Posts Tagged ‘California’
August 30th, 2012 at 3:54 pm
Silver Lining in California’s Latest Pension Reform Deal

Here’s one reason to be cautiously optimistic about a pension reform deal announced between California Governor Jerry Brown and state Democratic lawmakers:

California’s public pensions are currently governed by a patchwork of contractual agreements and retirement-system rules. The deal, likely to win approval in the Democratic-controlled Legislature, would bring most of those systems under the same pension standards.

Yes, as critics correctly point out, Brown’s deal with his fellow Democrats is “insufficient to cut billions of dollars in unfunded obligations on governments’ books.”

But the value in Brown’s pension reform deal is that for the first time most of the state’s public employees will be under the same set of pension rules.

This is important for at least two reasons.

First, it makes the pension liability problem more understandable for everyday Californians.  Sure, we all know the state’s unfunded liabilities are huge – around $500 billion according a Stanford study – but what good does knowing that number do if reform opponents can sidetrack reasonable debate by citing a dizzying array of competing pension rules?  By consolidating most public employees under the same standards, citizens can begin to see the pension crisis in a simpler, more straightforward way.

The other potential improvement is related to the first.  Brown’s deal sets the table for a future reformer to make the changes Brown’s critics want now.  No one expects Brown to be that guy, so why not welcome a plan that at least moves the ball in the right direction?

Besides, a pension reform deal like Brown’s that puts most of California’s public employees under the same standards means that a future governor will have that many less obstacles to achieve the cost savings the state needs to get back its golden sheen.


August 18th, 2012 at 9:33 pm
Moody’s Warns It May Downgrade California Municipal Debt

The Huffington Post summarizes a new Moody’s Investor Service report that could significantly alter municipal California’s fiscal future:

Moody’s reports that some cities are turning bankruptcy as a new strategy to take on budget deficits and avoid obligations to bondholders, an emerging dynamic that could have ripple effects throughout the investment community.

The municipal bond market has long been characterized by low default rates and relatively stable finances, Moody’s said, but that outlook is beginning to change as bankruptcy becomes a tool for cash-strapped cities.

Already three California cities – Stockton, San Bernardino, and Mammoth Lakes – have filed for bankruptcy.  HuffPo quotes Moody’s as saying that of California’s 482 cities, more than 10 percent have declared a fiscal crisis.

Historically, municipal bonds have been some of the safest investments on the market because cities are presumed by analysts to want to pay back their debt in order to maintain access to public bonds.  (Bonds pay for things like school buildings, roads, sewage systems, etc.)

Since California is responsible for 20 percent of the nationwide muni bonds in circulation, a downgrade by a ratings agency like Moody’s would have a significant negative effect on the value of heretofore safe investments.  If investors see California as an unsafe bet – and why wouldn’t they – expect to see the muni bond market dry up and even more cities opting for bankruptcy.

In other words, this is very bad.

July 30th, 2012 at 1:39 pm
California’s Surging Exports … of People
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We’ve made a bit of a cottage industry here at CFIF of chronicling the downfall of California, a truly great state where metastasizing liberalism threatens to kill its host. Over the weekend, the Daily Caller’s Angelica Malik put the results into sharp relief:

The California Manufacturing and Technology Association found in a recent study that 82 percent of companies surveyed did not consider California when expanding or opening a new facility.

The study also noted that companies looking to expand their operations favored states with proximity to their customers, generous tax incentives, low cost labor, proximity to suppliers and a comprehensible and a favorable tax system.

California ranked last or bottom tier in all of those categories.

This comes on top of the recent news that the Golden State ranked last in CEO magazine’s ratings of state business climates for the eighth straight year.

The upshot: billions in lost revenues, millions in lost citizens, and hundreds of fleeing businesses (with scores more downsizing or dismissing the prospect of heading to California in the first place).

There’s little here in the way of silver linings, except for this: there’s a fair bit of education here for the rest of the nation. If the Lilliputians of liberalism can tie down even mighty California, they can wreak untold havoc anywhere. No one is immune. It’s just a shame that it requires such a significant casualty to convey this point.

June 25th, 2012 at 12:57 pm
California Wood Tax Turns Forests into Suburbs

Michelle Steel, the Republican Vice Chair of California’s Board of Equalization – an independent tax gathering arm of state government – found a pernicious little wood tax tucked away in Democratic Governor Jerry Brown’s recent budget proposal (emphasis below is mine):

The new tax is expected to raise $30 million annually, but that revenue won’t go to the general fund or to debt payments. According to the revised budget, lumber tax revenue will go to support the regulatory activities of the Departments of Forestry and Fire Protection, Fish and Game, Conservation, and the State Water Resources Control Board related to Timber Harvest Plan review.

