Fight escalates between Newsom, oil industry

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Monday, October 3, 2022

Gov. Gavin Newsom hadn’t even finished dispensing with all of the bills on his desk ahead of Friday’s midnight deadline before he issued a call for new legislation. “We’re not going to stand by while greedy oil companies fleece Californians,” the governor said in a stern Twitter video, citing a lopsided surge in gas prices that has resulted in Californians paying about $2.50 more per gallon at the pump than the national average. Newsom asked state lawmakers to introduce a windfall tax that would cap oil companies’ profits, tax at a higher rate any earnings above that ceiling and return the money to taxpayers via rebates — potentially similar to those the state is set to begin depositing in millions of residents’ accounts this week. Democratic State Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins of San Diego and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon of Lakewood said in a statement: “We’ll look at every option to end the oil industry profiteering off the backs of hard working Californians.” (Democratic Assemblymember Alex Lee of San Jose proposed enacting a windfall profits tax on oil companies earlier this year, but it failed to advance.) Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher of Yuba City said in a statement: “The Governor just doesn’t get it. … The problem in California is policy. We need major action on these prices, starting with suspending the gas tax and additional fees that make our gas so much more expensive here.” Newsom on Friday also directed the state’s air regulators to allow refineries to begin producing winter-blend gasoline immediately, rather than waiting until after Oct. 31 as required by law. Winter-blend gasoline is easier and cheaper to make than summer-blend gasoline — which refineries are required to produce in hotter months — but it also emits more pollutants, the latest example of Newsom contradicting his own climate goals in order to address kitchen-table issues. Meanwhile, the California Energy Commission sent a letter to five refinery executives, demanding they respond by today to a series of questions, including: “Why have gasoline prices risen so dramatically in the past 10 days despite a sharp downturn in global crude prices, no significant unplanned refinery outages in the state, and no increases in state taxes or fees?” The oil industry is taking actions of its own: On Thursday, Secretary of State Shirley Weber cleared for signature-gathering a proposed referendum to overturn a law Newsom signed last month to prohibit new or extensively retrofitted oil or gas wells within 3,200 feet of homes, schools, nursing homes and hospitals. It’s the latest example of industry turning to the ballot box to challenge laws coming out of Sacramento: A proposed referendum has already been filed against a law Newsom recently signed to create a state-run council to regulate working conditions for the fast food industry while setting workers’ minimum wage as much as $22 per hour next year. The coalition behind the referendum has already raised nearly $13 million, with Starbucks, In-N-Out Burger and Chipotle each contributing $2 million, the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday. Even more business-backed referenda could be on the way, given that Newsom signed many of organized labor’s priority bills into law: “Every loose end I had in the legislature when I left (unsigned, or unpassed bill) is now law. Except legislative staff unionization,” tweeted Lorena Gonzalez, leader of the California Labor Federation and former state Assemblymember. However, as CalMatters higher-education reporter Mikhail Zinshteyn noted to me, private-sector unions appeared to fare better than public-sector unions — at least when it comes to the California State University system, whose staff and faculty unions saw two pretty big vetoes. One possible reason: Students, not shareholders, would bear the budgetary brunt of higher labor costs. “I do want us to be mindful, there isn’t some magic solution, this money isn’t just going to appear from somewhere, it’s going to have real consequences on students, and unfortunately, probably on our most vulnerable students,” Democratic Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel of Van Nuys said at an August committee hearing on one of the bills that was ultimately vetoed. (Gabriel voted to support the bill.) If labor won big, Newsom’s bill signings and vetoes sent a more mixed message on criminal justice, another progressive priority. Many of his vetoes also struck a moderate tone by urging fiscal constraint ahead of a possible economic downturn: “The Governor vetoed 169 bills, saving the state billions in taxpayer dollars,” Newsom’s office said in a Sunday press release. Some political observers suggested this balancing act could reflect Newsom’s possible national ambitions. Political analyst Dan Schnur told the Mercury News: “He’s trying to sign everything he can to make the left happy unless it would also frighten swing voters in purple states. If he goes hard left enough on environmental and social issues, it gives him cover for sticking with the center on crime and spending bills.” A message from our sponsor Join CalMatters and the Milken Institute on Tuesday from 12-1:30 p.m. for a free, virtual event exploring California’s path to creating more climate-friendly job opportunities and helping underserved communities access them. Register here. A message from our sponsor Other Stories You Should Know 1 A look at Newsom’s last bill signings Katie Duberg, left, and Jennifer Richard, right, chief of staff for state Sen. Maria Durazo, embrace in front of the state Capitol after hearing that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a paid family leave bill on Sept. 30, 2022. Photo by Fred Greaves for CalMatters Let’s take a closer look at Newsom’s bill signings and vetoes: Before the legislative session ended in August, state lawmakers sent Newsom 1,166 bills, of which he signed 997 and vetoed 169, according to his office. That makes for a veto rate of 14.5%, slightly lower than the 16.5% he notched in 2019, his first year in office, but higher than in the pandemic-impacted years of 2020 and 2021, when he vetoed 13% and 7.9% of bills, respectively, according to veteran Sacramento lobbyist Chris Micheli. That’s more or less in line with Newsom’s predecessor, fellow Democrat Jerry Brown, who vetoed between 10% and 15% of bills that reached his desk during his second eight-year term as governor, according to Micheli. Here are the outcomes of some key bills included in the six batches on which Newsom took action Friday: A bill to make it easier for low-income Californians to take paid family leave to care for a new baby or sick family member. The law will, starting in 2025, allow lower-income workers to recoup 90% of their wages while on leave and all other workers to receive 70%. Larger payroll tax contributions from higher earners will pay for the expanded benefits, CalMatters’ Jeanne Kuang reports. A bill to make it harder for prosecutors to include rap lyrics as evidence in criminal cases. “The whole music industry uses violence in their songs, you know? But my son is not violent. Those lyrics don’t portray who he is,” Denise Holdman told CalMatters’ Nigel Duara. Holdman’s son, Gary Bryant Jr., was convicted with first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in a case that cited his rap lyrics as evidence of his “criminal mindset.” Bryant is set to have a hearing for a new trial. A bill to limit law enforcement officers’ ability to stop a pedestrian for jaywalking, permitting it only when “a reasonably careful person would realize there is an immediate danger of a collision.” A bill to make it easier for the Medical Board of California to punish doctors who deliberately spread false information about COVID-19, vaccines and treatments by classifying disinformation as “unprofessional conduct.” Newsom noted in a signing statement that the “narrowly tailored” law “does not apply to any speech