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WFP-OES-newsom-safety.jpg Calif. Office of Emergency Services
California Gov. Gavin Newsom conducts a news conference with firefighters in 2019.

Rolling blackouts and the call for electric tractors

Ending the internal combustion engine may sound laudable, but the practicalities of how this will work are non-existent.

It should come as no surprise that California Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to make the internal combustion engine extinct in the state by 2035. His edict, while consistent with his assumed autonomous rule over the state's one-party political system, apparently did not faze those elected to the Assembly and Senate.

Ending the internal combustion engine as a viable option for automobile owners and the trucking industry may sound laudable in certain circles, but the practicalities of how this will work in a state that trumpets itself as having the "world's fifth largest economy" are non-existent. How long will California enjoy such a position in the world if everything the current governor has done since last March flies in the face of a representative government with its legislative, executive, and judicial checks and balances?

The governor's announcement gained the usual media attention related to cars. Missed from that discussion was the similar call to make farm machinery – tractors and the like – all electric by 2045. This is consistent with the state's goal of eliminating diesel engines in medium- and heavy-duty trucks at the same time California declares itself carbon-free.

For rice growers alone this is troubling as the equipment and combines used to prepare the fields in spring and harvest the crop in the fall will likewise need to be all-electric by that deadline. How does the all-electric rice harvester, required to go non-stop from field to field, "refuel" each day if current generations of harvester do not see the barn or an appropriately outfitted power outlet for months at a time?

Who will build these all-electric behemoths? Which equipment manufacturer is going to expense the capital necessary to build machines that will be required in just one state? Diesel-powered tractors are not being banned elsewhere in the United States.

What about the batteries necessary to power these machines? From where will we mine the zinc, lithium, manganese, and other minerals necessary to manufacture these batteries? How many times can we recharge these batteries before they lose their ability to hold a charge? Will the technology exist to cool these batteries so they do not combust while being used nearly non-stop in fields and orchards where the outdoor temperature can exceed 110 degrees?

How does California intend to power these charging stations when it cannot guarantee power to its residents? Imagine the 12-hour blackout starting just as people return home from their typical workday when they're expected to charge their cars and iPhones. It's happening already.

It is apparent that the state's move to renewable energy does not work. Solar generation generally works for a few hours per day, but only in the absence of clouds and apocalyptic wildfire smoke. There are no good battery solutions yet to capture and store this power and release it when needed. Wind generation is fickle as well.

TAGS: Regulatory
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