California’s forest practice regulations are the most restrictive of any state in the nation. Regulatory compliance costs California forest-landowners more than 10 times what it costs similar companies in Oregon and Washington. According to a recent Cal Poly San Luis Obispo study, “California’s regulatory environment is having the unintended consequences of harming forest health,” by making it so difficult to manage timberland that owners are selling their land to housing developers.

Excessive environmental regulations are turning our forests into suburbs. Yet, instead of saving tax dollars by reducing regulation, the governor has chosen to compound the problem by increasing the funding of an inefficient regulatory program.

California tax policy: deforesting the woodlands in order to save them.

H/T: Jon Fleischman’s FlashReport

June 12th, 2012 at 1:29 pm
California’s Perestroika Moment Near?

Joel Kotkin sees the groundwork being laid for a grand political restructuring (i.e. perestroika) in California now that each branch of the state’s ruling class is fracturing.

Environmentalists are split over Governor Jerry Brown’s decision to shield the multi-billion dollar high-speed rail train from California’s tough environmental review process.  Facebook’s disastrous IPO means liberals in Sacramento can’t bank on tech industry riches to finance tax hikes.  And with serious pension reform being enacted in San Jose and San Diego last week public sector unions are no longer guaranteed to win every election.

All that’s needed now is a Democratic leader to stand up and acknowledge that California’s system is broken and needs major restructuring.

Too bad Jerry Brown is no Mikhail Gorbachev.  The latter risked a revolt from his party to save his people from economic disaster.  Brown just announced a truce with the public employee unions to raise taxes even higher than he originally envisioned.

Nevertheless, Kotkin predicts that California is fast approaching a moment where the citizenry will be poised to reward “a coherent vision – from either Independents, centrist Democrats or Republicans – that can unite business, private sector workers and taxpayers around a fiscally prudent, pro-economic growth agenda.”

If that sounds impossible, remember that the Soviet Union fell without a shot being fired.  All that’s needed is the right man with the right message at the right moment.

June 6th, 2012 at 8:24 pm
Chart: 10 Step Process for Firing a Calif. Public School Teacher

We’ve all heard horror stories about how difficult it is to fire exceptionally bad public school teachers in large urban districts.  Thanks to a chart (see below) in a new lawsuit challenging California’s teacher tenure law, now we know why.

The parties behind the lawsuit, discussed by Larry Sands in City Journal California, simply ask the California judicial system to make sure “that the policies embodied in the California Code of Education place the interests of students first and promote the goal of having an effective teacher in every classroom.”

Part of achieving that goal may involve requiring every California school district to comply with the Stull Act, a forty-year-old law that mandates using some measure of student learning outcomes in every teacher’s performance evaluation.  You won’t be shocked to discover that this law currently goes unenforced.

That is, unless the lawsuits Sands discusses are successful.  If that happens, students just might start getting the level of education so many of their parents are paying for in taxes.

May 31st, 2012 at 5:08 pm
Romney Dings Obama on Solyndra

Standing across the street from Solyndra’s Fremont, CA headquarters today Mitt Romney articulated well just about everything that’s wrong with President Barack Obama’s Solyndra fiasco.

From CNN:

“This building, this half-a-billion-dollar taxpayer investment, represents a serious conflict of interest on the part of the president and his team. It’s also a symbol of how the president thinks about free enterprise. Free enterprise to the president means taking money from the taxpayers and giving it freely to his friends.”

CFIF readers are no strangers to the Obama administration’s crony capitalism vis-à-vis Solyndra.

The fast-track loan approvals that benefited a major 2008 campaign bundler, the renegotiated terms that leapfrogged private investors in front of taxpayers in the event of a default, and the unnecessary risk of $535 million in taxpayer money on an unproven solar technology that ultimately flamed out are permanent reminders of how this White House’s corrupt politics and bad policies result in debt-exploding outcomes.

Americans can’t afford another day of this fiscal irresponsibility; let alone another four years.

May 18th, 2012 at 2:19 pm
More Evidence CA Govt Doesn’t Know How to Prioritize Spending

Businessweek provides a snapshot of California state government’s fiscal insanity:

California Governor Jerry Brown is seeking a 38,000 percent spending increase for a proposed high- speed rail system, even as he plans to raise taxes, cut state worker pay and reduce social programs to narrow a $15.7 billion deficit.