outside of discussions directly related to COVID-19 treatment within a direct physician patient relationship.” He added that he’s “concerned about the chilling effect other potential laws may have on physicians and surgeons who need to be able to effectively talk to their patients about the risks and benefits of treatments for a disease that appeared in just the last few years.” A bill to limit conservatorships following pop star Britney Spears’ high-profile lawsuit to emerge from the legal arrangement that for years governed nearly every aspect of her life. A bill to limit remedial courses at community colleges by ensuring more students enroll in classes required to transfer to a UC or Cal State campus. The new law comes as UC prepares this spring to launch a dual-admission pilot program in which high school seniors rejected from the UC can enroll at a California community college with a conditional offer of admission to one of six UC campuses, Megan Tagami reports for CalMatters’ College Journalism Network. “It really creates this incentive for students to be like, ‘I’m not getting rejected because I’m not good enough for the school, I’m being deferred to admission later,’” said Abeeha Hussain, a fourth-year UCLA student and the transfer student affairs officer for the UC Student Association. “‘Of course I’ll go to my community college if it means that I’ll eventually get to go to the UC of my dreams.’”  2 Inside the Catholic Church’s campaign to defeat abortion measure The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Sacramento on Sept. 12, 2022. Photo by Rahul Lal, CalMatters No later than one week from today, county elections offices will begin mailing ballots for the Nov. 8 general election to every active, registered California voter — increasing pressure on candidates and initiative campaigns to get their message in front of voters as soon as possible. Newsom’s reelection campaign recently contributed nearly $1 million to the campaign supporting Proposition 1, which would enshrine the right to abortion and contraception in the California Constitution. That’s nearly as much as the total raised to date by the opposition campaign, which faces an uphill battle in a state where voters consistently express support for abortion rights. Another challenging statistic: As of Sept. 9, about 47% of California’s nearly 22 million registered voters — representing 81.4% of eligible voters — were Democrats, compared to 24% Republican and 23% no party preference, according to a Friday report from Secretary of State Shirley Weber. At the same point ahead of the 2018 gubernatorial general election, less than 44% of registered voters were Democrats, compared to nearly 25% Republican and 27% no party preference. Given these stark figures, the fate of the long-shot campaign to defeat Prop. 1 may largely depend on the effectiveness of strategies stemming from the Catholic Church. Over the summer, the church started training clergy and parishioners, registering voters and developing educational resources about Prop. 1, which it says would usher in the “most egregious expansion of abortion this country has ever seen” by legalizing the procedure up until the moment of birth, CalMatters’ Alexei Koseff reports. The Yes on 1 campaign describes that characterization as “misinformation and fear-mongering.” Tanner DiBella, president of The American Council, which aims to bring evangelical voters into state politics: “There’s no more trusting, effective way to get that message out than from the pulpit.”John Jackson, president of William Jessup University, a private Christian institution near Sacramento: “All of life is spiritual. The proponents have mastered the media. And our hope is that we will be able to mobilize the masses.” 3 Big money enters speakership fight From left, Democratic Assemblymember Robert Rivas and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. Photos by Rich Pedroncelli/AP Photo and Miguel Gutierrez Jr./CalMatters From CalMatters political reporter Ben Christopher: The money is really starting to flow. Last week, a political action committee set up to support Salinas Democratic Assemblymember Robert Rivas’ bid to replace fellow Democrat Anthony Rendon as Speaker of the Assembly started throwing money around the state. The Democratic Leadership Coalition PAC spent more than $450,000 on campaign mailers to support 13 Democratic candidates for Assembly, with more funds on the way, said spokesperson Matthew Herdman.  Herdman: “We’re working hard to expand the Democratic majority and ensure that Rob Rivas is the next Assembly speaker.”  After Rivas’ unsuccessful May attempt to take Rendon’s job, the speaker issued a statement saying only that Rivas had secured “the support of a majority of the current Democratic Caucus” to succeed him at some point.  Emphasis on the “current” Democratic caucus. After the Nov. 8 election, there could be as many as 20 new Assembly Democrats — a potentially decisive bloc. So, as part of the continuing fight over the speakership crown, backers of Rivas and Rendon have been courting and cajoling potential members of the Democratic caucus who will take office in December.   The PAC’s beneficiaries include Esmerelda Soria of Fresno and Christy Holstege of Palm Springs, who are both facing intensely competitive races for open seats.  But most of the candidates on the PAC’s list aren’t likely to need the extra help. They include David Alvarez in San Diego and Diane Papan in San Mateo, whose fellow Democratic opponents ended their campaigns. Also on the list are Dawn Addis in San Luis Obispo and Avaleno Valencia in Anaheim, who are facing Republican opponents in overwhelmingly Democratic districts. According to campaign finance filings, all of the PAC’s money came from 17 current or departing members of the Assembly who supported Rivas’ speakership bid. The top contributors are Rivas’ own campaign, along with Democratic Assemblymembers Cecilia Aguiar-Curry of Napa and Jim Wood of Santa Rosa. Bill Wong, a political consultant who formerly worked for Rendon, said the Democratic caucus would be better served by spending money to support candidates who really need it. Wong: “We’re sacrificing supporting at-risk incumbents for what is, I would say, blatantly a power play.” CalMatters Commentary CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California’s ride on a dizzying economic rollercoaster may not be over. Other things worth your time Some stories may require a subscription to read Caruso cuts into Bass’ lead, poll finds, as L.A. mayoral race heads into final weeks. // Los Angeles Times Hackers release data after LAUSD refuses to pay ransom. // Los Angeles Times In Placer County, a rising movement to establish a ‘biblical worldview’ in California politics. // Sacramento Bee In tight California House race, ‘red-baiting’ mailers accuse candidate of communist ties. // Los Angeles Times Newsom said this little-known program makes him ‘more proud … than anything’ else he’s done. // San Francisco Chronicle S.F. 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The decades-old dream of attracting a university may be gaining ground. // San Diego Union-Tribune Sea level at California’s Humboldt Bay rising fastest on West Coast. // San Francisco Chronicle Metrolink, Amtrak suspend train service to Oceanside because of unstable slope. // San Diego Union-Tribune Ruptured oil pipeline off California approved for repairs. // Associated Press The Bay Area’s two largest homeless encampments are closing. // Mercury News Did Santa Clara County violate state housing laws in Stanford’s most exclusive neighborhood? // Mercury News El Cajon may change rules for hotels with homeless after lawsuit threat. // San Diego Union-Tribune City of Santa Cruz workers will strike this week. // Santa Cruz Sentinel A $50,000 electric bill? The cost of cooling L.A.’s biggest houses in a heat wave. // Los Angeles Times We tried to ride all 27 Bay Area transit systems in a single day. Here’s what we learned. // San Francisco Chronicle CalMatters invests in engagement and development to connect with more Californians. // CalMatters

