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Is LA's Blackout Scare Just a Conspiracy to Keep the City Running on Fossil Fuels?

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Last week a report from a coalition of energy providers scared the hell out of Los Angeles, claiming the region would face blackouts due to its catastrophic four-month-long natural gas leak. But a loud and growing group of Southern California energy experts are calling bullshit, saying this is just a way to keep LA dependent on natural gas and other fossil fuels. Here’s the theory.

The original report contended that due to the closure of the damaged Aliso Canyon storage facility, Southern California is going to run out of natural gas this summer, when energy demand is the highest. The report estimated the city would have at least 14 days of blackouts.

Yesterday, the advocacy group Food & Water Watch—which has helped the public understand the gravity of the situation at Aliso Canyon—claimed that the original study was incorrect. It pointed to the fact that Southern California Gas—who is responsible for the gas leak—was one of the authors of the report. So it could easily be viewed as SoCalGas’s attempt to cover its ass when blackouts do happen. But mostly, it helps bolster the claim that the Aliso Canyon needs to be put back into service to “save” the region, when in fact, California needs to keep it closed and change its energy sources, fast.


“We are disappointed that state agencies published bad data that supports the reopening of the gas field, which only serves to benefit SoCal Gas at public expense,” Food & Water Watch’s California director Adam Snow told Reuters.


Food and Water Watch contends that the study wildly overestimated energy needs and made it seem as if there are no alternatives. In addition to some backup storage facilities that were not mentioned in the report, there are some plants which can switch to alternative fuels, like the methane and carbon dioxide gas released by local waste treatment centers.

The report is also being portrayed as an attempt to strong-arm California Governor Jerry Brown into reopening the plant, a former San Diego city attorney named Michael Aguirre told the Los Angeles Times. “The people who control blackouts are threatening blackouts if they can’t keep Aliso open. This is a threat. This is not a report.”


Of course, the one way to avoid all this is for Southern California to save so much energy that the threat of blackouts is moot. And at the same time, start switching to clean energy sources like solar or wind so Aliso Canyon will never need to reopen. By continuing to rely on companies that perform the unhealthy, dangerous, and potentially deadly extraction of natural gas and fossil fuels, we are letting these companies have too much power over our future.

[LAT, Reuters]