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What’s Behind California’s Skyrocketing Natural Gas Bills: Insiders

What’s Behind California’s Skyrocketing Natural Gas Bills: Insiders

Californians are expecting skyrocketing natural gas bills this month, but this can’t all be blamed on the weather, according to industry insiders.

Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas), which serves about 5.9 million households and businesses, warned customers to expect “shockingly high” January bills that could be 128 percent higher compared to December.

Those who typically paid around $65 a month last winter are likely to pay about $160 this year, SoCalGas said in a statement Dec. 29. Those with bills around $130 a month could see charges jump to $315.

Last December, wholesale natural gas prices already cost five times more than that of 2021. The utility also paid unprecedented prices for the supply in January, the company reported.

Natural gas prices rose in 2022 for five reasons, according to a biennial report (pdf) published by California Gas and Electric Utilities, a group of utility providers including SoCalGas, San Diego Gas & Electric, and SoCal Edison.

First, North American inventories fell below the five-year average last year. Second, the national supply was also strained by Europe’s steady demand for American natural gas during the Ukraine conflict.

Third, the Biden administration restricted licensing and drilling in the country for fossil fuels, and investment for such production has lagged behind the rapidly growing demand for natural gas over the past year, according to the report.

Lastly, the growing electric power sectors nationwide also consume natural gas, the company reported.

“From an economic standpoint [reducing reliance on fossil fuels] may be costly and is certainly not expected to be rapid or easy,” the utility reported. “Nonetheless, the push to find ways forward and to provide energy solutions to customers in a clean and affordable way is an imperative.”

Climate Goals Restrict Production, Grow Demand

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Torrential Rains Trigger Flash Floods Across California

Torrential Rains Trigger Flash Floods Across California

Since the end of December, a ‘parade of cyclones’ has swamped California. The latest round of torrential rain has caused flooding in Los Angeles County, and still unclear in the early morning hours of Tuesday the extent of the destruction, though social media video on Monday evening shows flooded streets, overflowing streams and rivers, and mudslides in what is usually a dry, sunny place where residents have to worry about drought.

National Weather Service said 34 million people are under flood alerts across Southern and Central California through early Tuesday. In Los Angeles County, a flood warning is in effect through the evening.

Dramatic footage has surfaced on social media showing the widespread flooding.

Forecasters estimate the latest round of rain could bring upwards of 5-10 inches in some areas by the end of this week.

More stormy weather is forecasted for today. NWS said heavy precipitation is expected this morning and will begin to taper later in the day, warning a new and “energetic” low-pressure system was becoming more powerful offshore.

Officials said Los Angeles and San Diego residents faced an increased risk of flash flooding and mudslides. Tropical storm-strength winds were also forecast for San Luis Obispo County. Parts of Highway 101, which runs up and down the West Coast, were closed due to flooded-out sections of the major roadway.

Santa Barbara County told residents to shelter in place and closed public schools today. Officials told wealthy residents of Montecito, such as Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, to evacuate because of the flooding.

And it was just only six months ago ‘global warming’ alarmists and celebrities were complaining about droughts…

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced yesterday that storms had caused 14 deaths. He said that figure was higher than deaths caused by “wildfires in the past two years combined.”

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‘Pineapple Express’ And Bomb Cyclone To Wallop California

‘Pineapple Express’ And Bomb Cyclone To Wallop California

A moisture conveyor belt of atmospheric rivers has unleashed near-record rainfall across the West Coast. Another, perhaps, more powerful atmospheric river and bomb cyclone are set to target California on Wednesday and Thursday, continuing ten days of heavy rains and snow for higher altitudes.

The National Weather Service office in the Bay Area warned about the imminent storm, calling it a “truly … brutal system … that needs to be taken seriously.”

“To put it simply, this will likely be one of the most impactful systems on a widespread scale that this meteorologist has seen in a long while,” an NWS meteorologist in San Francisco, adding, “the impacts will include widespread flooding, roads washing out, hillside collapsing, trees down (potentially full groves), widespread power outages, immediate disruption to commerce and the worst of all, likely loss of human life.”

The developing atmospheric river formed near Hawaii and, by Wednesday morning, will spread tropical moisture into California by a low-pressure system. This weather phenomenon is known as the “Pineapple Express.”

“Basically, an (atmospheric river) is a river in the sky of water vapor, and when it hits the mountains, (the moisture) is forced up over the mountains. 