The “38,000 percent” translates into a requested budget increase from $15.9 million to $6.1 billion for construction costs of California’s fantastical high-speed rail project.  The kicker: all that money builds only the first 130 miles of an estimated 800 mile route from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

A lot of internet ink has been spilt rightly decrying this total waste of taxpayer money.  What I want to emphasize in this post is that Governor Brown’s budget request should anger liberals even more than conservatives.

Can it really be true that with California’s budget deficit recently surging from $9.2 billion to more than $15.7 billion that welfare and salaries must be cut and taxes raised so that someone’s bullet train dream can come true?

This is insane.  If Californians – the unions included – can’t rouse themselves to kill high-speed rail for the sake of preserving food stamps and health care for the poor, the rest of the nation should wash its hands of the state and let it implode.

Ending any and all spending related to the L.A.-S.F. bullet train should be done today.  It’s a no-brainer.  Unfortunately, that’s also true of the folks in charge of the public fisc.

May 18th, 2012 at 11:34 am
CFIF’s Troy Senik in the LA Times: The teachers union that’s failing California

In a stinging op-ed published yesterday in the LA Times, CFIF senior fellow Troy Senik focuses the blame for California’s failing public education system squarely where it belongs: the California Teachers Association (“CTA”).  Senik writes:

California’s education tailspin has been blamed on class sizes, on the property tax restrictions enforced by Proposition 13, on an influx of Spanish-speaking students. But no portrait of the schools’ downfall would be complete without mention of the California Teachers Assn., or CTA, arguably the state’s most powerful union and a political behemoth that has blocked meaningful education reform, protected failing and even criminal educators, and pushed for pay raises and benefits that have reached unsustainable levels.

Senik goes on to explain how the CTA is using its “fat bank account fed by mandatory dues that can run to more than $1,000 per member” to maintain and build its political dominance in the state.  In the past decade alone, Senik notes, “the CTA had spent more than $210 million…on political campaigning — more than any other donor in the state.”

Fortunately, there are signs of hope to help counter the CTA’s political stranglehold that has enabled it to prop up its own interests over that of students: Parents are starting to revolt against the union’s orthodoxy.  And  “unlike elected officials, parents are hard for the union to demonize.”

Read the entire piece here.

May 7th, 2012 at 7:31 pm
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Progressive Caveman

Meditate on this excerpt from an op-ed by former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger:

“An inclusive party would welcome the party’s most conservative activists right alongside its most liberal activists,” the actor-turned-politician said. “There is room for those whose views, I think, make them sound like cavemen. And there is also room for us in the center, with views the traditionalists probably think make us sound like progressive softies.”

As usual, Schwarzenegger is being too soft on himself.  After promising to “blow up the boxes” in Sacramento and get tough on a legislature full of “girly men,” Schwarzenegger passed seven laughably unbalanced budgets that everyone acknowledged were premised on accounting gimmicks that are illegal in the private sector.  He signed into law AB 32, the global warming regulatory scheme that burdens California’s economy without making a single degree of difference in the global temperature.  He supported a multi-billion dollar bond initiative to fund embryonic stem cell research despite the industry’s pivot toward adult stem cells as an ethically better, more scientifically promising avenue for treatment.

Ignoring the laws of fiscal gravity?  Cursing the sun while your neighbors grow their economies?  Defying science to serve a political ideology?  Who’s the real caveman in all this Mr. Schwarzenegger?

H/T: Catalina Camia at USA Today

April 13th, 2012 at 2:27 pm
California’s Political Correctness vs. Louisiana’s School Reform

Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee is the dean of California political writers and today he’s got a gem.  Walters criticizes including yet another entry on the state’s list of population groups required to be taught in a positive light in history classes.

The latest effort is Senate Bill 993 by Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, which would require social science instruction on the “braceros,” a long-expired federal program that brought workers into the country, mostly from Mexico, during and after World War II to offset farm labor shortages.

Lest Walters be accused of insensitivity, he rightly directs attention to the real crisis facing California’s schools:

In a state as diverse as California, there’s literally a bottomless well of ethnic and cultural groups that could seek inclusion not only on the instruction list but in the liturgy of those that must be portrayed only in the most positive terms.