Gov. Gavin Newsom hadn’t even finished dispensing with all of the bills on his desk ahead of Friday’s midnight deadline before he issued a call for new legislation. “We’re not going to stand by while greedy oil companies fleece Californians,” the governor said in a stern Twitter video, citing a lopsided surge in gas prices […]

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Why Americans will pay higher natural gas prices this winter

Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images More exports, and the lingering effects of extreme weather, could affect bills. American households that run on natural gas can expect high bills this winter. How high prices go depends on a lot of factors, including whether the war in Ukraine takes a new turn and if the winter is unusually mild or cold. The Energy Information Agency’s winter forecast expects bills to be higher than last year’s, though not quite as high as the summer peak. War in Ukraine and Europe’s ban on Russian gas have already reshaped global markets. Europe is feeling the crunch because of how much of its gas came piped from Russia, but the US faces a different kind of problem. Throughout most of the 2010s, the US had a supply glut that kept the wholesale price of gas low. Supply far outpaced domestic demand, and almost none of it was exported as liquified natural gas (LNG) to other countries. But since 2016, the US has built new terminals that are capable of exporting gas in its more condensed liquid form. Increased exports have raised costs for American consumers as they compete with global markets that fetch better profits for the industry. Add in the costs of inflation and extreme weather disasters like winter storm Uri, and it looks unlikely that prices will come down for quite some time. Now that the US is increasingly at the whims of the global market, the pitfalls of running an economy on gas are becoming more obvious. Gas exports are driving an increase in prices Until the last few years, the main consumers of gas were industry, the electric sector, and homes, businesses, and vehicles. As LNG exports have grown, they’ve essentially “squeezed” the rest of these US markets, particularly residences, explains Clark Williams-Derry, an energy analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA). Like the gasoline you pay for at the pump, there isn’t a universal price of natural gas. The closest indicator we have for it in the US is called the Henry Hub, a wholesale price named after a busy distribution spot in Louisiana. Looking at what’s happened to the Henry Hub prices helps explain the weirdness of US gas markets right now. The Henry Hub is not what you’re paying. By the time the gas gets to the home, you’re paying for what it takes to distribute the fuel, the pipelines, and the labor involved. Regulated utilities, generally, are charging consumers for the gas they use and then a fixed cost, the cost of building pipelines to deliver the gas. These costs are rising too, thanks to inflation, so residential prices are rising even faster than what the Henry Hub would indicate. The Henry Hub price was so low for most of the last decade that producers had trouble staying in business. By 2016, the US had opened its first liquified natural gas terminal in Louisiana, which allowed it to condense the gas so it can be exported to other countries. The opening coincided with a momentous decision made in 2015 to lift a 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports. To ward off another government funding showdown with the GOP-controlled Congress, President Obama signed into law a spending bill that meant the US could start shipping oil to foreign markets for a better price than they could fetch domestically. It has taken time for the US to ramp up its export capacity, with a pandemic mixed into the equation, so the impact on markets has taken a bit of time to catch up. But economists, including those at the EIA, agree that these terminals are having an impact on domestic prices. An unexpected event this summer demonstrated just how important exports have become to determining the US price of gas. In June, there was an explosion at the second-largest natural gas export plant, Freeport LNG, a facility designed to turn gas into its liquid form so it can be shipped across the ocean. The plant, responsible for 20 percent of US LNG capacity, has been shut down ever since, reducing export capacity by a few percentage points. Henry Hub prices were skyrocketing at the time of the explosion, but even the dent of 2 percentage points in overall US gas consumption was enough to make an apparent difference. The terminal has faced a series of delays in reopening, but when it does, it will once again shift the domestic supply of gas. Two percentage points might not sound like a lot, but there’s not a lot of wiggle room since the pandemic in oil and gas supply and demand. As the explosion showed, it’s enough to change the wholesale price of gas. Indeed, the EIA expects prices to increase further “when the Freeport LNG terminal in Texas” resumes its partial operations because more gas will be exported. The squeeze will just get tighter if the US continues to build more of these terminals. As they ramp up, LNG exports are projected to double from 2020 levels in 2023. Normally, these terminals are subject to years of environmental reviews and permitting, but Republicans and some Democrats have pushed for speeding up those timelines. Some progressive Democrats have pushed for the Biden administration to pull the plug on LNG exports altogether, fearing that it is not only driving higher prices, but locking the world into decades more of fossil fuel usage that it can’t afford. “There isn’t a point in which you build enough infrastructure that somehow you isolate yourself from global markets,” said Lorne Stockman, research director for the climate advocacy group Oil Change International. “There are times when supply catches up with demand and prices come down, but inevitably demand starts catching up with supply again. It’s like a hamster wheel.” You’re being charged more because of epic extreme weather Henry Hub prices have been falling since August, but residential consumers haven’t felt much relief. Mark Dyson, managing director of the Carbon-Free Electricity Program at the energy think tank RMI, pointed to another reason why: extreme weather. In February 2021, Texas was caught off-guard by Uri, an unusually fierce winter storm. Unprepared for the frigid temperatures, the state’s independent grid saw vast blackouts as gas infrastructure froze and demand for heating spiked. The supply shortages this time resulted from weather, not international conflict, but the effect was the same as war: Prices went skyrocketing. The combination of these things could have hypothetically turned a $200 bill into a $10,000 one. To ward off that catastrophe, utility regulators instead had companies space out the costs from the storm over a longer period — so consumers, not just in Texas but in Colorado and Minnesota, could be paying for the storm over the next decade. The problem is, winter storm Uri was possibly not a one-time fluke but an event that may grow more likely because of climate change. It’s harder for scientists to link a single frigid weather event to climate change; some research suggests that warming in the Arctic will increase the chances of polar air spilling south. Energy efficiency and clean power help us get off the “hamster wheel” of rising energy prices There’s a valuable lesson in the Freeport explosion from this summer. Just as a major LNG terminal coming offline can make a difference in domestic prices, so can other things. Energy execs point immediately to more production as one solution, though that creates all kinds of other problems for global warming. As a fossil fuel, the methane from natural gas heats the planet far faster than carbon dioxide. Stockman suggests it is time to get off the hamster wheel where we try to drill our way out of high energy prices. “The key thing that will make energy cheaper and more secure for Americans is to reduce and eventually end our use of these commodities,” said Stockman. This is where the policies of the Inflation Reduction Act may make some difference — not in time for this winter, but possibly as early as 2024. One is a fee on excess methane emissions that escape through the drilling and transport of natural gas that could finally incentivize producers to capture more of the lost gas that’s superheating the atmosphere. Another is the range of consumer tax breaks that incentivize energy efficiency of the home, including energy-efficient appliances like heat pumps. Finally, utilities and consumers alike face new incentives to buy renewables over gas, tipping the economics firmly in solar and wind’s favor. “We’re going to start to see the level of adoption in the next 12 to 24 months that will add up to a pretty big dent in gas demand over the medium term,” Dyson said. “Even a couple of percentage points drop in gas demand from power, buildings, and industry could actually have a pretty big effect on prices. It could actually reduce the prices we’re seeing now.”