 “That upward motion causes clouds and precipitation to form, and the faster the flow of air and water vapor is hitting the mountains, the faster the rain is falling, so you get more and more rain with the stronger ARs hitting the mountains,” Marty Ralph, Director of the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes, told FOX Weather

The heaviest rainbands are forecasted over parts of California Wednesday afternoon and evening into Thursday morning. NWS has already posted flood alerts across the Golden State.

Another 2-3 inches could be expected across the San Francisco area. Even the Los Angeles metro area could see 1-3 inches.

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Quake Prediction Says “Signal Just Hit,” Warns Of Potential Big Earthquake From San Francisco To LA

Quake Prediction Says “Signal Just Hit,” Warns Of Potential Big Earthquake From San Francisco To LA

An earthquake rattled parts of Northern California on Sunday for the second time in two weeks. The 5.4-magnitude quake was centered about 30 miles south of Eureka. On Dec. 20, a 6.4-magnitude earthquake also struck near Eureka.

Now one quake prediction research firm warned that the next big one could be imminent.

On Monday morning, Quake Predictions published a warning that read for the next two days — there is a “dangerous situation” of the likelihood of a 7.0-magnitude “in the San Francisco Bay to NW of Los Angeles area.”

The warning comes after two sizeable quakes hit Northern California in less than two weeks.

Sunday morning’s earthquake was described as “more violent this time,” Rio Dell Mayor Debra Garnes told CNN in an interview.

“It was shorter but more violent. My refrigerator moved two feet. Things came out of the refrigerator. There’s a crack in my wall from the violence of it,” Garnes said. 

California has an average of five earthquakes per year with magnitudes between 5 and 6, according to LATimes. And the latest shakings might suggest a long overdue big quake could be nearing.

UCSB Scientists See the End of ‘Normal’ Climate

UCSB Scientists See the End of ‘Normal’ Climate

Researcher Asks: ‘What Happens If You Know the Drought Is Never Going to End?’

Credit: Courtesy

In August, Governor Gavin Newsom and officials from the Department of Water Resources released a new Water Supply Strategy, saying that because of California’s “hotter, drier climate,” the state needed to find at least 10 percent more water to supply its farms, cities, and industry by 2040.

“We are experiencing extreme, sustained drought conditions in California and across the American West caused by hotter, drier weather,” states the plan. “Our warming climate means that a greater share of the rain and snowfall we receive will be absorbed by dry soils, consumed by thirsty plants, and evaporated into the air.”

The plan says that steadily rising temperatures will overcome even a year or two of better-than-average or average rainfall in Southern California — as in 2018 and 2019 — and will not close what state officials call an “evaporative gap” that threatens California’s water supply.

This new state plan follows the climate science on “aridification.” That’s the scientific term for the “drying trend” that young climate scientist Samantha Stevenson of UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Engineering identified this year in an extensive global study of the 21st-century hydroclimate.

Danielle Touma | Credit: Courtesy

Stevenson said that she wanted to provoke new thinking about what we call drought.

“Drought is already normal in much of the western United States and other parts of the world, such as western Europe,” Stevenson said. “Part of the reason I wrote the paper was to try to say that we need to think about what we mean when we say ‘drought,’ because we’ve been using these definitions based on expectations from 40 years ago. What happens if you know the drought is never going to end?”

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“Blackouts Imminent” – 75,000 Powerless As Record California Power Usage Sparks ‘Demand Response Event’

“Blackouts Imminent” – 75,000 Powerless As Record California Power Usage Sparks ‘Demand Response Event’

Update (2030ET): As was expected earlier, California power usage surged to a record high this afternoon raising the emergency status of the state’s electrical system to the highest possible level amid a blistering heat wave, which means rolling blackouts are imminent.

This triggered a “demand response event”…

And CA ISO is warning of more “blackouts imminent”.

“This is going to be so dicey,” Michael Wara, director of Stanford University’s climate and energy policy program, said earlier in the day.

“There’s a gap for two hours in the evening right now between available supply and projected demand.”

This farce for one of the most-taxed states comes just four days after President Biden’s Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm praised the state’s green energy policies.

Granholm said that California was leading the nation in green energy development and praised its ability to shape national energy policy, according to an interview conducted by Fox 11 Los Angeles.

“I love the fact that California is unabashedly bold about (green) energy policy,” Granholm stated, calling the state as a green “leader” for the rest of the country.

“California’s boldness has … shaped our willingness in the federal government to move further and faster,” she said of California’s green energy policies.

California’s energy policy has currently left 75,000 Californians without power already…

And the state’s largest power company, PG&E Corp., said in a statement that it had notified about 525,000 homes and businesses that they could lose power for up to two hours.

So this is what the rest of America can look forward to?

