Saturday, March 11, 2017

Renewable and Sustainable Crony Capitalism

April 28, 2015

Renewable and Sustainable Crony Capitalism

I recently attended a conference sponsored by the American Council on Renewable Energy or ACORE. Although ACORE is set up as an educational organization under the Internal Revenue Code, it mostly behaves as a trade association promoting the financial interests of investors in wind and solar energy. The conference was held in Washington, D.C., close to the gusher of money that supports the wind and solar industries. The conference participants were uniformly worried that government subsidies might be reduced. One speaker cautioned that the subsidies should be called “incentives”. According to that speaker, subsidies are what the fossil fuel industry gets.

Renewable power has serious problems, apart from costing too much. Wind doesn’t work if there is no wind and solar doesn’t work at night. The proprietors of solar and wind expect the electrical grids to accept and pay for all the power they can provide, whenever they provide it. If a cloud drifts in front of the sun, and the power output suddenly stops, the grid is expected to handle the problem and make up the missing power on a moment’s notice. This is just the opposite of the way that the operators of the electrical grids usually deal with power plants. Normally, grid operators tell the power plants when they want power and how much. The purveyors of wind and solar have enough political juice to be able to reverse the command hierarchy and boss the grid operators. Now you know why everyone is talking about smart grids. Existing grids are not smart enough to deal with more of this erratic power.

One might think that wind and solar would be cheap, since they don’t require fuel. This is not the case because the cost of construction is extremely high and it is much cheaper to build a conventional plant and pay for fuel rather than pay the debt service on extremely expensive renewable installations. There are hidden ancillary costs. For example the conventional power plants that step in, when renewable power suddenly drops off line, end up costing more because their capital costs are spread over fewer hours of operation. The renewable power does not displace a lot of conventional power; it just forces it to be idle more. Yes, wind or solar, when they are operating, save fuel that would otherwise be burned. But with coal or natural gas the fuel costs about 2 cents a kilowatt-hour. That, less additional hidden expenses, is pretty much the real value of renewable electricity. But, generating renewable electricity, excluding subsidies, costs, at best, about 7 cents for wind and more for solar.
Hardly any electrical utility in its right mind would bother with renewable electricity except for politics. Many states have enacted laws (renewable portfolio standards) requiring a certain proportion of renewable power by some date in the future. The Obama administration is working hard to make things as difficult as possible for coal and natural gas plants. Finally, large subsidies are provided to make renewable electricity cheaper than it otherwise would be.

The ultimate justification for renewable power is to reduce CO2 emissions and thus, supposedly, to prevent catastrophic global warming. This justification is wrong for a number of independent reasons. It is becoming obvious that the theory behind catastrophic global warming is wrong because the Earth isn’t warming and even if it does warm a little bit it won’t be catastrophic. Adding CO2 to the atmosphere may cause a little global warming but additional CO2 is extremely beneficial to plants and agricultural production. It turns out that plants are generally starved for CO2 and they do much better, and require less water, when they can breathe more freely. Even if you believe in the global warming myth, the main source of growing CO2 emissions is Asia. Efforts to reduce CO2 in the U.S. will have negligible effect. Finally, if you are really alarmed about CO2 the answer is nuclear power, not windmills. Nuclear is potentially cheap and emits no CO2. In short, global warming is nonsense, and the myth is kept alive by incessant propaganda from special interests, including scientists and their unions (scientific societies).

Many of the speakers at the ACORE conference placed their faith in imagined rapid technical progress. For example, lithium batteries, such as are used to power the Tesla automobile, could be used to store utility scale electricity if only they were 10 times or 100 times cheaper and if only they would last for 20 years, instead of 3 years, when cycled daily. Many of the conference participants seemed to believe that Moore’s law should apply to wind and solar power. Moore’s law postulated that the number of transistors on a chip doubles every 18 months due to technological progress. However, it hardly seems likely that any such law applies to wind and solar power. A solar photovoltaic panel cannot have greater than 100% efficiency and, absent subsidies, cannot cost less than zero. And, even if it did cost zero and did have 100% efficiency, solar power would still not work at night and it would still require square miles of land and structures to support the panels, as well as labor to install them.
The imagined Moore’s law for renewable energy provides an alibi for the exorbitant cost of wind and solar. Supposedly we are currently in a development phase that temporarily requires government subsidy until the renewable energy revolution arrives and we all celebrate with whipped cream and strawberries. Perhaps we will have superconducting undersea cables bringing solar power at night from the Australian desert, or even solar power beamed down by microwave from satellites positioned where the sun always shines. Takes your breath away.

