, but my father is, so he asked me my advice on the energy propositions. Here are the intiatives I see as affecting the clean energy global warming picture.

Prop 1: High Speed Rail Bonds. Yes. Rail is the most efficient form of transport we have.

Prop 7: Renewable Energy Generation Initiative Statute. Yes. This bill raises targets for CA’s RPS, but lowers the level of penalties for noncompliance. However, it does make the penalties slightly more enforcable. See CEERT for more details.

Prop 10: Alternative Fuel Vehicles and Renewable Energy Bonds Initiative Statute. Nah. This bill would mainly subsidize conversion of vehicles to natural gas and subsidize natural gas transport infrastructure. This would be an improvement over gasoline, but is not renewable. It would also be a windfall for T Boone Pickens and his Pickens Plan. Clean Energy Fuels, a company which Pickens Controls (and I own some stock in) would be the greatest beneficiary… it’s also the primary funder.

In addition, there are some worries that California would be subsidizing conversion of vehicles to natural gas, and then the vehicles would leave the state. If your main concern is global warming and energy security, however, natural gas vehicles would help both, no matter where they are in the country. But it is rather unfair to ask CA to subsidize the rest of the nation. I’d like this much better if it were a national initiative, rather than just California; the fairness issue bothers me most.

My dad’s voting for Prop 10… but he’s more enthusiastic about natural gas vehicles than I am, and seems unfazed by the fairness issue.

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3 Comments

  1. [...] 1A, clean energy, Colorado November Ballot I vote in Colorado, and we actually have more initiatives on the ballot than in California. Again, from the perspective of a voter primarily concerned about climate change and clean, [...]

  2. Deron said

    I’ve had this thought running around my head, and would welcome your input.

    It seems to me, and this conclusion may be faulty, that ultimately cars will be powered by electricity. Distribution of alternative fuels represents too great a barrier to the wide spread adoption of new vehicles, and any change to fuel source will mean the continued obsolescence of those vehicles. Electricity distribution networks already exist, and new alternative fuel sources can all be utilized and fed into that distribution network.

    With that in mind it seems to me that any subsidy for individual transportation should be targeted towards electric vehicles and battery development.

    Is that an unreasonable analysis?

  3. Tom said

    For short distance transport, electricity is definitely a superior fuel. See my article on cellulosic electricity.

    However, there is no gaurantee that we will ever be able to overcome battery limitiations for long haul transport: trucking and aircraft. For these we should be pursuing other alternatives, and Prop 10 addresses long haul trucking, for which natural gas looks likely to remain a superior option to electricity. For cars, natural gas might be a decent fuel for the range-extending generator, especially if the fueling infrasturcture were in place to serve the long haul trucking market.

    That’s why I’m ambivolent about Prop 10. Glad I don’t have to decide at the ballot box.

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