*  *  *

Update (1700ET): As we warned about earlier, Califiornians are apparently not heeding officials’ warnings that they should sacrifice their comfort for the sake of whatever business or social-engineering plan is the new thing.

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Heat Dome Bakes California As “A Lot Of Records Could Be Tied Or Broken”

Heat Dome Bakes California As “A Lot Of Records Could Be Tied Or Broken”

A severe heatwave across California and the Pacific Northwest will test power grids this week and early next week.

Temperatures are forecasted to soar above 100 degrees Fahrenheit east of San Diego and Los Angeles, with areas near Palm Springs and Palm Desert exceeding 113 starting Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). By Thursday, Sacramento could reach 105.

The heat dome will spread into Washington, Oregon, and even Montana, Brian Hurley, a senior branch forecaster at the US Weather prediction center, said, quoted by Bloomberg. He outlined:

 “A lot of records are forecast to either be tied or broken,” Hurley said. 

The blast of hot air will peak average California temperatures of around 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit on Sept. 5 and revert to a 30-year trend line of the low 70s by mid-month.

Average high temperatures in California could be near the triple-digit territory.

Californian residents will lower their thermostats to seek relief with air conditioners, boosting electricity demand.

Bloomberg noted demand on the state grid could reach 44.8 gigawatts on Sept. 4 and then stay elevated until the heat dissipates. Peak loads are expected early next week.

On a seasonal basis, California power prices are above a 10-year trend line due to the burst of hot weather.

California’s grid operator has postponed power-plant maintenance from Aug. 31 to Sept. 6 to ensure adequate power supplies.

California went big on rooftop solar. Now that’s a problem for landfills

California went big on rooftop solar. Now that’s a problem for landfills

Illustration of solar panels discarded into large piles with the sky behind them.
Solar panels purchased for home use under incentive programs many years ago are nearing the end of their life cycle. Many are already winding up in landfills. (Jim Cooke / Los Angeles Times)

California has been a pioneer in pushing for rooftop solar power, building up the largest solar market in the U.S. More than 20 years and 1.3 million rooftops later, the bill is coming due.

Beginning in 2006, the state, focused on how to incentivize people to take up solar power, showered subsidies on homeowners who installed photovoltaic panels but had no comprehensive plan to dispose of them. Now, panels purchased under those programs are nearing the end of their typical 25-to-30-year life cycle.

Many are already winding up in landfills, where in some cases, they could potentially contaminate groundwater with toxic heavy metals such as lead, selenium and cadmium.

Sam Vanderhoof, a solar industry expert and chief executive of Recycle PV Solar, says that only 1 in 10 panels are actually recycled, according to estimates drawn from International Renewable Energy Agency data on decommissioned panels and from industry leaders.

The looming challenge over how to handle truckloads of waste, some of it contaminated, illustrates how cutting-edge environmental policy can create unforeseen problems down the road.

“The industry is supposed to be green,” Vanderhoof said. “But in reality, it’s all about the money.”

California came early to solar power. Small governmental rebates did little to bring down the price of solar panels or to encourage their adoption until 2006, when the California Public Utilities Commission formed the California Solar Initiative. That granted $3.3 billion in subsidies for installing solar panels on rooftops.

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Largest California Refinery Hit With Strike Amid Record-High Gas Prices

Largest California Refinery Hit With Strike Amid Record-High Gas Prices

Hundreds of Chevron Corp. refinery workers in the San Francisco Bay Area went on strike Monday following a breakdown in talks between the oil major and the United Steelworkers (USW) union on a contract agreement.

At least 500 workers at a gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and lubricating oils refinery owned by Chevron in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Richmond began striking at local time 12.01 am, the union said in a statement. According to AP News, this followed USW workers voting down a contract offer from Chevron and the company refusing to return to the bargaining table.

The strike’s timing is “very unfortunate” as refinery capacity in California is tight, Severin Borenstein, a UC Berkeley professor, told local news KTVU.

Chevron announced in a statement the strike has yet to affect operational capacity at the refinery.

“Chevron Richmond is fully prepared to continue normal operations to safely and reliably provide the products that consumers need. We anticipate no issues in maintaining a reliable supply of products to the market. Chevron remains committed to safe operations for our workers and communities.”

The heart of the problem is USW’s push to increase pay for workers by another 5%, on top of the national agreement to raise pay by 12%, purely based on the cost of living in the Bay Area is unbearable for blue-collar workers.

“The cost of living in the Bay Area, as any blue-collar worker knows, has gotten to the point that makes it hard to live,” USW Local 5 First Vice President B.K. White, told local news ABC7. “Our workers have to live 45 minutes to an hour out. We are just asking for a little bit of relief.”

