California phasing out dirty coal

coal barges

The dirty secret of California, specifically Los Angeles, is that large amounts of its electricity comes from coal plants in other states. Now, the state is mandating that coal power be substantially cleaner. This will also open the door for increased use of renewable power as the price will become more competitive, as well as being clean.

And why, you may ask, does L.A. import energy from coal plants in other states? Because coal plants are illegal in California, that’s why. To make things even more ethically challenged, many of those coal plants are on Native American reservations, which certainly sounds like it could be environmental racism, eh?.

Transmitting the power for several hundred miles to L.A. results in a power loss of more than 10%. It would be hard to come up with a worse system for power generation than what L.A. has. Coal is a dirty, filthy, highly polluting way to produce energy, both in the huge acreages it despoils as well as in the pollutants it produces during power generation. If L.A. is to be taken seriously about getting green, they need to stop using coal completely.


  1. Given that rolling blackouts are still part of California’s grid reality, if there’s not enough total power, how can they choose only cleaner power? There’s a market reality to deal with here, regardless of what the legislators say: if there’s a supply shortage, you don’t get to pick and choose what you buy.

    OTOH, they could pull a Gore: WE only buy cleaner power, leaving nothing but dirty power for everyone else and jacking the price up in the process.

    You’re right: it’s an ethical minefield. The real solution is local generation of clean power to supply vastly reduced needs… but I don’t see either aspect of that solution happening anytime soon in LA.

  2. The water situation in L.A. is much the same, water comes from hundreds of miles away in an increasingly unworkable and unsustainable system.

  3. True. And consumption of water can be reduced, but not eliminated… unless we disband the city and sending all the Angelenos to Connecticut or something…

    San Joaquin valley agriculture actually uses far more water than the city itself (and from much the same sources). It would be easy to say lets not grow stuff there, but where would we grow it? That produce and livestock feeds a lot of people. Much of the West is even less hospitable.

    BTW, there IS groundwater under Los Angeles. It’s just unusable because it’s polluted with PCBs and other toxic stuff. Polluting the only local source of a scarce resource was a pretty forward-thinking plan.

  4. All of that, the power, the water, the polluted groundwater, are among the background reasons that we moved from L.A. (the traffic is another). I just don’t see how L.A. can continue as is for the next 10-20 years without something breaking.

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