NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Tracing California's Power Debacle To Environmentalists Of The 1970s

January 22, 2001

For decades, analysts warned that California must build more power plants. But politicians there paid more heed to environmental groups which first attacked the idea of building coal-fired power plants, then graduated to an anti-nuclear stance.

  • As of March 1970, 200 environmental groups had mushroomed in the San Francisco area alone.
  • One study back then claimed that conservation in home appliances, and in heating and cooling would cut California's consumption of natural gas and electricity by 30 percent -- and peak demand would drop by half in 10 years.
  • In 1975, Jerry Brown -- who opposed both coal and nuclear power -- became governor, and in 1978 he backed a state moratorium on building nuclear plants.
  • As a result, it took 17 years to get the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant up and running -- and costs jumped 12-fold from $500 million to $6 billion.

"After the experience with Diablo Canyon," comments Miro Todorovich, executive director of the pro-nuclear Scientists and Engineers for Secure Energy in the 1970s and 1980s, "no utility in its right mind would build a power plant in California."

This explains why California produces less power per resident than any other state and imports one-quarter of its energy from places as far away as Quebec.

Source: David Isaac, "California's Recipe for Energy Crisis: When Demand Booms, Forget Supply," Investor's Business Daily, January 22, 2001.

 

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