Hochul signs partial cryptocurrency mining ban into New York law

The law would create the first-in-the-nation temporary pause on new permits for fossil fuel power plants that house proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining.

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York will instate a two-year moratorium on new fossil fuel-powered cryptocurrency mining operations as the state works to balance its economic development and climate goals. Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday signed the controversial measure into law that would create the first-in-the-nation temporary pause on new permits for fossil fuel power plants that house proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining, which is a process used in the transaction of digital money. Hochul, who had punted on the issue for months after the Legislature passed the bill in June, was elected to a full term Nov. 8. Upstate New York has become attractive to companies that “mine” digital currencies, including Bitcoin, because of the availability of former power plants and manufacturing sites with unused electrical infrastructure. But Hochul said that the moratorium is an important step to avoid increased emissions from the industry restarting old power plants as she guides the state toward ambitious climate goals. “As the first governor from upstate New York in nearly a century, I recognize the importance of creating economic opportunity in communities that have been left behind,” the Democratic governor from Buffalo said in the memo accompanying her approval. “I am signing this legislation into law to build on New York’s nation-leading Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, the most aggressive climate and clean energy law in the nation, while also continuing our steadfast efforts to support economic development and job creation in upstate New York.” The new law will also trigger a study by state Department of Environmental Conservation to study the impacts of the cryptocurrency mining industry on the environment. The measure was hotly debated in the halls of the state Capitol this year, with environmental groups pushing lawmakers and Hochul to support the bill and the industry urging Hochul to reject it. “Thank you, Governor Hochul, for stepping up to protect New Yorkers from corporate bullies who want to exploit communities like mine in the Finger Lakes,” Yvonne Taylor, vice president of Seneca Lake Guardian, an environmental group that has pushed for the closure of a local gas-powered cryptocurrency facility. “The crypto industry is going to whine that this is a blow, but it's not.” The bill is narrow in scope, despite its groundbreaking steps. The state's roughly dozen operations that draw power from the grid would not be affected, nor would individuals purchasing or mining for cryptocurrency or other blockchain activities. And the moratorium on new or renewed permits doesn’t apply if the company has already filed paperwork to operate in New York. Still, the law has raised concern in the industry that it would lead to other states to follow suit and hurt the industry, which has already faced a difficult stretch among investors. In June, the state denied a key permit for a gas powered cryptocurrency mining operation in the Finger Lakes, saying the Greenidge facility was spewing too much planet-warming pollution to be allowed under the state’s climate law. But the company is fighting the decision, and the plant continues to operate. Business groups ripped Hochul for signing the ban into law. “The Business Council does not believe the legislature should seek to categorically limit the growth and expansion of any business or sector in New York,” the group said in a statement. “We plan to further engage and help educate them regarding this industry and the benefits it provides to the local, regional and state economy.”

No, California’s young voters did not turn out more than seniors. But they did clinch elections

The narrative that young voters surpassed seniors in election turnout is simply not true. But they are influencing elections in a major way, and helping Democrats win elections across California.

