”This makes sense for the present a and is key to the future,“ says Davis. Environmental sources say his support is more than rhetorical. The Governor’s Office is urging L.A. Assemblyman Rod Wright, the Assembly Energy Committee chairman and staunch utility ally who blocked the renewable requirement last year, to get with the program.
”With the utilities required to buy more cost-competitive renewable power,“ says Davis, ”the new state Power Authority can provide financing to get the private sector entrepreneurs who will provide the energy up and running with their projects. And we should provide even more incentives to develop a new generation of renewable power.“
But Davis‘ more familiar caution returns when discussing L.A. Assemblywoman Fran Pavley’s global warming bill, which would force reductions in the emission of carbon dioxide by cars, SUVs, and light trucks, which account for 60 percent of the state‘s carbon dioxide emissions. With California accounting for 10 percent of national car sales, the bill could play a major forcing function with the automobile industry, which is unenthusiastic. The Pavley bill narrowly passed the Assembly two months ago, but Davis said earlier this month that he hasn’t read it.
”I want to act on global warming,“ says Davis, ”but I want to be careful. I‘m happy with California taking the lead nationally on renewable energy, but I’m not sure we know enough yet on this. Bush certainly isn‘t taking the lead.“ Sounding skeptical about Pavley’s bill, Davis opines: ”It is good because it forces debate. At some point we‘ll come up with something that can work.“
Similarly, the governor is taking a more cautious approach to the phase-out of MTBE, the additive that makes gasoline burn more cleanly but also turns out, in one of those unintended consequences of reform, to make groundwater unpalatable and perhaps unhealthy when it leaks from storage tanks. Citing the lack of alternatives in place and fearing a massive run-up in gas prices, Davis reversed his own decree, delaying the banning of MTBE for a year, prompting protests from water agencies and environmentalists.
Davis has also come under fire from consumer advocates for appointing former Edison president Michael Peevey to the Public Utilities Commission. Peevey is controversial for having negotiated an unsuccessful bailout deal of his former company for the governor, and for having been an early champion of electric power deregulation. Davis defends the appointment, saying he needed to appoint a business executive after naming ”three consumer advocates“ -- PUC chief Loretta Lynch, labor representative Carl Wood and former San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Brown (cousin to Jerry and Kathleen). Many consumer advocates view Brown as inconstant.
Davis says that Peevey, an old friend of his, was actually not one of his first choices for the slot. ”I had a lot of trouble finding a business person to take the job,“ he says. ”I know he’s somewhat controversial, but he‘s a good man and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by some of the things he does.“
Some progressives feared that Davis would replace Lynch, who has stood up to some business interests, in the PUC presidency with Peevey, but that appears unlikely.
Needless to say, the complicated energy stuff is still with us. Which should provide an ongoing source of amusement as candidate Simon attempts, or not, to apply his canned answers to a set of very demanding issues.