The many subsidies and mandates for renewable energy are a tangle that only highly paid lawyers and accountants can fully understand. Legal fees can run to millions, a fact that may explain why the president of ACORE is an attorney. An example subsidy is the ITC or investment tax credit for solar energy. A company with a large tax liability can invest in a solar power scheme and receive a 30% of the plant cost tax credit

that may be used to reduce its taxes. If 80% of the scheme is financed by a low interest government loan, another subsidy, the immediate tax credit returns more than the cash investment. In addition, the property, expected to last for 25 years, can be depreciated in only 5 years, providing additional tax relief. The sale of power is usually on favorable terms because politicians have forced the power companies to buy it. Power revenue is guaranteed by a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA). This type of activity attracts companies with large tax bills, such as Google. Google has stated that it expects to earn 14% return on money invested in renewable power. Not only does investment in renewable power bring in money from the government, but the companies can pretend to be altruists protecting the Earth. Thus, when the average homeowner pays his electric bill he may be actually subsidizing Google as well as the entire renewable energy industry. He will also be paying taxes to support even more subsidies. This gives some insight as to why some homeowners in California pay more then 30 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity, an amount that compares with 7 or 8 cents in many states that are less enthusiastic concerning renewable energy.

Three Republican United States senators gave speeches supporting renewable energy at the ACORE conference. Charles Grassley, from Iowa, Cory Gardner, from Colorado, and Dean Heller, from Nevada. Iowa is the heartland of government subsidies for wind, and more importantly, corn ethanol. Colorado has a nest of true believers in global warming at the Peoples Republic of Boulder. Senator Gardner barely beat his liberal Democratic opponent. It’s more of a puzzle to understand why the senator from Nevada, Dean Heller, is supporting renewable energy. His website doesn’t exhibit enthusiastic support for renewable energy.

The renewable energy industry seems to have its political ducks in a row. They get subsidies on the pretense that they are saving the Earth. The scientifically ignorant media provide propaganda support. The cost of their subsidies is buried in the tax code and in people’s electric bills. The industry’s main problem is Republicans that are skeptical about global warming and subsidized industries. The industry has to recruit republicans and that explains why three Republican senators were featured at the conference. Those of us who understand the nature of this fraud need to put heat on wavering Republicans (and Democrats).

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Marinwood CSD meeting of February 14, 2017

Top LA County Pension Passes $400,000 Mark (Marinwood has a pension crisis too!)

The pension crisis looms over Marinwood too.

Top LA County Pension Passes $400,000 Mark

by Robert Fellner
The top pension payout at the Los Angeles County Employees' Retirement Association (LACERA) has eclipsed $400,000 for the first time ever, according to just released public pension data.
Today, Transparent California released 2016 pension payout data for the city and county of Los Angeles, as well as the San Diego City Employees' Retirement System (SDCERS).
Former Harbor-UCLA Medical Center chief physician Charles Mehringer's $403,375 pension was the first time the $400,000 threshold was broken at LACERA. The next 3 highest LACERA pension payouts went to:
  • Retired sheriff Leroy Baca: $334,978.
  • Retired UCLA medical center chief physician Robert Morin: $326,278.
  • Retired sheriff Larry Waldie: $325,554.
The top three Los Angeles City Employees' Retirement System (LACERS) payouts went to:
  1. Retired personnel department general manager Margaret Whelan: $237,451.
  2. Retired harbor department general manager Bruce Seaton: $236,530.
  3. Retired harbor department port pilot Michael Owens: $234,159.
San Diego
Former fire battalion chief Benjamin Castro's $885,848 payout topped the SDCERS list — $816,760 of which came from the controversial deferred retirement option plan (DROP). DROP allows an employee to draw a salary and pension simultaneously for up to 5 years, with each year’s pension being deposited into an interest-bearing account. Upon actual retirement, the accumulated balance can be withdrawn either as a lump-sum payment or rolled over into an annuity.
The next three highest SDCERS payouts went to:
  • Retired assistant police chief Mark Jones: $797,408.
  • Retired police captain Dawn Summers: $747,843.
  • Retired fire battalion chief Daniel Saner: $727,696.
To view the entire dataset in a searchable and downloadable format, visit
Transparent California is California’s largest and most comprehensive database of public sector compensation and is a project of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank. Learn more at

Editor's Note: Marinwood CSD has a major problem with its pension and personnel costs and no realistic plan in place to pay.  It is a looming crisis, yet full time staff continues to be added to payroll when an aggressive restructuring is needed. The only action the board has taken has to open an irrevocable trust to pay for healthcare costs.  The employee groups are scared too and want to insure they have something if a bankruptcy becomes reality for the Marinwood CSD.  