We don’t need to brainwash our kids. We need to give them well-rounded, accurate instruction that prepares them for life beyond childhood – and our poor academic test scores indicate that we’re neglecting that important task while filling their minds with feel-good pap.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have an alternative to such a broken system by applying your tax dollars to tuition at a private or charter school of your choice?  If you think so, check out Troy’s column on Bobby Jindal’s school reform breakthrough in Louisiana.

And if you’re a pap-hating Californian with school-age kids, consider moving.

April 12th, 2012 at 1:40 pm
As California Bleeds Money and Citizens, Unions Call for Higher Taxes
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California, as has become universally known in recent years, has become a fiscal and political basket case. Take a look at the state as it stands in the spring of 2012: it has a $9.2 billion budget deficit, approximately half a trillion dollars in unfunded public pension liabilities, and a business environment ranked worst in the nation by Chief Executive magazine (in 2010, the periodical referred to the state as “the Venezuela of North America”).

Part of the problem, of course, is the liberal-labor union coalition that dominates Golden State politics, in which the most nefarious force is the California Teachers Association, the hulking union that overwhelmingly outspends any other special interest in the state. Now, in the midst of this economic crisis, the CTA is getting behind Governor Jerry Brown’s proposal to increase state sales and income taxes, a move that would only hasten the state’s decline.

I tackle the issue in my new column for City Journal California. From the coda:

CTA officials contend that Brown’s proposal—an extra quarter of a cent added to the sales tax and up to three extra percentage points on the state income tax, depending on income levels—represents only a modest increase, a cost that the Golden State’s economy can easily absorb. But the margin of the increases is less significant than the final rates they will produce. If Brown’s package passes, California would have both the highest state sales tax in the nation and the highest top income-tax rate. That will only continue to drive economic activity out of the state, a trend that recent IRS data shows cost California $27 billion in tax revenue from 1999 to 2009.

The lesson should be clear: the kind of punitive taxation that Brown’s initiative promotes is precisely what depletes the tax base necessary to finance California’s public schools and pay the salaries of CTA members. Raise rates and you only dim the prospects for public education further.

In a 2009 piece for National Affairs, I noted that, “from 2004 to 2007 more people left California for Texas and Oklahoma than came west from those states to escape the Dust Bowl in the 1930s.” Yet in the intervening years California’s political class has done nothing to improve conditions for those who might be tempted to leave the beauty and cultural dynamism of the Golden State behind for more economically palatable environs. One wonders exactly what natural disaster they’ll have to approximate before the lesson sinks in.

April 2nd, 2012 at 1:24 pm
The 6 Groups Responsible for California’s Budget Mess

Joe Mathews blogs at NBC Bay Area on the people and institutions most at fault for California’s budget fiasco.

The system makes the decisions, not lawmakers. And that system — the formulas and court decisions and constitutional spending mandates and tax restrictions — does not exist in any particular place that can be protested.

That’s the strange genius of this system, which is really a set of complex formulas. You can’t picket a formula’s house.

Indeed, protesting at the Capitol may be counterproductive — because it advances a false public narrative that the legislature is the problem here. The problem is the people of California, especially voters of the present and of the past.

Two years ago, in this piece for Fox & Hounds Daily, I suggested five alternative locations for protests: highways, gas stations, the prison guards’ union, retirement communities, and unsold homes.

Since then, I have one additional idea: California cemeteries.

Many of the spending mandates and tax restrictions that are strangling the budget, and higher education in particular, were put in place long ago by voters.

So long ago that many of those voters are dead. What better way to represent this problem of the dead governing the living than by taking the protest to those voters?

And what better way to show the crisis of California’s politics than to act as if politically-imposed spending formulas can’t be politically reformed?

March 27th, 2012 at 12:53 pm
Louisiana Teacher Unions Happy to Sell Out Kids for Political Gain
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Last week, Quin blogged about the progress being made on behalf of school choice in Louisiana, largely because of the leadership of Governor Bobby Jindal. This week, the teachers unions are striking back in the manner they know best: abandoning their students. From Southwest Louisiana’s American Press:

Calcasieu Parish Superintendent of Schools Wayne Savoy announced Monday morning that all public schools in the parish would be closed Tuesday due to “excessive employee absences.”

Teachers will be traveling to Baton Rouge to protest pending legislation regarding public education and express their opinions on the voucher system and tenure laws that was approved by the state House last week.

Here in California, the unions did the same thing during last year’s “state of emergency” protests, abandoning their classrooms to converge on Sacramento (and doing so the same week that important statewide tests were being administered, no less). I bring that up only to note that this is business as usual for organized labor throughout the country. They get paid by the taxpayers; But they serve only themselves.

