Greenspace

Environmental news from California and beyond

« Previous | Greenspace Home | Next »

California drought drove up energy costs

Drought One of the biggest costs of California's recent drought went largely unnoticed, according to a report that estimates state ratepayers paid $1.7 billion to replace lost hydropower with natural gas generation that also pumped millions of tons of pollutants into the atmosphere.

"Some of the drought's most direct and costly impacts were to air quality and California electricity ratepayers," concludes an analysis of the drought's impacts by the Pacific Institute, a Northern California think tank that focuses on water issues.

In an average year, about 15% of the electricity produced in-state comes from hydropower. Citing data from the California Energy Commission, the authors found that figure dropped to 8%-10% with falling runoff levels during the 2007-09 drought. Utilities made up for the loss by burning more natural gas and buying more power from out of state, driving up production costs as well as greenhouse gas emissions. The authors calculated that the switch to other power sources resulted in an additional 13 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

The report echoes other findings that overall, the state's agricultural sector was not severely affected by the drought. Despite claims by Central Valley politicians and some media outlets that irrigation cutbacks tied to environmental regulations and the drought had turned the region into a "dust bowl," gross crop revenue in California was the highest on record in 2007 and remained close behind the following two years.

Farmers pumped more groundwater, planted fewer acres of less-profitable crops such as alfalfa and cotton and purchased water from irrigation districts unaffected by cutbacks.

The dry years coincided with the recession and statewide real estate bust, which were responsible for most of the job losses in the Central Valley, the state's farm belt.

"While unemployment increased within the valley and statewide over the drought period, job losses were concentrated in sectors not related to agriculture," wrote authors Juliet Christian-Smith, Morgan Levy and Peter Gleick. "In fact, the proportion of agricultural jobs has either remained stable or increased in the areas facing the greatest reductions in federal and state water deliveries. This finding directly contradicts claims that water shortages caused agricultural job losses."

RELATED:

Despite dire predictions, California farm jobs aren't disappearing

Governor expected to declare California's drought over

Thick snowpack holds water -- and potential peril

--Bettina Boxall

Photo: A San Joaquin Valley cotton field abandoned during the 2007-09 drought. Credit: Phil Hawkins / Bloomberg News    

 
Comments () | Archives (3)

The comments to this entry are closed.

So if we could have obtained more water from the northern California delta (remember the smelt?) we could have used less natural gas, not raised food prices as much, employed more people, and not have impacted the real estate market as severly. We will have more water this year but what about the future? Nothing has been done to remedy the situation. This is a severe problem for the entire state's agricultural industry and we just let it ride year after year.

When will they update the hydro technology ? A lot of it is ancient.

Welcome to the wonderful world of renewable power. And when it's not sunny or the wind isn't blowing and we're at the mandated 30% "green" energy portfolio percentage, where do you think our electricity will come from and at what cost?


Connect

Recommended on Facebook


Advertisement

In Case You Missed It...

Video

Recent News
Invitation to connect on LinkedIn |  December 12, 2013, 9:58 am »
New Cook Islands Shark Sanctuary proposed |  December 8, 2011, 8:00 am »

Categories


Archives