Urban Renewal and the destruction of a community

Wednesday, March 8, 2017


Carbon credits undercut climate change actions says report

Carbon credits undercut climate change actions says report

By Matt McGrathEnvironment correspondent, BBC News

2 hours ago
From the sectionScience & Environment
Curbing fires in coal waste is one way of generating carbon credits

The vast majority of carbon credits generated by Russia and Ukraine did not represent cuts in emissions, according to a new study.

The authors say that offsets created under a UN scheme "significantly undermined" efforts to tackle climate change.

The credits may have increased emissions by 600 million tonnes.

In some projects, chemicals known to warm the climate were created and then destroyed to claim cash.

As a result of political horse trading at UN negotiations on climate change, countries like Russia and the Ukraine were allowed to create carbon credits from activities like curbing coal waste fires, or restricting gas emissions from petroleum production.

Under the UN scheme, called Joint Implementation, they then were able to see those credits to the European Union's carbon market. Companies bought the offsets rather than making their own more expensive, emissions cuts.

But this study, from the Stockholm Environment Institute, says the vast majority of Russian and Ukrainian credits were in fact, "hot air" - no actual emissions were reduced.

They looked at a random sample of 60 projects and found that 73% of the offsets generated didn't meet the key criteria of "additionality". This means that these projects would have happened anyway without any carbon credit finance.

"Some early projects were of good quality, but in 2011-2012, numerous projects were registered in Ukraine and Russia which had started long before and were clearly not motivated by carbon credits," said Vladyslav Zhezherin, a co-author of the study.

"This was like printing money."

According to the review, the vast majority of the offset credits went into the European Union's flagship Emissions Trading Scheme. The authors estimate these may have undermined EU emissions reduction targets by 400 million tonnes of CO2, worth over $2bn at current market prices.Reducing emissions from the oil and gas industry is another way of earning credits

Unlike the Russian and Ukrainian projects, similar offsetting plans in Poland and Germany were said to meet very strict criteria.

"We were surprised ourselves by the extent, we didn't expect such a large number," co-author Anja Kollmuss told BBC News.

"What went on was that these countries could approve these projects by themselves there was no international oversight, in particular Russia and the Ukraine didn't have any incentive to guarantee the quality of these credits."

Because Germany and Poland had tougher emissions targets to meet, they were very careful with their certificates. This wasn't the case in Russia and the Ukraine.

One part of the larger review has been published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

It concerns the activities of projects that made money from the removal of chemicals HFC-23 and sulphur hexafluoride, which add significantly to global warming.

They found that, in 2011, all three projects in the study significantly and simultaneously ramped up the amount of the chemicals they were destroying.

"As researchers we can not prove the fraud, we can just point to the facts so in the HFC case at the moment when they could gain credits they immediately increased production of this greenhouse gas in order to destroy them, and that lead to them getting many more credits than if they had produced it like they did before," said Anja Kollmuss.

Experts familiar with the Russian carbon projects said that there had been longstanding and well acknowledged issues with the destruction of chemicals for carbon credits. This had been seen in China for several years.

Michael Yulkin, from Russia's Environmental Investment Centre rejected the idea that many of these Eastern projects broke the rules.

"That's just not true," he told BBC News.

"All the projects have been validated and the additionality has been proved - it was all following the rules and if the rules allowed them to be in, so you have them in."

Mr Yulkin pointed out that the projects were no longer an issue. The EU emissions trading scheme no longer accepted the credits - and Russia was not taking part in the next commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

The authors of the study argue that lessons must be learned for any future market mechanisms that are incorporated into a new global agreement on climate change, expected to be signed later this year at a conference in Paris.

"In future, we need to do better and we can do better, but the devil will be in the detail and tighter controls will be needed," said James Wilde from the Carbon Trust.

"If firms are to invest at scale driven by a price for carbon, they need to know that the schemes setting this price in future will be robust and survive for the lifetime of investments."