In summary The narrative that young voters surpassed seniors in election turnout is simply not true. But they are influencing elections in a major way, and helping Democrats win elections across California. Get California news in your inbox, for free. Guest Commentary written by Paul Mitchell Paul Mitchell is the vice president of Political Data, a voter data firm based in California, and the owner of Redistricting Partners, a firm which does municipal redistricting and consulting nationally. Every election year it seems there is a story about skyrocketing votes from young people. Every time it turns out to not be true.   Case in point: there have been reports that young people turned out in such great numbers this year that they surpassed seniors. That’s impossible. Looking just at California, among the ballots we have recorded so far, there were 3.2 million seniors who cast ballots among the 5.1 million registered, but of the 6 million voters under 35, only 1.3 million voted.  Seniors comprise 23% of voters but 36% of ballots cast; younger voters are 27% of voters and only 15% of ballots cast. This gap will narrow a bit as we get final numbers from county registrars, but the story will stay the same: young people are massively underperforming. In case you think California’s youth is especially disengaged, that’s not true. Studies show young Californians are more engaged, and our younger voters have a higher registration rate than other states. But there is another side of this coin. While youth turnout is disappointingly low, young people put their stamp on this election nonetheless – and it is because of their much more strident ideological stances. Seniors are balanced in their political leanings, with recent polling from Capitol Weekly showing that approximately 40% of voters over 35 years old identify as moderates, with equal numbers considering themselves either liberal or conservative. This in contrast to the 25% of younger voters who identify as moderates and are more liberal than conservative at a 3 to 1 ratio.  Most strikingly, upwards of 40% of these young voters consider themselves very liberal, while other age groups are in single-digits. We can see this in recent polling which shows seniors in California favor Democrats by a 50% to 36% margin, while young voters are polarized toward Democratic candidates at a 70% to 18% margin. On a generic ballot question that asked if they were likely to support a Democratic or Republican candidate, seniors supported Democrats by an 18-point advantage while younger voters supported Democrats by a whopping 56%. On progressive policies like Gov. Gavin Newsom’s call to ban sale of gas-powered vehicles by 2035, seniors were evenly split, but 18-34 year-olds were much more supportive at 70%. Seniors are reliably Democratic-leaning in California but modestly so. Younger voters – even in their smaller numbers – are providing progressives with the overwhelming margins needed to win elections. One way in which we see this data come to life is the “blue shift” in the post-election counting of ballots. Analysis of the voters who are having their votes counted in the batches of late-received (but postmarked on time) includes large numbers of younger voters.   In the early waves of vote-by-mail ballots, seniors were outpacing young voters by a 5 to 1 margin. But in the late ballots, a third of ballots were from young voters and fewer than 15% from seniors. Democrats and left-leaning candidates in intra-party runoffs and municipal elections are gaining votes. In Orange County, Democratic congressional members Katie Porter and Mike Levin and Supervisor Katrina Foley all had modest margins from mail voting, which was 45% seniors, and lost votes to their Republican challengers with in-person voters where seniors outpaced young voters. But in the late-processed mail vote, each shot to significant victories with a population of voters that had 30% more voters under 35 than seniors. In the Los Angeles mayor’s race, the early vote favored Congresswoman Karen Bass but votes from Election Day gave businessman Rick Caruso a lead. Then ballots tallied after Election Day had more young voters than seniors, and they came in with a wide 60% to 40% margin for the more progressive Bass, pushing her to a 6-point victory. Splitting these concepts is important. We don’t need to continue the false narrative that young people are voting more than seniors – that’s just not true and hides the real challenge faced with this population. But we can recognize that the massive left-leaning nature of young voters is driving election outcomes. They help Democrats in California earn massive supermajorities in the Assembly and Senate, elect a Congressional delegation that is nearly 4 to 1 Democratic, and provide support for the state’s environmental, gay rights, social, housing and other progressive agendas. Young people in California and nationally are effectively helping progressives win, and they were a pivotal election constituency in 2022. One can only imagine what it would look like if they doubled their turnout and met seniors head-on in a future election.

Effective Altruism Is Bunk, Crypto Is Bad for the Planet, and Other Basic Truths of the FTX Crash