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California’s hydroelectric generation affected by historic drought

California’s hydroelectric generation affected by historic drought

Western U.S. drought conditions

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on U.S. Drought Monitor

Most of the western United States is experiencing intense and historic drought conditions. California is one of the most severely affected states. As of June 22, 2021, 100% of the state is experiencing some degree of drought. About 33% of the state has been categorized under exceptional drought, the most intense drought classification. The drought conditions have affected California’s water supply levels and hydropower plants.

Drought conditions include below-normal precipitation and snowpack accumulation, very dry soil, and higher-than-normal temperatures. These factors lower the water supply available in the summer months.

Mountain snowpack serves as a natural reservoir, providing water throughout the spring and summer as it melts. However, the California snowpack was well below normal this year, and most of it melted quickly because of higher spring temperatures. Measurable snow was present at only 3 of 131 monitoring stations on June 1.

Meltwater from the snowpack often didn’t reach reservoirs in California this year because it was absorbed by drought-parched soil and streams, leaving reservoirs across the state at low levels. Shasta Lake, the largest reservoir in California, is at 48% of its average capacity. Lake Oroville, the second-largest reservoir in the state, is at 40% of its average capacity. Lake Oroville’s water level is expected to fall even lower, which will likely force the Edward Hyatt Power Plant to shut down for the first time since it opened in 1967.

Low water supply can affect hydroelectric generation. California’s previous drought, which lasted from 2012 to 2016, led to significant declines in hydroelectric generation and the state’s first-ever mandatory water restrictions in 2015. As drought conditions eased, hydropower conditions improved.

California monthly electricity generation, by select fuel

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO); U.S. Drought Monitor

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California Gas Prices Reach New Record High

California Gas Prices Reach New Record High

The average price of a regular gallon of gasoline in California reached a record high on Monday as sticker shock continues to anger drivers paying more at the pump.

Monday’s average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas in California rose to $4.682, according to the American Automobile Association. The price broke the previous record of $4.671 set in October 2012.

Mid-grade unleaded gasoline also rose to an average price of $4.868. Premium unleaded gasoline reached an average of $4.997, with diesel at $4.816.

The jump is most noticeable when compared with gasoline prices one year ago. In California, the average price at the same time in 2020 was just $2.125 per gallon for regular unleaded fuel.

The prices also make California, the most populated state in the nation, the state with the highest average gas prices in the nation, according to the data.

The Automobile Club of Southern California noted the price increases come as millions of people across the state prepare to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday.

“The Auto Club is projecting 4.4 million travelers for the Thanksgiving holiday, with 3.8 million of them driving to their holiday destinations,” Auto Club spokesman Jeffrey Spring said.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday that increased gas prices show the federal government needs to invest more in green energy alternatives.

“Our view is that the rise in gas prices over the long term makes it an even stronger case for doubling down our investment and our focus on clean energy options so that we are not relying on the fluctuations and OPEC and their willingness to put more supply and meet the demands in the market.  That’s our view,” Psaki said.

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Study Bolsters Case That Climate Change Is Driving Many California Wildfires

Study Bolsters Case That Climate Change Is Driving Many California Wildfires

Link Seen to Fivefold Jump in Area Burned

Against a backdrop of long-term rises in temperature in recent decades, California has seen ever higher spikes in seasonal wildfires, and, in the last two years, a string of disastrous, record-setting blazes. This has led scientists, politicians and media to ponder: what role might warming climate be playing here? A new study combs through the many factors that can promote wildfire, and concludes that in many, though not all, cases, warming climate is the decisive driver. The study finds in particular that the huge summer forest fires that have raked the North Coast and Sierra Nevada regions recently have a strong connection to arid ground conditions brought on by increasing heat. It suggests that wildfires could grow exponentially in the next 40 years, as temperatures continue to rise.

Area burned by California wildfires in thousands of square kilometers, 1972-2018. Specific regions studied are at upper left. (Adapted from Williams et al., 2019)

The study notes that average summer temperatures in the state have risen 3.25 degrees Fahrenheit since 1896, with three-quarters of that increase occurring since the early 1970s. From 1972 to 2018, the area burned annually has shot up fivefold, fueled mainly by a more than eightfold spike in summer forest fires. The researchers say the summer forest-fire increases are driven by a simple mechanism: when air heats up even modestly, it causes more moisture to evaporate from soils and vegetation. The result: fires start more easily, and can spread faster and farther. During the fall, and in non-forested areas, different dynamics may be at work and the results are less clear; but the researchers project that climate-driven aridity is likely to play a growing role there as well.

