Democrat California Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2024 presidential chances could be greatly hampered by the state’s ongoing issues with its electric grid, according to energy and state experts.
Recently, the state’s electric grid operator, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), warned that high demand would put a significant strain on utility providers’ ability to provide energy for consumers amid the recent record heat wave.
CAISO issued an “energy emergency alert 3,” the agency’s highest alert level, saying residents should expect rotating outages and a flex alert for the eighth consecutive day, and urged residents to maximize conservation.
“You can thank the governor for giving all Americans a view of their quote-unquote clean energy future,” said Will Swaim, president of the California Policy Center. “He has been the absolute pinnacle of environmentalist policy.”
Swaim continued, “Nobody ever thought America would become a third-world country. California is testing that principle right now in real time.”
The state implemented a series of aggressive environmental measures in recent decades as part of an attempt to stave off climate change and reduce carbon emissions.
A main piece of the state’s environmental policy, championed by Newsom, has been to replace traditional fossil fuel electricity generation with renewable forms like wind turbines and solar panel farms. During his gubernatorial tenure, Newsom has pushed the transition to green energy through stringent regulations and now-codified ambitious goals including the lofty goal of statewide carbon neutrality by 2045.
“One issue here is supply and demand,” said Bill Whalen, distinguished policy fellow at the California-based Hoover institution. “The second issue here is California’s insistence upon moving away from fossil fuels to renewables. The fact is renewables can’t carry the load.”
Despite heavy investment in green energy, the state’s increased reliance on solar energy combined with retirements of large-scale fossil fuel power generation has made the state more vulnerable during periods of increased demand. “We might at some point have emissions-free energy, but I don’t believe solar and wind have enough capacity to be able to provide it for all of California,” said the director of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Energy, Climate and Environment, Diana Furchtgott-Roth.
“We are not on a path to transition to zero emissions anytime soon — certainly not in 2050,” she said. “We just don’t have the physical capability of zero-emissions energy.”
According to the California Energy Commission, the total capacity of the natural gas produced by the state’s power plants fell 15% between 2013 and 2021.
Furchtgott-Roth, Whalen, Swaim and Daniel Turner, founder and executive director of energy group Power the Future, all blamed Newsom for doubling down on aggressive policies that have created the current failing grid dynamic.
“The electric grid is something the government is responsible for much the same way they are responsible for our safety and security,” said Turner. “If you look at what Governor Newsom is responsible for — what he actually is in charge of — he has brought absolutely nothing but failure to his state.”
“The greatest sadness about all of this, besides the actual human suffering, is the fact that California has, within its geographical borders, everything it needs for sustainability,” Turner added. “If Gavin Newsom just had the political courage to mind, to drill, to frack, to produce, it really would be an absolute paradise of energy and food and technology.”
Newsom denies presidential run while continuing to purchase national ads
While Governor Newsom insists he’s not planning a presidential run, he continues to purchase ads across the country, repeatedly attacking Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has long been considered a possible 2024 GOP presidential frontrunner. This while he runs for reelection in California. He has also continued to contact donors who helped fund President Biden’s 2020 campaign.
According to Swaim, “The fact is that voters in other states are really going to be put off by this stuff.” He also emphasized that Newsom would need “armed guards” to walk into Iowa given his agricultural and environmental policies.
“The problem for Newsom, if he wants to go national, is that California, with each passing day, just becomes that much easier to satire and lampoon,” emphasized Whalen.
“Very clearly, we’re in an energy crisis and one-party rule here has brought us to this point,” said Jessica Patterson, chairwoman of the California Republican Party. “California Democrats have super majorities in both the legislative houses and the governor spot for over a decade and they continue to attack energy.”
“I don’t think that these policies work in other parts of the country,” continued Patterson. “I think that would be the greatest gift to Republicans if Gavin Newsom was the Democratic candidate for president.”
She added that Californians are starting to “vote with their feet” and abandon the state due to Newsom and his administration’s policies. Recently, the state lost a congressional seat because of the population decline.