by Bob Barr
California has long been a refuge for people big on ideas but short on realism. Whether it is the famous sunshine, its gorgeous coastline, or the state’s tolerance for even the most extreme buffoonery, California has played center stage for more than its fair share of “movements” – from beatnik and other counterculture revolutions to murderous cults.
Knowing this history helps to understand why a state with an economy larger than most countries in the world, is swiftly heading towards total collapse. The people running California today are the same ones who for decades believed they could change the world with music and sit-ins but are joined now by millions of young “progressives” even less-anchored to reality than their hippie mentors.
The result of this strange brew is a series of public policy responses to major issues that would be utterly laughable, if not for the very real and extremely serious consequences born of such ineptitude.
Thus, while the populations of other sun-belt states like Texas and Florida are increasing rapidly, California’s population is shrinking. What should be even more troubling is that some 23 percent, nearly one-fourth of California voters, report they are “seriously considering” leaving the state. This includes the rich and famous as well as many businesses which, when leaving, take with them significant tax revenues the state desperately needs to fund its lavish social spending.
How are California’s political leaders responding? Not with any apparent measure of concern, and with some expressing anger at exiting businesses. Last year, for example, state Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, upset that Tesla founder Elon Musk did not share her progressive vision about empowering Big Labor, tweeted “F*k Elon Musk.” When the Tesla billionaire later announced the company’s move from Palo Alto to Austin, Texas, he pointedly noted the Assemblywoman’s profane tweet.
It would be one thing if Ms. Gonzalez’s cavalier attitude was only costing the state critical jobs and tax revenues, but the problem goes much deeper.
Rabid environmentalism has fueled state leaders’ willful disconnect from reality and threatens to push California over the edge of a historic energy crisis on which it has teetered precipitously for two decades.
Many Californians remember the state’s energy crisis at the turn of the Millennium, which put the term “rolling blackouts” into the public lexicon. Millions were without power for hours at a time, disrupting businesses and livelihoods alike. In the two decades since, California’s energy situation has become demonstrably more perilous, even as state leaders seem blissfully oblivious to the looming catastrophe.
Once upon a time, California enjoyed sufficient energy infrastructure reserves that enabled it to recover from incessant bureaucratic meddling in the energy marketplace, but no longer.
Environmental extremism in pursuit of a “100 percent clean energy future” has gutted traditional energy sources like coal and natural gas. In this unrealistic scenario, California’s energy future will rely exclusively on power sources subject to natural impediments – like clouds, windless days, and drought. Not surprisingly, nuclear power, by far the cleanest and most reliable energy source, failed to survive this clean energy onslaught; the state right now is decommissioning its last remaining nuclear power station, responsible for a whopping 10 percent of the state’s energy needs.
It should be obvious to even the most casual observer that making up this deficit will be impossible relying on wind and solar alone, but state officials continue their anti-energy march, including plans to eliminate internal combustion engines from use altogether. Gov. Gavin Newsom just signed a bill banning the sale of small gas engines, like those found on leaf blowers. That’s one small step for a man, one more giant leap into the energy abyss.
The real danger, however, is that without traditional energy infrastructure, there is no way California can steer away from the iceberg into which its leaders are turning. Outside of buying energy from adjacent states (several of which are facing their own energy crises), there simply is no “back-up” power generation acceptable to California “greenies” capable of coming close to meeting the energy demands placed on it. Once the new blackouts begin, they will remain – perhaps permanently.
For the millions of the 25 percent of California citizens who already are considering leaving the state, now might be the time to do so, before the last U-Haul crosses the border eastward. It is polite to ask the last person in a room to turn off the lights when leaving, but considering California’s current trajectory, such a request will not be necessary.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.