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Marinwood Plaza RWQCB Hearing FULL 2/8/2017 (Next meeting is Wednesday, March 8, 2017)

00:00:00 Introduction
00:01:40 Ralph Lambert RWQCB presentation
00:26:17 Tom Fitzsimmons, Wells Fargo & Dan Matthews, Geologica representing Marinwood Plaza, LLC
00:44:17 Public Comments (Renee Silveira is first speaker)
01:09:14 Board Questions and Comments from Staff
01:12:50 Geologica/RWQCB answers questions to Board

Chinas plan for your internet

Monday, March 6, 2017

Sorry Marinwood CSD voters, you lose! (Marinwood CSD directors to vote on Wednesday to EXTEND their terms to Five Years without voter approval)

A special meeting will be held by the Marinwood CSD on Wednesday, March 8, 2017 at 6:30 PM for the directors to EXTEND their terms under the guise that they are following a  new California Law SB415.  Eric Dreikosen, simply offers one solution to the problem of changing to even year elections by EXTENDING the term to FIVE YEARS without voter approval. We have until November 8, 2022 to comply with the law . There is NO RUSH for an immediate action. In fact, we are exempt from adapting this law since we have had historically high voter turnout.  In November 2015, we had 48% voter turn out and in the last four national elections we voter participation of over 74% according to Marin Board of Elections.  To simply extend current terms to five years by a Marinwood CSD vote is self serving and insulting to the voters.

March 8 Agenda

Dear Marinwood CSD Board:

Tonight you have a choice to honor or dishonor the voters of Marinwood CSD in an attempt to comply with California SB415 the “California Voter Participation Rights Act” 

There are two possible solutions 1.) shorten the current terms to three years 2.) lengthen the current term to five years for all members.

Here is an excerpt of the 
staff recommendations for the City of San Rafael which is also voting on this tonight, March 6, 2017:

“ANALYSIS: SB 415 requires that the City either begin the new election schedule in 2018, or that by January 1, 2018, the Council adopt a plan for effecting the schedule change no later than 2022. The change to even-year elections will require interim adjustments to the Mayor’s and City Council terms, either to 3- year terms, or to 5-year terms. Therefore, the City Council has a few options for how to transition to the new schedule, and staff seeks direction from the Council on how it wishes to do so. Staff recommends maintaining a November election date to maintain consistency in the length of the terms of all seats on the Council and thus to minimize disruption from the changes.

The primary decision to make is whether to extend to 5 years or reduce to 3 years the terms of the Mayor and Council members during the transition period. 

There are two options:

1. 3-year terms:

Prior to this year’s general municipal election, reduce the terms of the Mayor and all Councilmembers to 3 years. At the November 7, 2017 election, two City Council seats would be open for election to a 3-year term ending in 2020. At the November 2019 election, the office of Mayor and two Council seats would be open for election to a 3-year term ending in 2022.

2. 5-year terms: This can be done in two ways:

a.     Prior to this year’s general municipal election, expressly extend the terms of the Mayor and all Councilmembers to 5 years, proceed with the 2017 election, and then schedule the next general municipal election for November, 2020. The result of this would be that at the November 7, 2017 election, two City Council seats would be open for election to a 5-year term ending in 2022. The office of Mayor and two City Council seats that would otherwise have ended in 2019 would be extended to 2020 and would become 5-year terms.
Wait until after the November 7, 2017 election, and then schedule the next general municipal election for November, 2020. The result of this would be that at the November 7, 2017 election, two City Council seats would be open for election to a stated 4-year term, but the term would become a 5-year term by operation of the new election schedule, ending in 2022. The office of Mayor and two City Council seats that would otherwise have ended in 2019 would be extended to 2020 thus becoming 5-year terms by operation of the new schedule. “

Please do the right thing and choose to honor the voters and Marinwood CSD board members. Do not lengthen Marinwood CSD terms that voters chose for four years.  Change the current four year terms to three year terms as outlined above in option 1.  3 year terms.  This is the only solution fair to the community and respects local voting rights.  

Stephen Nestel
Marinwood, CA

Supervisors to consider "Income Discrimination" Law to apply to Roommates and Owner Occupied Apartment Owners.

Brian Crawford, Marin's Highly Paid Director of Community Development proposes a law against "Income Discrimination"
(like Section 8 Vouchers) to apply to roommates and owner occupied dwellings on March 7th.

On March 7th (tomorrow) the Supervisors will consider a Rental Housing Discrimination Code Amendment to eliminate an exception for owner-occupied structures.   The amendment would prohibit Owner Occupied Property Owners, who wish to rent their owner occupied property, from disseminating advertising materials expressing tenant preference based on a person's source of income (like Section 8 vouchers) This amendment would be important to home-owners who rent out a portion of their home, owner-occupied property owners who rent out a unit(s) in a structure containing fewer than three dwelling units, and Real Estate professionals.
It is our understanding that if the amendment is adopted the following provision would apply to the rental or leasing of any housing unit in which the owner or any member of his/her family occupies one of the living units and (1) it is necessary for the owner to use either a bathroom or kitchen facility common with the prospective tenant, or (2) the structure contains fewer than three dwelling units.  Currently, there is an exception for such owner occupied rentals.

