You knew this was going to happen didn’t you?

Arizona’s new immigration law is giving politicians here in California and elsewhere opportunities to grandstand for the home crowd.  Los Angeles, San Francisco and others have called for boycotts of Arizona business to express their outrage.

The only problem with boycotts is that it can work both ways.  So imagine the fun the folks in Arizona are having today when one of their elected state public service commissioners, Gary Pierce reminded Los Angeles that “a boycott war is bad for both sides, and said he would ‘be happy to encourage Arizona utilities to renegotiate your power agreements’ to end the electricity flowing to Los Angeles.”[1]

Ouch!

Remember the old joke about people in glass houses should know better than to throw stones?  Well, California is the largest importer of energy of all the states.  California imports more than 20% of its electric power. [2]

Los Angeles has wrapped itself in the green energy flag but Commissioner Pierce told the Washington Times that Los Angeles Department of Water and Power contracts with the Salt River Project, an Arizona public power agency, to take 25% of the output from its Navaho coal plant and it also owns a part of another coal plant in Utah, and imports hydropower from Oregon and Washington State and British Columbia. He said he would be happy to help Los Angeles get out of those contracts so Arizona can sell the power to someone who values it.

California’s largest investor owned utilities are working overtime to add more solar power to meet there renewable portfolio standards and guess what—its hot and sunny in Arizona and they have a lot of solar power headed for the California power market—or not if the boycott works both ways.

Los Angeles replies that Arizona cannot shut off LA’s power because that would destabilize the grid.  To which Arizona replies that LA seems to have no problem destabilizing Arizona’s economy with its boycott –so they can’t have it both ways.

So what?

San Francisco, Los Angeles and others should be careful throwing boycott stones since they all engage in behaviors that don’t always comport with the values of the rest of the country.  A tourist boycott of LA or San Francisco would hurt them a lot more than this dustup is likely to hurt Arizona.

And since here in California we don’t allow the building of either coal power plants or nuclear power plants anymore we need that imported power to keep the lights on.  While we have plenty of sunshine in the Mohave Desert we restrict solar projects there because the tortoise and desert rats like the sunshine so our senators have worked to put much of it off-limits to solar projects.  Arizona solar is looking better and better.  We do have a lot of wind but capturing it for something useful at City Hall in LA and San Francisco or in Sacramento has not yet passed the California Environmental Quality Act review and besides it is not reliable.

This is great political sport and I am sure enjoying this public urination contest between the LA Mayor and the Arizona Corporation Commission, but boycotts are childish political theater not real policy leadership.  It is one reason why the public is cynical about our political class.


[1] http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/may/18/arizona-dares-los-angeles-to-carry-out-boycott/

[2] http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/state/state_energy_profiles.cfm?sid=CA

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