Sure, for the fortunate few, they might have to miss a couple of coffees a week, but this reality only applies to the outliers in California. A tech worker in San Francisco won’t worry about a gas tax when their commute consists of a 20-minute walk or using their taxpayer-subsidized Tesla to make the drive into work. Opposition to a gas tax increase becomes rare when you can afford to live close to work or purchase a new, fuel efficient vehicle.
I, however, come from a community with a very different point of view. Before the vote on the gas tax increase, I spoke with dozens of people from my district to really understand how this would impact their daily lives. Juan Robles, husband and father, drives 200 miles a day selling rocks from a quarry. He’s not sure his company will be able to stay in California because of increased taxes. This doesn’t seem like just a $10 cost for Juan.
The growth is also prompting a face-off between the public programs and California’s three biggest private utilities, including Pacific Gas & Electric. In the dispute, both sides have suggested their ratepayers are getting a bum deal in how the state has set the rules for this new era. For the public programs, the outcome has high-stakes implications because their customers could end up paying considerably more to offset the growing costs for excess power that the utilities contracted for but no longer need.
The public programs, typically known as Community Choice Aggregation, or CCA, agencies, have grown to control about 5 percent of the state’s electricity market, a new study reports. But both utilities and other experts say that number will increase markedly as other communities join the trend.
But that electricity trend has changed recently. American households use less electricity than they did five years ago. The figure below plots U.S. residential electricity consumption per capita 1990-2015. Consumption dipped significantly in 2012 and has remained flat, even as the economy has improved considerably.
So what is different? Energy-efficient lighting. Over 450 million LEDs have been installed to date in the United States, up from less than half a million in 2009, and nearly 70% of Americans have purchased at least one LED bulb. Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) are even more common, with 70%+ of households owning some CFLs. All told, energy-efficient lighting now accounts for 80% of all U.S. lighting sales.
E10 fuel (90% gasoline/10% ethanol) has a source energy, which is reduced due to extraction, processing and transport, to become the primary energy fed to E10 vehicles. As a result, the energy fed to the tank has to be multiplied by 1.2639 to obtain source energy.
Electrical energy has a source energy, which is reduced due to extraction, processing and transport, to become the primary energy fed to power plants, which convert that energy into electricity, which after various losses, arrives at use meters. As a result, the energy fed to the meter has to be multiplied by 2.995 to obtain source energy.
The below “40 mpg, EPA combined” table shows, high-mileage E10 vehicles, including hybrids, such as the 52 mpg Toyota Prius, have greater energy efficiency than EVs, and only slightly greater CO2 emissions than EVs. It would be much less costly and quicker to significantly increase the US hybrid fleet, than to build out the EV fleet, which is still in its infancy, and would require major, expensive changes to supporting infrastructures.
Southern California Edison seeks permission to boost rates and revenues by $222 million by January 2018, an additional increase of $533 million in 2019, and $570 million in 2020 to cover operating costs.