"Chapter 5.53
Marin County Income-Based Rental Housing Discrimination
PROVISION 5.53.010 Housing
It is unlawful for any person to do any of the following as wholly or partially based on source of income:
1. To interrupt, terminate, or fail or refuse to initiate or conduct any transaction in real property, including, but not limited to, the rental thereof; to require different terms for such transaction; or falsely to represent that an interest in real property is not available for transaction;
2. To include in the terms or conditions of a transaction in real property any clause, condition, or restriction;
3. To refuse or restrict facilities, services, repairs or improvements for any tenant or lessee;
4. To make, print, publish, advertise or disseminate in any way, or cause to be made, printed or published, advertised, or disseminated in any way, any notice, statement or advertisement with respect to a tranaction in real property, or with respect to financing related to any such transaction, which unlawfully indicates preference, limitation or discrimination based on source of income.
5. For purposes of this subsection, "source of income" means all lawful sources of income or rental assistance program, homeless assistance program, security deposit assistance program, or housing subsidy program.  Source of income includes any requirement of any such program or source of income or rental assistance.


It is unlawful for any person to use a financial or income standard for the rental of housing that does either of the following:
1. Fails to account for any rental payments or portions of rental payments that will be made by other individuals or organizations (E.g. Section 8 Vouchers) on the same basis as rental payments to be made directly by the tenant or prospective tenant;
2. Fails to account in addition for the aggregate income of persons residing together or proposing to reside together or an aggregate income of tenants or prospective tenants and their cosigners or proposed cosignerson the same basis as the aggregate income of married persons residing together or proposing to reside together."

For more information, please read the below Staff Report
Here's a link to the report:

March 7, 2017
Board of Supervisors
County of Marin
3501 Civic Center Drive
San Rafael, CA 94903

SUBJECT: Proposed Ordinance to amend Chapter 5.53 of the Marin Count Code - Income-based Rental Housing Discrimination to eliminate an exception for owner-occupied structures.

Dear Board Members,

RECOMMENDATION: Consistent with the Board's prior direction.  Staff recommends that your Board conduct a first reading and consider an amendment to remove an owner-occupancy exception from Marin County Code Chapter 5.53 - The County's Fair Housing Ordinance providing source of income protections for recipients of third-party rental assistance (Attachment 1).

SUMMARY:  On November 8, 2016, your Board held a merit hearing and adopted a Fair Housing Ordinance to remove limitations in the provision of rental housing for families and veterans to remove limitations in the provision of rental housing for families and veterans who receive third-party rental assistance (Attachment 2).  At that time, your Board directed staff to return at a future date to consider the herein contained amendments to remove an exception for owner-occupied structures with less than three dwelling units and for housing accommodations wherein an owner and tenant keep in common either a bathroom or kitchen facility (5.53.010.C.1)

The elimination of this exception would simplify the process of understanding and determining Ordinance applicability. Furthermore, it would support an original intent of the Ordinance to inhibit a discriminatory rental environment by preventing property owners from disseminating advertising materials expressing preference based on a person's source of income.

BACKGROUND: The existing Fair Housing Ordinance contains an exception for owner-occupied dwellings or owner-occupied structures containing three or fewer units.  Precedent for an owner occupancy exemption predates the 1968 federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), and was included in the FHA as a compromise between arguments for landlord's First Amendment freedom of association and their obligations as proprietors participating in the rental housing market to comply with those market regulations.  A property owner is not obliged to rent their property, but if they elect to do so, they are obligated to comply with fair housing and other market regulations.

Your board has signaled its support of the development of accessory dwelling units ("ADUs" or "second units"), junior accessory dwelling units ("JADUs" or "junior units") and room rentals as a strategy of addressing the ongoing housing affordability crisis.  These units would likely be exempt from this Fair Housing Ordinance if the exception provided in 5.53.010.C.1 is maintained.

CONCLUSION:  The proposed amendment furthers the County's Fair Housing goals.  No State or Federal law preempts the County's ability to eliminate this exemption.

Respectfully submitted,
Brian Crawford (Director) & Debbi La Rue (Plannera)

Editor's Note: The proposed ordinance is going to make it tough on the small owner.  Section 8 requires extra paperwork/ inspections that is very burdensome to landlords.  I think this will simply take rental opportunities off the market