Newsom tries to speed energy transition, despite rickety grid, with broader move away from fossil fuels.
(Bloomberg) — California Governor Gavin Newsom announced steps Friday to speed up the clean-energy transition and fight climate change, including an end to building gas-burning power plants, even as the move away from fossil fuels has threatened his state with blackouts and forced him to reconsider nuclear power.
Newsom said he would work with Sacramento legislators to pass a law requiring California to reach carbon neutrality, a goal set by his predecessor Jerry Brown in an executive order. In a letter to the state’s top climate change regulator, the Democratic governor also called for building offshore wind farms, deploying 6 million home heat pumps, requiring the aviation industry to increase its use of clean fuels, and setting firm targets for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere using both land management and machines designed for the task.
Perhaps most important, Newsom told the head of the California Air Resources Board that he doesn’t want new natural-gas plants built in the state. So many older gas-burning plants have closed in recent years that California experienced brief rolling blackouts in 2020 and has come close to outages on several other occasions, during hot summer evenings when the sun sets on the state’s solar-power plants. In response, Newsom has expressed support for keeping the state’s last nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon, open past its planned 2025 retirement date.
The air resources board is drafting a road map for reaching carbon neutrality by 2045. Environmentalists have criticized that timeline as too slow for ending California’s fossil-fuel dependence, and they’ve aimed some of their ire at Newsom as well. In a press release Friday, he seemed to agree with their broad critique, even though some of the steps he proposed, such as supporting carbon-removal technology for the oil and gas sector, are opposed by many environmentalists.
“The state’s draft carbon neutrality road map doesn’t go far enough or fast enough,” Newsom said in the release. “That’s why I’m pushing state agencies to adopt more aggressive actions, from offshore wind to climate-friendly homes, and to make sure we never build another fossil fuel power plant in California again.” Newsom, up for re-election in November, has escalated efforts in recent months to distinguish California as a liberal bastion dedicated to issues such as fighting climate change, enhancing abortion access and tightening gun limits. On Friday, he signed legislation enabling residents to sue people making or selling illegal assault weapons and ghost guns. He’s also run ads in Republican-run Florida and Texas harshly criticizing their governors’ policies.