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California's fossil fuel use slated to grow


California will spend up to $2,911.1 billion on fossil fuels such as oil and coal between 2010 and 2030, according to a new study released Tuesday by the advocacy group Environment California. Using Department of Energy projections, the group found that the total amount spent on fossil fuel between 2010 and 2030 will amount to almost three times the total earnings of all California workers in 2007.

California has no coal plants within its borders, but utilities such as Los Angeles' Department of Water and Power purchase electricity from coal-fired power plants outside the state. The group's report highlights growing concern over  U.S. dependence on foreign oil and over the health and environmental risks of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are the leading contributors to both toxic air emissions and greenhouse gas pollution, it noted.

“Every additional dollar we spend on fossil fuels just buys us more global warming pollution, more smog, and more asthma attacks," said Jennifer Kim, a spokeswoman for Environment California.

The group released the study in the wake of the U.S. House of Representatives' passage of the massive  Waxman-Markey Clean Energy Bill, to spur the use of renewable energy from the wind and sun, as well as curb planet-heating carbon dioxide gases which result from burning fossil fuels. But the legislation may have tough sledding in the U.S. Senate, where coal-dependent states wield more power.

-- Amy Littlefield

Photo: A California oil field. Credit: Annie Wells/Los Angeles Times

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I am an environmental engineer/industrial consultant (not an environmentalist) and I found Paul Taylor's comment interesting. However, I disagree with him. I have lived in the Los Angeles area for about 30 years and I find the improvement in air quality in that time quite dramatic. These improvements have been primarily due to the environmental regulations. Check the local air quality regulating agency website ( for more info on charts documenting these dramatic improvements (ozone, particulates, CO, SOx, NOx). I also have significant allergies/asthma that have improved in the last 30 years that I attribute to improved air quality. To say/imply that environmental regulations and agencies do not do cost-benefit analysis is not correct. They do. However, they may not accurately account for interesting point that he brings up about the impact of environmental regulations on poverty. I believe Paul is exaggerating the effects of environmental regulations on poverty. It may be contributing a bit. For example, allowing more cheap coal and having less environmental regulations on automobile exhaust, etc. will lower the cost of energy a bit but not enough to significantly change the poverty or unemployment picture. The reasons for poverty and unemployment are numerous. Overall, I think that the contribution of environmental regulations is a small portion.

Paul Taylor--right on comment! No one takes into account the costs of alcoholism, spousal abuse, etc. that result from the joblessness caused by excessive environmental regulation, which as you point out logically hits poorer people harder.

I like the idea of using natural gas for everything. The distribution system is in place in urban areas. Fill your car or scooter at home; a natural gas generator could provide the electricity, with cogeneration/heat recovery for winter. We just need more of it--perhaps the pipeline down from Alaska through Canada to the lower 48, or more LNG ship terminals.

What a silly statistic.

Studies like this do more to hurt environmental advocacy than help it.

Comparing energy purchase to wages might be useful if it were for the same time period ... not comparing a 20 year period in the future to a one year period in the past.

Additionally, using the cost of energy is also a silly metric, coal is cheaper than natural gas, but much dirtier. Yet if you are using the metrics of this study, California would do "better" if it went to 100% coal.

Silly, silly California ... the state that could have all of the energy it needed, except it was overly worried about a salamander and a couple of baby seals.

Such regulations would have widespread economic and social impacts – embedding a carbon tax in all US goods and services.
Pollution controls often impose highly regressive costs according to socio-economic class. For example, in the early 1990s, the cost burdens of Southern California's aggressive air quality management plans were estimated to have a three times greater impact upon the region's poorest households than on the wealthiest. Environmentalists dismiss such economic inconveniences by arguing that a better environment helps everyone. The theory of global warming notwithstanding, the adverse health consequences of reduced economic opportunities for the poor vastly overwhelm any environmental benefits they may enjoy from, say, marginally cleaner air quality with no predictable climate change controls. US air pollution reduces the average life expectancy by approximately 30 days. Poverty strips away 10 years in life expectancy.
Much news, opinion and hysterics have flooded the media and pop culture with the imperative to do something about global warming and climate change. Nowhere in the rush to green living does a cost/benefit analysis exist. What is clear to even the most casual observer of environmental issues is that to implement greenhouse gas regulations during a global economic recession would be disastrous.

Ummm....why not just say $2.91 trillion? Was there a point to writing out $2,911.1 billion? Better yet, why not go for $2,911,000 million? I'm not quite sure the education level of some of the writers at LA Times but I've noticed that some are really just not that bright. Someone's knocking, but nobody's home.

Hey California:

Them corn & wind farmers of Iowa are ready to send you all the energy you need if you only just ask them to & you send them your cash so you can run your electric cars & boats & computers &....
Wake up, California. That old funky rusty Midwest will railroad you into the energy poorhouse as you debate how to pay your present bills. Wait until the future energy ones HAVE to be paid, not borrowed from the Midwest. :)


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