The unions are fond of telling us “the children” are their first priority. Their actions tell us otherwise.

March 23rd, 2012 at 12:43 pm
California Passes Blank Budgets, Fills in the Details Later

Remember when Nancy Pelosi said of ObamaCare that Congress would need to “pass the bill so [the public] can see what is in it”?  Two years ago, Pelosi & Co. refused to make the contents of ObamaCare public until just before voting was allowed on the bill.

Well, it looks like Pelosi’s fellow liberals in California state government are doing her one better.  From the Los Angeles Times:

In an annual quirk of California government, lawmakers approved 78 budget bills on Thursday — and they were all blank.

The bills function as shells. As negotiations continue and tax revenues are tallied, they will be amended with actual budget details, then quickly passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor.

Calling this practice a quirk obscures the fact that California’s big-spending liberals are deliberately perverting the legislative process to hide their intentions.  Just like ObamaCare, California’s majority Democrats negotiate with themselves behind closed doors and demand an up-or-down vote on budget bills within hours of making them public.

This kind of process-destroying behavior cannot be allowed to continue.  The public needs accurate information to judge policies and politicians, not shell games that cost billions.

March 16th, 2012 at 12:43 pm
Former CA U.S. Senate Candidate Moves to Texas

Former California Assemblyman and 2010 Republican U.S. Senate candidate Chuck DeVore explains why he gave up on the Golden State and moved to Texas in an article for National Review.

Here’s just one example of the differences between the states:

In his State-of-the-State address this January, California governor Jerry Brown said, “Contrary to those declinists who sing of Texas and bemoan our woes, California is still the land of dreams. . . . It’s the place where Apple . . . and countless other creative companies all began.”

Fast forward to March: Apple announced it was building a $304 million campus in Austin with plans to hire 3,600 people to staff it, more than doubling its Texas workforce.

California may be dreaming, but Texas is working.

March 12th, 2012 at 1:15 pm
California Willfully Rejects Prosperity
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Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal‘s Stephen Moore had an instructive and inspiring piece on the economic boom occurring in North Dakota as a result of the Peace Garden State’s (yes, that’s their actual nickname) aggressive development of oil resources.  More depressing, however (especially for this Golden State resident), was the contrast Moore drew with California:

In 1995, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated 150 million “technically recoverable barrels of oil” from the Bakken Shale [in North Dakota]. In April 2008 that number was up to about four billion barrels, and in 2010 geologists at Continental Resources (the major drilling operation in North Dakota) put it at eight billion. This week, given the discovery of a lower shelf of oil, they announced 24 billion barrels. Current technology allows for the extraction of only about 6% of the oil trapped one to two miles beneath the earth’s surface, so as the technology advances recoverable oil could eventually exceed 500 billion barrels.

Now contrast this bonanza with what’s going on in another energy-rich state: California. While North Dakota’s oil production has tripled since 2007 (to more than 150 million barrels in 2011), the Golden State’s oil production has fallen by a third in the past 20 years, to 201 million barrels last year from 320 million in 1990. The problem isn’t that California is running out of oil: In 2008, when the USGS estimated four billion barrels of recoverable oil from the Bakken, it estimated closer to 15 billion barrels in California’s vast Monterey Shale.

As Moore elaborates later (and as I’ve written at length both here and elsewhere), California’s failures are the byproduct of a governing class that regards traditional (read: viable) energy sources with suspicion at best and contempt at worst, prohibiting many efforts at energy exploration, setting renewable energy mandates, and enacting a statewide version of cap and trade.

One statistical contrast tells the whole story. The resources in California’s Monterey Shale are nearly four times as great as those in North Dakota’s Bakken. Meanwhile, California’s 10.9 percent unemployment rate is more than three times as high as North Dakota’s 3.3 percent rate. This is not fate. This is the result of choices made by California’s policymakers. The state’s voters should judge them accordingly.

February 25th, 2012 at 5:13 pm
California Public Unions’ “Totalitarian Ethics”

As if California’s public employee unions didn’t have enough advantages with compulsory dues, a bought-and-paid-for Democratic legislature, and a deep blue citizenry, Steven Greenhut has identified yet another mechanism being used to extract more money from taxpayers:

In San Diego, unions are fearful of a new pension reform measure referred to by supporters as Comprehensive Pension Reform, or CPR, that has qualified for the June 2012 ballot. Instead of simply gearing up to fight this political battle, the unions petitioned one of those ridiculous commissions that most Californians have never even heard of, the Public Employment Relations Board, which is unfriendly turf for taxpayers. The union said placing the initiative on the ballot amounted to an unfair labor practice, and PERB called for an injunction to stop the election until it could complete its sham proceedings.