Twitter’s implosion isn’t the only astonishing story in the tech world this week. There’s also the collapse of FTX, a cryptocurrency exchange led by its 30-year-old founder Sam Bankman-Fried, who is now under investigation by federal regulators for multiple wrongdoings and, by the public, for reportedly being a member of what may now be world’s most despised polycule. What’s made the FTX unraveling so shocking is that Bankman-Fried was thought to be special—the reasonable voice of a Wild West industry. He was also believed to be in possession of a moral compass. Now, as headlines about FTX proliferate, people are starting to question the philosophy of “effective altruism,” which Bankman-Fried promoted and claimed to live by. This rethinking of effective altruism may be the one bright spot in an otherwise depressing crash that may devastate many vulnerable people. Despite its good reputation in some affluent and influential quarters, the effective altruism philosophy has always contained quite a bit of dangerous nonsense.  The goal of effective altruism—a philosophy and “social movement”—is to “try to find unusually good ways of helping, such that a given amount of effort goes an unusually long way,” according to EffectiveAltruism.org. That can mean donating a kidney, spending money on pandemic preparedness, or attempting to ward off space crimes in the year 3423. The actions of effective altruism devotees are guided by a few core principles, including prioritization. “The goal is to find the best ways to help, rather than just working to make any difference at all” using “numbers,” the group’s website states. Decisions should be impartial so as to “give everyone’s interests equal weight.” Adherents are committed to open truth-seeking, finding the most rational ways to make change rather than “starting with a commitment to a certain cause, community or approach.” EA acolytes pride themselves, that is, on a cool rationality that rejects the emotional satisfaction of helping someone face to face, or having the kinds of material or emotional stakes in an issue that organizers use to enlist recruits into union drives or grassroots movements pushing systemic change. It’s that reasoning which leads the EA-career advice site 80,000 Hours—featuring a testimonial from Bankman-Fried himself—to rank climate change seventh on a list of the world’s most pressing problems. Climate change, this site claims, is dangerous mainly for its potential to exacerbate other, more grave existential threats like pandemic or nuclear war. The case for that is as follows: “If climate change poses something like a 1 in 1,000,000 risk of extinction by itself, our guess is that its contribution to other existential risks is at most a few orders of magnitude higher—so something like 1 in 10,000.” Numbers! The most pressing threat, this site claims, is superpowered artificial intelligence at some point executing a plan to kill or enslave all of humanity.The most pressing threat, this site claims, is superpowered artificial intelligence at some point executing a plan to kill or enslave all of humanity. The unlikely event of the world warming by 13 degrees would constitute “a humanitarian disaster of unprecedented scale,” per an 80,000 Hours issue brief. But even at those temperatures ”it seems very likely that we could adapt to avoid extinction (for example, by building better buildings and widespread air conditioning, as well as building more in the cooler areas of the Earth),” the guide writes. “​​We would have to live in a much smaller area, but civilisation would survive.”Effective Altruism’s intellectual grandfather is utilitarian Peter Singer. But its best hype man is Oxford philosopher William MacAskill. His particular hobby horse is something called longtermism, spelled out in his latest book What We Owe The Future. As Alexander Zaitchek summarized in his excellent review for this magazine, longtermism “posits that one’s highest ethical duty in the present is to increase the odds, however slightly, of humanity’s long-term survival and the colonization of the Virgo supercluster of galaxies by our distant descendants.” Our chief concern should be the trillions of people who’ll live on earth for hundreds of thousands, if not billions of years to come. Oddly, the rationale for climate change not being a more pressing threat to EAs is that it would take “some time (decades or maybe centuries)” for extreme levels of warming to develop via the burning every fossil fuel reserve currently in the ground. MacAskill, who seems to have personally recruited Bankman-Fried to the EA community, has now condemned Bankman-Fried on Twitter for failing at effective altruism. “I had put my trust in Sam, and if he lied and misused customer funds he betrayed me, just as he betrayed his customers, his employees, his investors, & the communities he was a part of,” MacAskill tweeted last week. To demonstrate that Bankman-Fried’s actions were inconsistent with effective altruism and therefore Bankman-Fried’s fall does not discredit effective altruism, MacAskill posted a few sections from his book that emphasize the need to live a “rounded ethical life.” The ends do not always justify the means, MacAskill argues in these segments, even if it might theoretically save billions of lives in the far-off future. And it’s “particularly important to avoid doing harm,” he writes. But like much of EA, this sidesteps some more basic ethical issues under capitalism—issues highly relevant to the FTX collapse. Quite simply: There is no ethical or non-harmful way to make a billion dollars in an economic system rife with—and arguably premised on—exploitation and passing the true costs of a product on to others. To MacAskill, creating a Ponzi scheme and gambling away customer savings is beyond the pale. The ordinary exploitation involved in the process of accumulating extraordinary wealth—low wages, poor working conditions, and union busting—is all copacetic. In the case of crypto, especially, amassing wealth has tended to come with a massive carbon footprint. Bitcoin mining using so-called proof of work operations are extraordinarily carbon intensive. Shuttered coal and gas-fired power plants in the U.S. have surged back to life to mint cryptocurrency, sparking pushback from lawmakers in New York and elsewhere. The practice uses more electricity than the country of Norway and its 5.3 million inhabitants. Attempts to switch to another, much less emissions-intensive method called proof of stake have so far been a mixed bag. While Ethereum underwent a high-profile switch, old mining devices are still being put to work. Though pollution from fossil fuels account for one in five deaths worldwide, EA enthusiasts could undoubtedly offer a lengthy explanation as to why more emissions are ultimately justified in the name of battling intergalactic genocide. Effective altruism is the gospel of wealth for guys who fashioned their personalities in high school around subjecting their criminally underpaid teachers to debates about whether God exists.Effective altruism is the gospel of wealth for guys who fashioned their personalities in high school around subjecting their criminally underpaid teachers to debates about whether God exists. The implicit reasoning behind the philosophy is that the big, powerful brains earning fortunes are also the best equipped to figure out how they will make the world a better place. Any rube can go work at a non-profit. Making a real difference might just mean getting filthy rich (“earning to give”), as MacAskill once told Bankman-Friend over lunch. “Rich makes right” is not exactly revolutionary stuff. “Doing good by doing well” has been a long-held mantra of Davos-types spewing TED talk-ish bromides about wanting to make the world a better, greener place. “The laws of accumulation will be left free; the laws of distribution free. Individualism will continue,” steel magnate Andrew Carnegie wrote of his class’s charitable giving in 1899, “but the millionaire will be but a trustee for the poor; entrusted for a season with a great part of the increased wealth of the community, but administering it for the community far better than it could or would have done for itself.” Bizarrely, though, EA has been successfully marketed as new and innovative, mostly by dint of its proximity to tech. To be fair, EA-aligned think tanks like Open Philanthropy have sent money to plenty of worthy causes, including journalism and non-profits interested in tackling the root causes of what makes the world suck. Some EA adherents are merely self-congratulatory do-gooders. Some are people who have landed themselves in high paying jobs, yet have some vague sense that the world is bad and want to help out. Donating kidneys and mosquito netting isn’t exactly a bad thing. There may well be some way for EA to continue the good it’s doing in the world without Bankman-Friend and other wealthy backers. But on a basic material level, crypto and the institutions guiding EA remain deeply intertwined—so much so that many recipients of EA funds are now facing dire shortfalls amid the FTX implosion. Bankman-Friend more or less admitted this week that his ethical commitments were mostly a scam. When prompted by Vox’s Kelsey Piper over Twitter DMs to discuss the discrepancy between his public talk about ethics and his true perception of finance as a “game,” he responded, “ya,” and “hehe,” adding that he “had to be” good at talking about ethics since “it’s what reputations are made of.” Ethics in corporate culture, he added, is “a dumb game that we woke westerners play where we say all the right shiboleths and so everyone likes us.”As he also told Piper, “fuck regulators.” Any talk about wanting to make good regulations on crypto was “just PR,” he confirmed. To him, regulators are useless, inept drains on businesses. Regulators are obsessed with a “giant Crackdown on Big Tech,” and are “undermining US interests globally.” He called the Office of Foreign Assets Control—the enforcement arm of the U.S. Treasury, which also administers trade sanctions—“the single biggest threat to the US being a suprepower.” Echoing the Republicans who have deemed so-called environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) investment decisions a special enemy in recent years, on the theory that Wall Street banks are biased against fossil fuels, Bankman-Fried complained that “ESG has been perverted beyond recognition.” Reading this rant over Twitter DMs, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the effective altruism philosophy Bankman-Fried claimed to believe in is beside the point: Bankman-Fried is a garden-variety reactionary who wants to keep the government out of his business. Debating whether or not he did all this to serve some greater good is academic, leaning toward absurd.It was already clear beore the FTX implosion was Bankman-Fried spent plenty of money not to make the world a better place, but to influence policymakers, quickly becoming one of the largest donors to Democratic candidates. He gave $5 million to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, and had pledged to put $1 billion toward supporting Democrats in 2024. This probably wasn’t because he’s a progressive at heart: Reporting by The American Prospect found that two Democratic-supporting political action committees funded by Bankman-Fried, Web3 Forward and GMI PAC, backed candidates based on how friendly they would be to the crypto industry—including on its considerable greenhouse gas emissions. These PACs sent questionnaires to candidates on these issues. As David Dayen writes: A section in one questionnaire labeled “Protecting the Environment” claims that Bitcoin “proof of work” mining, which has been criticized for using extreme amounts of energy, is actually a boost to a clean-energy electric grid, while using “2.5 times less energy than the banking system per dollar of value.” The Prospect asked Web3 Forward and GMI PAC to provide sources for this, but they have not responded. As the questionnaire even concedes at one point, the arguments appear to be based on theories from proof-of-work mining participants themselves. Independent energy experts have scoffed at the claims.Questionnaires also asked candidates to pledge to support a letter to SEC Commissioner Gary Gensler urging him to back off the industry. The letter was ultimately signed by both Republicans and Democrats, including Representatives Josh Gottheimer, Jake Auchincloss, Darren Soto and Ritchie Torres.  As The Lever reported, the Bankman-Fried-backed super PAC Protect Our Future spent millions this cycle, including to elect candidates who sit on committees relevant to the crypto industry. Bankman-Fried personally co-hosted a fundraiser for Torres with Democrat-aligned pollsters David Shor and Sean McElwee. The latter was reportedly an advisor to Bankman-Fried, whose group Data for Progress received $48,000 from Protect Our Future.  This is all very ordinary behavior for a billionaire getting involved in politics. Real or fake, the sheen of effective altruism seemed to have fooled plenty of people into thinking Bankman-Fried was extraordinary. It’s good that FTX’s collapse is finally making people rethink Bankman-Fried and effective altruism. But the problem with effective altruism isn’t that it’s populated by insufferable dweebs. The problem is these dweebs’ alliance with a profoundly anti-democratic project: to let its founders continue to make as much money as possible, whatever the cost to people and the planet. 

