Although Governor Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) once campaigned on ending California’s reliance on fossil fuels, nuclear energy, and other so-called “dirty” forms of energy, he has been forced to embrace such sources in order to avoid more energy blackouts.
As reported by Politico, one such example is the gas storage facility Aliso Canyon, which Newsom vowed to shut down upon taking office 5 years ago. But now the Newsom Administration is set to inject even more gas into the facility, a sandstone chamber that resides about 8,500 feet below the surface in Los Angeles. Newsom’s Public Utilities Commission is set to vote today on whether or not it will approve the expansion of Aliso Canyon, a move that would increase storage to nearly 69 billion cubic feet.
Newsom has granted similar extensions of gas and nuclear power plants all across the state in a last-ditch effort to stop energy prices from rising further, and to prevent any more blackouts of the state’s energy grid.
The move has been described as an effort to save face politically, as speculation surrounds Newsom’s political future after he is term-limited out of office in 2026.
“If there’s a blackout, it’s the governor’s fault,” said former Governor Gray Davis (D-Calif.), who was recalled in 2003 and replaced with Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Calif.), due in part to rolling blackouts and increases in the price of electricity during his term. “Certainly they don’t send you congratulations when you keep the power on, but ultimately they’ll hold the governor responsible for maintaining the grid.”
The energy crisis in California peaked in 2020, when there were two nights of rolling blackouts, while demand for energy spiked in the midst of a heat wave. Although Newsom survived a recall attempt in 2021, advisers nevertheless suggest that the fear of a 2003-type political upset still hangs over the outgoing governor.
“If that comes at the expense of the lights staying on, you know, you have to be practical,” said Anthony York, a spokesman for Newsom.
California has been one of the leading states in the push for radical advancement in energy, with mandates to shift all automobiles in the state to electric in the near future, as well as statewide reductions in carbon emissions from other sources besides vehicles. But some have warned that trying to force an entire state – the most populous in the nation – so quickly onto alternative energy sources could lead to a massive crisis.
“Climate change is making it harder to fight climate change,” said Patty Monahan, a member of the California Energy Commission. “As we moved from a system that was really around how we just reduced demand for electricity to a system where we say ‘No, no, let’s scale up as fast as possible because that’s how we clean the air,’ it’s stressing our system. We are finding it really hard.”
With Newsom pushing many progressive ideas in California such as green energy, some have speculated that the 55-year-old governor could be eyeing a presidential run in the near future.