In essence, the unions and this unelected board insist that the people of San Diego have no right to vote on pension reform. This is just the latest reminder of the totalitarian ethics of a public-sector union movement that doesn’t care about anything other than protecting its benefits.

February 16th, 2012 at 4:07 pm
Real Reform in California? It’s Not Too Good to be True
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Over at Ricochet, I have a post today on the inspired example being set by the city of San Diego, a rose among thorns in notoriously misgoverned California. Big labor is currently trying to impede an initiative set for the city’s June ballot that would completely overhaul public sector pensions, moving all new hires (sans police officers) into 401(k) style defined-contribution plans instead of the exorbitant defined-benefit systems that have left the city with a $2.1 billion pension deficit.

While that deserves a hearty commendation, it’s not necessarily evidence of a broader reformist bent. Public pensions, after all, have become the issue du jour in financially strapped cities and states throughout the nation.  What really proves the depth of San Diego’s commitment to good government is the lengths to which the city is going to improve the nuts and bolts of day to day public service. Consider this, from Governing Magazine:

The city also has implemented an effort that creates “managed competition” in which some city departments must offer the lowest bid in order to continue their operations, lest they be replaced with a third-party contractor who can do the job cheaper.

So far, employees who sweep the streets, maintain the vehicle fleet and work in the city publishing shop have all won those bids by pitching proposals that reduced expenses for the city. The next competition will involve the city’s landfill operations. “Employees know where the fat is,” [Mayor Jerry] Sanders said.

Meanwhile, under Sanders’ leadership, the city has shed about 1,800 positions, made pay cuts and freezes, and pushed huge reforms to the retiree health care system expected to save the city at least $700 million over 25 years.

Let’s hope San Diego keeps up the good work. Nothing will do more to undercut the case of California’s regnant liberals than an object lesson showing how successful an alternative model can be.

February 1st, 2012 at 5:44 pm
Who Killed the Electric Car? The People Who Made It
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Over at RealClearMarkets, the American Enterprise Institute’s Kenneth Green has a wonderful take-down of California’s delusional alternative energy mandate, which would “require that 15.4 percent of all vehicles sold by 2025 must be electric cars, plug-in hybrid cars, or (currently non-existent) fuel cell cars.” Green notes that this is the second time the Golden State has gone down this road, after a similar mandate — imposed back in 1990 — had to be scrapped due to its total infeasibility.

As you may recall, it used to be fashionable amongst conspiracy-minded greens to posit that the electric car had been undermined by some nefarious cabal of big oil, the auto industry, and hydrogen fuel cell advocates. They even made a film about it: 2006’s “Who Killed the Electric Car?”, which included the contributions of such noted experts in transportation economics as Martin Sheen, Mel Gibson, and Phyllis Diller. As Green points out, however, the electric car and its alternative fuel cousins have never taken the market by storm for a much simpler reason — they’re just not economically viable:

The GM Volt sells for a non-competitive $40,000, and is barely selling despite federal tax subsidies up to $7,500, and some state subsidies that further sweeten the pot. Plug-in hybrid technology is more expensive to manufacture, more expensive to repair, more expensive to insure, and, after 22 years, they still have overheating and fire problems.

As Robert Bryce points out in his book Power Hungry, electric cars are the “Next Big Thing. And they always will be.” Bryce observes that EV-boosters have been flogging electric cars since 1911, when the New York Times declared that “the electric car “has long been recognized as the ideal solution” because it “is cleaner and quieter” and “much more economical.”

Scan the hard data on any alternative energy source being promoted as a panacea and you’ll find much the same thing: Too little performance for too much money and too little convenience. And that’s the real tragedy of mandates like California’s or federal handouts to firms like Solyndra. The reality is that we probably will shift away from our reliance on conventional sources of energy like coal and oil in the future. But in order to do so, alternative energy sources will have to be scalable, affordable, and efficient. Providing subsidies for those technologies before they reach that point only delays their viability by reducing the financial incentive to get a better product to market.

The upshot? Reliable green energy may indeed be on the horizon for California. But if it does arrive, it will be because of the efforts of businessmen, not bureaucrats.