Twitter’s implosion isn’t the only astonishing story in the tech world this week. There’s also the collapse of FTX, a cryptocurrency exchange led by its 30-year-old founder Sam Bankman-Fried, who is now under investigation by federal regulators for multiple wrongdoings and, by the public, for reportedly being a member of what may now be world’s most despised polycule. What’s made the FTX unraveling so shocking is that Bankman-Fried was thought to be special—the reasonable voice of a Wild West industry. He was also believed to be in possession of a moral compass. Now, as headlines about FTX proliferate, people are starting to question the philosophy of “effective altruism,” which Bankman-Fried promoted and claimed to live by. This rethinking of effective altruism may be the one bright spot in an otherwise depressing crash that may devastate many vulnerable people. Despite its good reputation in some affluent and influential quarters, the effective altruism philosophy has always contained quite a bit of dangerous nonsense.  The goal of effective altruism—a philosophy and “social movement”—is to “try to find unusually good ways of helping, such that a given amount of effort goes an unusually long way,” according to EffectiveAltruism.org. That can mean donating a kidney, spending money on pandemic preparedness, or attempting to ward off space crimes in the year 3423. The actions of effective altruism devotees are guided by a few core principles, including prioritization. “The goal is to find the best ways to help, rather than just working to make any difference at all” using “numbers,” the group’s website states. Decisions should be impartial so as to “give everyone’s interests equal weight.” Adherents are committed to open truth-seeking, finding the most rational ways to make change rather than “starting with a commitment to a certain cause, community or approach.” EA acolytes pride themselves, that is, on a cool rationality that rejects the emotional satisfaction of helping someone face to face, or having the kinds of material or emotional stakes in an issue that organizers use to enlist recruits into union drives or grassroots movements pushing systemic change. It’s that reasoning which leads the EA-career advice site 80,000 Hours—featuring a testimonial from Bankman-Fried himself—to rank climate change seventh on a list of the world’s most pressing problems. Climate change, this site claims, is dangerous mainly for its potential to exacerbate other, more grave existential threats like pandemic or nuclear war. The case for that is as follows: “If climate change poses something like a 1 in 1,000,000 risk of extinction by itself, our guess is that its contribution to other existential risks is at most a few orders of magnitude higher—so something like 1 in 10,000.” Numbers! The most pressing threat, this site claims, is superpowered artificial intelligence at some point executing a plan to kill or enslave all of humanity.The most pressing threat, this site claims, is superpowered artificial intelligence at some point executing a plan to kill or enslave all of humanity. The unlikely event of the world warming by 13 degrees would constitute “a humanitarian disaster of unprecedented scale,” per an 80,000 Hours issue brief. But even at those temperatures ”it seems very likely that we could adapt to avoid extinction (for example, by building better buildings and widespread air conditioning, as well as building more in the cooler areas of the Earth),” the guide writes. “​​We would have to live in a much smaller area, but civilisation would survive.”Effective Altruism’s intellectual grandfather is utilitarian Peter Singer. But its best hype man is Oxford philosopher William MacAskill. His particular hobby horse is something called longtermism, spelled out in his latest book What We Owe The Future. As Alexander Zaitchek summarized in his excellent review for this magazine, longtermism “posits that one’s highest ethical duty in the present is to increase the odds, however slightly, of humanity’s long-term survival and the colonization of the Virgo supercluster of galaxies by our distant descendants.” Our chief concern should be the trillions of people who’ll live on earth for hundreds of thousands, if not billions of years to come. Oddly, the rationale for climate change not being a more pressing threat to EAs is that it would take “some time (decades or maybe centuries)” for extreme levels of warming to develop via the burning every fossil fuel reserve currently in the ground. MacAskill, who seems to have personally recruited Bankman-Fried to the EA community, has now condemned Bankman-Fried on Twitter for failing at effective altruism. “I had put my trust in Sam, and if he lied and misused customer funds he betrayed me, just as he betrayed his customers, his employees, his investors, & the communities he was a part of,” MacAskill tweeted last week. To demonstrate that Bankman-Fried’s actions were inconsistent with effective altruism and therefore Bankman-Fried’s fall does not discredit effective altruism, MacAskill posted a few sections from his book that emphasize the need to live a “rounded ethical life.” The ends do not always justify the means, MacAskill argues in these segments, even if it might theoretically save billions of lives in the far-off future. And it’s “particularly important to avoid doing harm,” he writes. But like much of EA, this sidesteps some more basic ethical issues under capitalism—issues highly relevant to the FTX collapse. Quite simply: There is no ethical or non-harmful way to make a billion dollars in an economic system rife with—and arguably premised on—exploitation and passing the true costs of a product on to others. To MacAskill, creating a Ponzi scheme and gambling away customer savings is beyond the pale. The ordinary exploitation involved in the process of accumulating extraordinary wealth—low wages, poor working conditions, and union busting—is all copacetic. In the case of crypto, especially, amassing wealth has tended to come with a massive carbon footprint. Bitcoin mining using so-called proof of work operations are extraordinarily carbon intensive. Shuttered coal and gas-fired power plants in the U.S. have surged back to life to mint cryptocurrency, sparking pushback from lawmakers in New York and elsewhere. The practice uses more electricity than the country of Norway and its 5.3 million inhabitants. Attempts to switch to another, much less emissions-intensive method called proof of stake have so far been a mixed bag. While Ethereum underwent a high-profile switch, old mining devices are still being put to work. Though pollution from fossil fuels account for one in five deaths worldwide, EA enthusiasts could undoubtedly offer a lengthy explanation as to why more emissions are ultimately