Too big to believe?
Well, I’m once again on the road, this time in Chicago. And because it’s 2 a.m. and I have to wake up in six hours for a meeting, I’m going to dive right in.
Top of the news here at Next Generation is the newest installment of our Monterey Shale series by Rob Collier, “Too Big to Believe: Top Economists Doubt California Oil Industry’s Jobs Figures.” In this piece, Rob and co-author James Barba take a hard look at the economic potential of opening up the Monterey Shale – and particularly, at the March 2013 study from USC claiming as many as 2.8 million new jobs could result from unconventional oil development in California. Rob and James, in interviews with economists across the state, find that these numbers are wildly inflated. It’s absolutely worth a read.
And it’s not just the job numbers that are inflated: Our new Monterey Shale report comes on the heels of a truly impressive study released this week by the Post Carbon Institute and Physicians, Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy, which analyzes actual California oil production data and shows that Monterey Shale’s production estimates are likely vastly overstated. Their major argument: given actual production statistics, and the extremely difficult geology of the Monterey Shale, we may never actually “crack the code” and get at the oil riches buried below the surface.
The upshot? We may not be able to get at the oil in the Monterey Shale, and even if we do, it may not be a huge boon to the economy. Given that the oil contained in this formation is even more carbon intensive than the dreaded Canadian tar sands, one has to wonder if it’s such a great bet for California.
Meanwhile, on the electricity side of the ledger, California is kicking butt and taking names. Here’s the news:
- TIME Magazine just named California’s successful launch of our cap and trade program as its top green story for 2013, noting that “If the Golden State and its friends in the neighborhood can pull it off, maybe one day the rest of the country will follow.” Or even the rest of the world: Earlier this week, International Energy Agency chief economist Fatih Birol said he believes a global price on carbon could take effect between 2015 and 2020. It’s notable that many private sector companies are starting to plan for this eventuality: in her inaugural article as the new energy writer for the New York Times, Coral Davenport writes, “More than two dozen of the nation’s biggest corporations, including the five major oil companies, are planning their future growth on the expectation that the government will force them to pay a price for carbon pollution as a way to control global warming.”
- Two big-name California clean tech companies, SolarCity and Tesla Motors, just announced a new partnership to begin storing solar energy in the electric car’s batteries. Using car batteries for energy storage isn’t new – Japan has been particularly focused on this problem ever since the devastating tsunami in March 2011, which underscored the importance of reliable backup power. Marrying renewable power from solar energy to the storage potential of the car battery is a truly exciting idea, especially in California, which has more than an average amount of both. Ultimately, storage is the nut we have to crack to make renewables as reliable as fossil fuels, and this is a great step in that direction.
- Speaking of Japan, apparently a Japanese company wants to solve all our energy problems by building a ring of solar panels around the moon. I’m afraid it’s too late at night for me to even get my brain around this concept, much less comment on it. You just have to read it for yourself.
- In more sobering news, we learned this week that California’s economic recovery may be leaving some rural and suburban communities behind, according to a new report out of UCLA. The LA Times reports that while “coastal counties stretching from Marin to San Diego have enjoyed employment gains that outpaced the U.S. In contrast, inland areas such as the San Joaquin Valley and the East Bay are showing little or even negative growth.” This may seem like economic and not environmental news, but clean energy advocates should take note: unless the whole state gains from our climate and energy policies, those policies will be hard to hold onto.
- Meanwhile, in Washington, President Obama released a Presidential Memorandum yesterday directing the federal government to consume 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, which is a great step forward for the country’s largest employer. (Today’s civics lesson: who can tell me the difference between an Executive Order and a Presidential Memorandum? Prize to the first person to send me the answer!)
- But on the other side of the federal government ledger, a new Center for American Progress paper shows that public lands produce 4.5 times more carbon (from fossil fuel extraction) than they absorb (through natural carbon sequestration).
That’s all for tonight. See you next week!