Los Angeles Times:

An energy shock absorber

California risks another energy disaster – this one foreseen and easily avoidable – if the electric power industry succeeds in blocking an increase in solar, wind and other renewable power. Time is running short for a measure in the state Legislature that would slowly step up the tapping of renewable sources.

Assembly leaders need to help pry the measure, SB 532, out of a committee that is far too cozy with utility company lobbyists. The bill, by Sen. Byron Sher (D-Stanford), has been held hostage to utility opposition for nearly a year after passing the Senate easily. What could give the bill a chance is that Southern California Edison is said to be close to agreeing to support the measure.

The utilities committee, chaired by Assemblyman Roderick Wright (D-Los Angeles), seems more interested in pleasing the private companies than in protecting Californians against another energy shock in which natural gas prices would go through the roof, as they did late in 2000. California is even more dependent now on natural gas than it was then.

The Sher bill would require utilities to boost their use of renewable power sources by just 1 percent a year until, by 2015, at least 20 percent of the state?s electric power would come from these sources.

It is a completely practical goal. Cost is not the issue it once was. Power from renewable sources is becoming price-competitive, and the Sher legislation contains price caps to keep costs down.

California pioneered commercial renewable energy but lost ground during the energy crisis. The state, scrambling for energy contracts, spent billions for future power that will nearly all be generated by natural gas.

A Rand Corp. report says the state faces an unstable energy future because of its overreliance on natural gas. And a recent federal report verified that manipulation of the natural gas market was one cause of the 2000-01 crisis.

The utilities have been squabbling about pricing mechanisms, long-term contracts and other details. They need to get over this and accept Sher’s measure. So too should the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which wants to be exempted. There’s no reason that public power generators should get special treatment.

(Santa Rosa) Press Democrat:

Presidential low profile in

campaign for Simon

President Bush will sneak into California this week to honor his commitment to campaign for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon.

No public events are scheduled. The president’s men complained privately that they weren?t too excited to learn – to late – about a $78 million fraud verdict against the investment company owned by Simon’s family.

In a low-profile trip reminiscent of Vice President Dick Cheney’s abbreviated visit to California, Bush will appear at three private fund-raisers for Simon.

As the administration tries to demonstrate its determination to confront corporate scandals, the jury verdict against (the Simon firm- threatens to become an anchor around his neck.

Last week, the Republican announced he was cutting campaign staff to save money for TV advertising, while Democratic incumbent Gray Davis, with money to spare, continued to purchase television spots pounding away at Simon’s problems.

A lot can happen in 11 weeks, but the GOP faithful was left to worry that a once-promising campaign was in danger of rolling over and sinking.

Contra Costa Times:

Avoid water shortage

California has not had a major drought in a decade. Since then, the state has grown by more than 5 million people, while water storage capacity has been at a virtual standstill.

It should be obvious to everyone that California cannot afford to indefinitely delay construction of more water storage facilities above and below ground.

Another drought as severe as the last one is a certainty. What is almost as certain is that the state will be ill prepared to deal with it without significant additional water storage.

Both Gov. Gray Davis and his GOP challenger Bill Simon agree that more dams and other storage facilities are needed. Both also support the CalFed plan put forth by a coalition of water interests, which calls for new and/or expanded reservoirs.

While there is considerable, albeit less than unanimous, agreement that more water storage is needed, there has been little progress toward selecting projects, much less getting started on construction.

The problem in California is not a lack of water. Most of the rainfall received in the state flows unused into the sea.

There is more than enough rain during the wet season to supply all of California’s agricultural, residential, business, recreational and environmental needs well into the future, even if the state continues to grow as anticipated.

The challenge for California is to make sure there is enough water available during the dry months and years of drought. The only way that can be accomplished is to increase storage capacity.

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