justified in the name of battling intergalactic genocide. Effective altruism is the gospel of wealth for guys who fashioned their personalities in high school around subjecting their criminally underpaid teachers to debates about whether God exists.Effective altruism is the gospel of wealth for guys who fashioned their personalities in high school around subjecting their criminally underpaid teachers to debates about whether God exists. The implicit reasoning behind the philosophy is that the big, powerful brains earning fortunes are also the best equipped to figure out how they will make the world a better place. Any rube can go work at a non-profit. Making a real difference might just mean getting filthy rich (“earning to give”), as MacAskill once told Bankman-Friend over lunch. “Rich makes right” is not exactly revolutionary stuff. “Doing good by doing well” has been a long-held mantra of Davos-types spewing TED talk-ish bromides about wanting to make the world a better, greener place. “The laws of accumulation will be left free; the laws of distribution free. Individualism will continue,” steel magnate Andrew Carnegie wrote of his class’s charitable giving in 1899, “but the millionaire will be but a trustee for the poor; entrusted for a season with a great part of the increased wealth of the community, but administering it for the community far better than it could or would have done for itself.” Bizarrely, though, EA has been successfully marketed as new and innovative, mostly by dint of its proximity to tech. To be fair, EA-aligned think tanks like Open Philanthropy have sent money to plenty of worthy causes, including journalism and non-profits interested in tackling the root causes of what makes the world suck. Some EA adherents are merely self-congratulatory do-gooders. Some are people who have landed themselves in high paying jobs, yet have some vague sense that the world is bad and want to help out. Donating kidneys and mosquito netting isn’t exactly a bad thing. There may well be some way for EA to continue the good it’s doing in the world without Bankman-Friend and other wealthy backers. But on a basic material level, crypto and the institutions guiding EA remain deeply intertwined—so much so that many recipients of EA funds are now facing dire shortfalls amid the FTX implosion. Bankman-Friend more or less admitted this week that his ethical commitments were mostly a scam. When prompted by Vox’s Kelsey Piper over Twitter DMs to discuss the discrepancy between his public talk about ethics and his true perception of finance as a “game,” he responded, “ya,” and “hehe,” adding that he “had to be” good at talking about ethics since “it’s what reputations are made of.” Ethics in corporate culture, he added, is “a dumb game that we woke westerners play where we say all the right shiboleths and so everyone likes us.”As he also told Piper, “fuck regulators.” Any talk about wanting to make good regulations on crypto was “just PR,” he confirmed. To him, regulators are useless, inept drains on businesses. Regulators are obsessed with a “giant Crackdown on Big Tech,” and are “undermining US interests globally.” He called the Office of Foreign Assets Control—the enforcement arm of the U.S. Treasury, which also administers trade sanctions—“the single biggest threat to the US being a suprepower.” Echoing the Republicans who have deemed so-called environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) investment decisions a special enemy in recent years, on the theory that Wall Street banks are biased against fossil fuels, Bankman-Fried complained that “ESG has been perverted beyond recognition.” Reading this rant over Twitter DMs, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the effective altruism philosophy Bankman-Fried claimed to believe in is beside the point: Bankman-Fried is a garden-variety reactionary who wants to keep the government out of his business. Debating whether or not he did all this to serve some greater good is academic, leaning toward absurd.It was already clear beore the FTX implosion was Bankman-Fried spent plenty of money not to make the world a better place, but to influence policymakers, quickly becoming one of the largest donors to Democratic candidates. He gave $5 million to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, and had pledged to put $1 billion toward supporting Democrats in 2024. This probably wasn’t because he’s a progressive at heart: Reporting by The American Prospect found that two Democratic-supporting political action committees funded by Bankman-Fried, Web3 Forward and GMI PAC, backed candidates based on how friendly they would be to the crypto industry—including on its considerable greenhouse gas emissions. These PACs sent questionnaires to candidates on these issues. As David Dayen writes: A section in one questionnaire labeled “Protecting the Environment” claims that Bitcoin “proof of work” mining, which has been criticized for using extreme amounts of energy, is actually a boost to a clean-energy electric grid, while using “2.5 times less energy than the banking system per dollar of value.” The Prospect asked Web3 Forward and GMI PAC to provide sources for this, but they have not responded. As the questionnaire even concedes at one point, the arguments appear to be based on theories from proof-of-work mining participants themselves. Independent energy experts have scoffed at the claims.Questionnaires also asked candidates to pledge to support a letter to SEC Commissioner Gary Gensler urging him to back off the industry. The letter was ultimately signed by both Republicans and Democrats, including Representatives Josh Gottheimer, Jake Auchincloss, Darren Soto and Ritchie Torres.  As The Lever reported, the Bankman-Fried-backed super PAC Protect Our Future spent millions this cycle, including to elect candidates who sit on committees relevant to the crypto industry. Bankman-Fried personally co-hosted a fundraiser for Torres with Democrat-aligned pollsters David Shor and Sean McElwee. The latter was reportedly an advisor to Bankman-Fried, whose group Data for Progress received $48,000 from Protect Our Future.  This is all very ordinary behavior for a billionaire getting involved in politics. Real or fake, the sheen of effective altruism seemed to have fooled plenty of people into thinking Bankman-Fried was extraordinary. It’s good that FTX’s collapse is finally making people rethink Bankman-Fried and effective altruism. But the problem with effective altruism isn’t that it’s populated by insufferable dweebs. The problem is these dweebs’ alliance with a profoundly anti-democratic project: to let its founders continue to make as much money as possible, whatever the cost to people and the planet. 

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