Few states are as important as California when it comes to the environment. California has taken the initiative and lead on so many wind, solar and other innovative energy advancements that the world pays attention. California is a big federal tax revenue positive state that contributes more than it receives from the federal government.
The fiscal cliff, grand bargains and California’s alternative energy legacy will determine the future of the energy and environmental advancements for which California is known. One side supports more fiscal looting and austerity measures. The political moderates, the middle and the left are well aware that the U.S. must develop alternative energy before the nation reaches the end of its path toward increasingly risky and destructive fossil fuel prospecting.
The fiscal cliff is a euphemism for political risk-taking that drew the nation into mindless, sweeping budget cuts and expiring Bush era tax breaks. Failure to agree on a plan will harm the middle class when their taxes go up. The people are supposed to be grateful for any agreement, no matter how costly, that will keep them from having to hear about fiscal cliffs for a while.
Meanwhile, regulation and oversight agencies will suffer from sweeping budget cuts whether the nation goes over the cliff or not. Fracking and offshore drilling will happen despite overwhelming resistance. Less regulation and oversight will create opportunities for more crime and bigger disasters.
The entire fiscal cliff process is so destructive and corrupted that it would be impossible to make grand advancements in alternative energy. Going over the cliff will leave the U.S. dependent on oil and gas from socially and politically unstable Texas and Middle Eastern sources.
Regulation and oversight shortfalls
Be assured that big budget shortfalls are ahead for the nation’s energy regulation enforcement and oversight agencies. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S Energy Department (formerly the Department of Energy) will be capable of little more than pandering to the oil and gas industries, responding to lawsuits and cleaning up after major disasters. Expect these agencies to lose funding for prevention, investigation, mitigation, inspection and other critical tasks.
Any grand bargain will cut subsidies to businesses that produce alternative energy solutions from renewable sources, solar, wave action or wind power generation. Oil and gas subsidies will continue in one form or another even though those businesses will continue make record profits.
Fracking and offshore drilling
The fiscal cliff looms ahead for California, with fracking and offshore drilling as the two greatest insults to the state. Fracking controversies have been a major issue on the east coast for a while, but multiply the danger when poorly regulated companies cause violent disturbances of the earth’s crust at one of the most geologically unstable locations on the planet. According to a December 14, 2012 KQED Quest article, California will essentially have to pay to regulate its own fracking activities, with only case-by-case permitting to differentiate the state’s efforts from the weakest programs.
According to a December 13, 2012 Daily Kos article, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) just auctioned off more than 17,000 acres in Monterey, San Benito and Fresno counties. The land is approved for expanding drilling and fracking operations that are already going on in the state.
Less regulation and oversight
Any fiscal cliff bargain will slash regulatory and oversight budgets, guaranteeing less oversight, planning and regulation. Fossil fuel extraction disasters are waiting to happen in ways that no one has ever anticipated because California is nothing like Texas, the Middle East or the Gulf of Mexico. Fortunately, protests, people’s petitions and volunteer oversight will continue to put a chill on overly exuberant, criminal and risky fracking and drilling schemes.
If Bush era tax cuts expire, California will see a mixed bag of benefit and trouble for the environment and energy. If the middle class tax cuts expire, California workers will owe thousands more to the Federal government. As a revenue positive state, California will get nowhere near all of that money back in federal grants. Californians will never have that lost money to stimulate their own economy. The difference will be distributed to the vastly less productive revenue negative states. After such a massive money drain, there will be little, if anything left to fund alternative energy and environmental cleanup programs.
Alternative energy development: A massive investment with a massive payoff
Liken alternative energy development to building the Hoover Dam, a massive project where the funds came from many sources and no one expected a large and immediate payoff. If California’s opportunities are not explored, developed and exploited now, there will be a rush to even more destructive and desperate measures like fracking, offshore drilling and deal making in exchange for foreign oil.
If the U.S. is to make alternative energy widely and permanently available, it will take a combination of federal, private and investment money that is not designed to turn an instant profit. The longer California has to wait for Hoover Dam levels of support and investment, the less opportunity the state will have to develop cutting edge, innovative ways to exploit endless fields of wind, solar power and wave action, as India, Germany and the UK are doing.
California can do a lot to reduce the nation’s dependency on foreign oil and earthquake generating fracking. Cutting regulation, oversight and alternative energy subsidies on top of redistributing federal tax contributions to revenue negative states is asking too much. In the end, The fiscal cliff, grand bargains and California’s alternative energy legacy illustrate how the fiscal cliff was invented to distract the people and to ignore their will.