Californians hope to enjoy W's lofty energy proposals

President W's energy plan looks good for meeting the nation's future energy needs.

California Cotton Ginners and Growers vice president and manager of technical services, Roger Isom, only hopes California agriculture is around to enjoy the future.

“We need to get things under control now so we will be around to enjoy the future,” said Isom, expressing the widespread sentiment on both sides of California's political aisle that price controls are what's needed now to halt the spiraling skyward energy costs threatening 34 million Californians living in the sixth largest economy in the world.

Isom continues to paint a bleak energy outlook picture. He told the recent Pima Production Summit in Visalia, Calif., that there are glimmers of hope for near term, but overall he is not optimistic energy costs will soon fall significantly.

Nevertheless, Isom and CCGGA continue to chip away politically and bureaucratically at the energy costs.

Unfortunately, the state has turned a deaf ear to the idea of bringing in non-CARB diesel to offset the 27 cents more per gallon California diesel users are paying vs. the rest of the country.

“We have not given up on trying to convince the state to bring in non-CARB diesel at harvesttime,” said Isom. In the meantime Isom said plans are in the works for increased CARB fuel storage capacity in Fresno by this summer. This would even out the supply between Los Angeles and San Francisco and hopefully moderate prices.

Recently, oil companies announced a major natural gas find around Delano, Calif. Unfortunately, Isom points out this is low Btu natural gas and unsuitable for home use.

“However, it can be used for industrial use. I am told there is a huge supply of this low Btu gas in California. Big steam generators on the west side of Fresno and Kern counties use this gas,” he said. Legislation has been introduced to allow irrigation pumps, cotton gins and similar processing facilities in the valley to tap into this supply as well. “If we could do that, it would take some of the pressure off the regular natural gas supply,” he added.

On the subject of natural gas, Isom said El Paso Gas Co continues to gouge California with transmission costs. “Gas prices have doubled. We can survive that. We cannot survive the transmission costs” that double the price of natural gas.

And there are $90 million in state funds soon to become available for energy conservation. In this package are $10 million for pump evaluation, testing and replacement; $40 million for electrical equipment upgrades such as high efficiency motors; $15 million for conversion to alternative fuels and $10 million for demand responsiveness and advanced telemetry for shifting load from peak hours.

“We should have details on this program soon, but one thing that is disturbing us is that they are projecting a $12 million to $15 million cost for a multitude of agencies to administer the program,” said Isom. “We offered to do it for $1 million. They have not responded to our proposal.”

Already irrigation districts are looking into higher efficiency pumps and many cotton gins are converting or investigating switching to propane, which right now is about 50 percent cheaper than natural gas.

Isom said cotton gins could convert for $40,000 to $100,000. This energy conservation fund would pay 50 percent of that cost. “Right now there is a good supply of propane, but a lot of other processors from tomato canneries to wineries are looking to convert and that could affect supplies,” he said.

These are little more than band aids to stop the economic hemorrhaging in California that continues to be ignored by the Bush administration.

“To sum up the situation for all four energy sources — natural gas, propane, electricity and diesel — supplies will continue to be tight or expensive with plenty of volatility. I see no turn around for at least a year until we can increase supplies,” he said.

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