Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Dissing California?

In college football, Californians have long lamented what has come to be known as the "East Coast Bias"-- an alleged predisposition among sportswriters to rate East Coast teams and players more favorably (that California fans attribute to unawareness born of the fact that many East Coasters won't stay up late to watch West Coast sports on a regular basis). Apparently "East Coast Bias" extends to the energy sector as well.

The New York Times yesterday ran a piece that downplayed California's commendable record on energy conservation. Specifically, it reported in detail on a study Cynthia Mitchell of the consulting firm Energy Economics, that concluded that California's efforts to promote conservation are-- at best-- only a small part of the reason our state's per capita energy consumption has

According to the report, the following factors are more responsible for the trend than any systemic efforts to promote conservation:

- Higher prices-- California's electricity price increases have significantly outpaced the rest of the country

- Climate-- California's mild climate requires less air conditioning use (I don't get that one)

- Housing density-- Simply put, more people per house creates consumption efficiencies

- Conservation is cool-- Conservation is part of the whole California ethos

- Economy-- Because California is such an expensive place to do business, many energy-intesive companies (such as manufacturers) have fled the state

The study does pay lip service to utilities' efforts to promote conservation, but almost as an afterthought.

Closing with a dose of reality, though, the article ends with this gem:

"Despite the leveling off of the average person’s usage, California’s overall electricity consumption has risen about 2 percent annually in recent decades. In the battle against climate change, she writes, California’s lessons are therefore “limited at best.”"

Bottom line: there may certainly be some validity to the conclusions drawn by the study, but California's record on energy consumption and conservation is something to be commended and the state should be given its due.

Deciphering California’s Efficiency Successes [New York Times]