California Gov. Gavin Newsom this week claimed he was taking major action to address the drought affecting California and the West. More than 90% of California is in severe drought, up from 65% just one year ago. He said he had created an agreement that was a win-win-win for residents, farmers, and conservationists.
In truth, Newsom is starving California of both water and energy. We are in the worst energy crisis in 50 years and yet Newsom is planning to shut down the largest single source of energy in California, Diablo Canyon nuclear plant. Meanwhile, he has failed to build a single new large water project, despite the fact that California voters in 2014 passed a $2.7 billion water bond to pay for them.
Can’t water conservation save us? It can’t. Newsom declared a drought emergency last year and urged residents to reduce our water use by 15%. We only did so by 6%. It’s true that mandatory restrictions between June 2015 and April 2016 reduced water use by 25%. But the state was ultimately rescued in 2017 by large atmospheric river storms, not conservation.
Energy and water are related. Energy can create freshwater through desalination. Israel has built so many desalination plants that it is now replenishing the Sea of Galilee. Just nine desalination facilities the size of the Carlsbad Desalination Plant near San Diego would be enough to offset the 2022 loss of water from the Colorado river, calculates Doomberg, a must-read blog for anyone concerned with energy.
The same company that operates Carlsbad has been trying to build another desalination plant one hour up the coast, but has failed to do so, despite our historic megadrought. Newsom says he supports the desalination facility but has refused to waive the regulations blocking it.
Reactors could also be added to Diablo Canyon to desalinate gigantic quantities of water. Indeed, that was the original plan.
The result of Newsom’s leadership failures could be catastrophic. California is the fifth largest producer of food in the world. We are the largest producer of dairy and food in the U.S. Over a third of America’s vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts are grown here.
And producing food requires water. Already the world faces terrible famines because of an energy crisis created in part by pro-scarcity environmentalists. Now, Newsom’s actions, and inaction, are making scarcity worse.
Why is Newsom talking out of both sides of his mouth? Because he cares more about running for president than he does about the people of California. And he believes that running for president requires the support of pro-scarcity environmentalists like Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and their financial backers.
The two groups oppose desalination and favor closing Diablo Canyon nuclear plant. They have combined annual revenues of nearly $300 million, a significant share of which comes from the very same natural gas and renewable energy companies that stand to make billions replacing the energy from Diablo Canyon.
Naturally, many of the same financial interests back Newsom. Some pro-nuclear people think they can change Newsom’s mind by appealing to his donors, but a big part of the reason Newsom sought to kill Diablo Canyon was to deliver a scalp to his pro-scarcity donors.
I have been fighting to save Diablo Canyon and other nuclear plants since 2016, and yesterday, the Biden administration announced $6 billion to keep nuclear plants operating.
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