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California Utility Cutting Power to 51,000 Customers Amid Dangerous Wildfire Conditions

California Utility Cutting Power to 51,000 Customers Amid Dangerous Wildfire Conditions

The nation’s largest utility announced on Tuesday evening that it has begun shutting off power to some 51,000 customers as a large wildfire, fueled by winds, raged through a small Northern California forest town.

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) in a press release said it made the decision to prevent winds from knocking down or fouling power lines and sparking new blazes, citing “dry offshore winds, extreme to exceptional drought conditions and extremely dry vegetation.”

Power will be shut off in small portions of 18 northern California counties, including the Sierra Nevada foothills, the North Coast, the North Valley and the North Bay mountains, the company said.

“With these high winds and extremely dry climate conditions, we are focused on customer and community safety. It’s never an easy decision to turn off the power for safety, but it is the right thing to do to keep everyone safe,” PG&E Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Officer Marlene Santos said in a statement.

The release notes that the company expects “all clears” will occur around Wednesday afternoon.

“We understand how disruptive and inconvenient it is to lose power. The sole focus of a PSPS [Public Safety Power Shutoff] is to keep our customers safe. As soon as this extreme weather passes, our crews will be inspecting our equipment and the vegetation around it, making repairs and restoring power as soon as it’s safe to do so,” Santos added.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has proclaimed a state of emergency for El Dorado County because of the Caldor fire, which tripled in size between Monday and Tuesday afternoon to nearly 50 square miles (129 square kilometers).

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Dixie Wildfire Becomes Largest Active Fire In US, Charing Nearly Half Million Acres

Dixie Wildfire Becomes Largest Active Fire In US, Charing Nearly Half Million Acres

The Dixie Wildfire continues to ravage hundreds of thousands of acres, fueled by strong winds and bone-dry vegetation in Northern California. The wildfire has become the third-largest in California history, and the largest in the US as more than a hundred large fires burn.

Dixie incinerated more than 447,000 acres as of Saturday night, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). The fire is only 21% contained.

The wildfire’s cause is under investigation. Bloomberg said Thursday utility giant PG&E Corp.’s power lines might have played a part in sparking the fire. On Friday, a federal judge ordered PG&E to provide details about the equipment and where the fire began.

Dozens of building structures were destroyed in the gold rush-era town of Greenville on Wednesday and Thursday.

Heat waves and a historic megadrought have transformed much of the American West into a tinder box. Dixie has become the third-largest fire in recorded California history and is the largest active fire in the US.

Smoke from the wildfires is spreading across the country.

The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) reports “107 large fires have burned 2,179,454 acres” in 14 western states.

NIFC provides a grim weather forecast for the western US, stating, “the fire outlook continues to reflect warmer and drier conditions leading to the high potential for severe wildfire activity throughout the western United States through the rest of summer and into the fall.”

The US Drought Monitor continues to show severe conditions across the western half of the US.

California’s fire season could surpass last year’s season, the worst fire season in state history.

None of this should be surprising since California’s top fire officials were warning months ago that the worst wildfire season on record was quickly approaching.

Lake Oroville Hydro Power Plant Shut Down For First Time Due To Megadrought

Lake Oroville Hydro Power Plant Shut Down For First Time Due To Megadrought

One of California’s most important hydroelectric plants has ceased operations due to falling water levels, according to the Department of Water Resources (DWR).

On Wednesday, Lake Oroville fell to a record low of 642-feet above mean sea level. By Thursday, the lake stood at 641-feet above mean sea level. Readers may recall in mid-June, we said if the “640 feet is breached, then officials will likely be forced to close the Edward Hyatt Power Plant for the first time since it opened in 1967.”

Hitting the threshold was enough for DWR to declare the hydroelectric power plant had to cease operations. Lake management officials are in a water preservation emergency amid a megadrought and scorching heat waves.

Karla Nemeth, the director of DRW, said the move to shut down the powerplant follows a “climate-induced drought.”

Shutting down the plant is a move to conserve as much water in Lake Oroville as possible. Water in the lake is pumped into an adjacent hydroelectric energy facility known as the Hyatt power plant, which can power 800,000 homes when operational.

“DWR State Water Project operations managers have taken the Hyatt Powerplant at Lake Oroville offline due to falling lake levels. This is the first time Hyatt Powerplant has gone offline as a result of low lake levels. However, DWR anticipated this moment, and the state has planned for its loss in both water and grid management. We have been in regular communication about the status of Hyatt Powerplant with the California Independent Service Operator (CAISO) and the California Energy Commission and steps have been taken in anticipation of the loss of power generation.

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