California’s new carbon-neutrality plan proudly promises to change “every aspect” of how people “live, work, play, and travel.” Blessed by what its authors call their “collective leadership and commitment to break away from ideas that no longer represent Californians’ values,” the plan conjures a future of new technology in pursuit of a greenhouse-gas-free future. Yet the plan offers not a single remedy for its own projections that climate policies will enrich the wealthy and hurt the state’s less affluent, heavily minority households.
The fine print of the policies undergirding the ballyhooed “energy transition” tend to be inconvenient. Solar, wind, and battery equipment is built in unethical labor conditions, depends on supplies over which China has a stranglehold, and risks shifting mining from overly regulated western countries to such lawless nations as Myanmar, Zambia, and the Congo.
In keeping with this pattern, California policymakers have opted to pursue a far-reaching, multidecade climate blueprint for the state—one they admit will disproportionately harm people whom they deem disadvantaged. In text added just before the final plan’s adoption, bureaucrats disclosed that “households in lower income groups”—which includes all households earning $100,000 or less per year—will “see negative impacts, while households in higher income groups are anticipated to see positive impacts” from plan implementation. Even worse, the plan projects that since “more than 60% of households in the race/ethnicity categories of Hispanic, Black, and other minority communities are less affluent, these groups will “experience reduced income,” compared with mainly “White and Asian households” in higher income groups.
Spanning thousands of pages, the document contains hundreds of proposed actions regulating everything from jet fuel to fertilizer to hot water. But it includes zero measures addressing the plan’s disproportionate racial and income effects. “The state,” the authors suggest, should “find ways to relieve economic burdens on low-income households.”
No such lack of creativity constrains the climate advocates when regulating energy. Confronted with the need to use combustible fuels for many industrial activities and to supplement intermittent wind and solar electricity with reliable sources, for example, the plan calls for massive new hydrogen production and distribution facilities on a scale never before attempted, let alone achieved. All this in a state unable to build a high-speed rail line, shelter its homeless, or install a single donated toilet in an already-plumbed public park without incurring crippling costs and delays.
Former governor Jerry Brown championed efforts to address climate change. But he recognized that under the state bureaucracy’s metrics, California contributed so little greenhouse gas from activities that occurred within its borders that its climate regulations would be “futile” unless other countries and states followed California’s lead. A recent study confirmed that a single wildfire year wiped out California’s multiyear greenhouse-gas-reduction mandates. California leads the nation in the lowest per-capita greenhouse gas emissions, but it also boasts the nation’s highest housing-induced poverty and homelessness rates. The state’s electricity rates rose far higher than the nation’s, and multi-hour and even multi-day electricity outages plagued Silicon Valley, near Stanford, in recent years. Everything from homes to gasoline costs far more than in neighboring states.
One might think that the current obsession with identity politics and racial disparities knows no bounds. But California’s climate champions show no hesitation in embracing regulatory mandates that even they admit will affect working-class and racial-minority households disproportionately.