Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How California's Oil and Water Policies Are Bankrupting Higher Education

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How California's Oil and Water Policies Are Bankrupting Higher Education

California oil and water policies reap windfall profits for banking institutions, land developers and agribusiness, but are undermining the state's higher education plan.
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Oil and water don't usually mix -- except in California politics. Over the last couple of decades, interests representing offshore oil extraction and inland water infrastructure have teamed up, using their muscle to de-fund a once-famous system of public higher education.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Wolf Cries -- Howling About Drought -- All Wet Government Officials Exaggerated Severity of Drought


Wolf Cries -- Howling About Drought -- All Wet Government Officials Exaggerated Severity of Drought
By: Patrick Porgans, Planetary Solutionaries and Lloyd G. Carter

            Government documents support critics’ contentions that the Governor of California and his supporters exaggerated the extent of the drought as a platform to promote the passage of the $11 billion General Obligation Bond “Water Package” purportedly designed to increase the state’s water supply reliability, improve its aging infrastructure, and “fix” the broken Bay-Delta Estuary. At the last minute, before ballot were printed, the $11 billion bond act was taken off this November’s ballot for reasons yet not fully divulged and is now scheduled for the 2012 election.

Meanwhile federal and state officials still appear to be at odds as to whether the California "drought" is over. A review of the government’s own data, Figure 1, indicate that the recent California “drought” was very mild at best in comparison to historical droughts, contrary to the wolf cries of Fox, CBS, Governor and water bureaucrats. This finding is prefaced on comparing data from the four-year period - 2006 through 2009, within which a three-year “drought” purportedly occurred - with the last four years of the drought that occurred from 1987 through 1992.

Ironically, in the midst of a budget crisis, and the longest delay in adopting a state budget, the public is paying for the drought relief programs, with billions of dollars of borrowed money repaid from the $20 billion deficit-ridden General Fund, while safety-net programs, education, jobs, and day care funding have been drying up.

         Data in Figure 1, extrapolated from Department of Water Resources (DWR) Bulletin 120 series – Water Conditions in California, illustrates the difference in water conditions prevalent during the 1989 through 1992 and the 2006 through 2009 drought years (using four-year periods, which includes the year before the current drought started). During both periods, statewide water consumption remained relatively constant, supplemented by a significant increase in groundwater consumption. It is important to note, that groundwater provides about 40% of California’s annual water supply. In dry years, that percentage can go as high as 60 percent. Major surface water projects were developed to augment surface and ground water depletion and to weather drought cycles. 

Figure 1 is in Million Acre-Feet (MAF); Water Year (WY) Summary (Click Figure to enlarge.)
Figure 1 also indicates that there was a significant increase in the state’s water supply within past drought period as compared to the 1989-1992 drought period.  A 58 percent increase in the indices on the Sacramento Valley side and an 81 percent increase on the San Joaquin Valley side. (Note: Spreadsheet data which includes the percentage increase upon which these calculations were made can be viewed at www.planetarysolutionaries.org blog.) Based on the period of record (1906-2009), Sacramento Valley unimpaired runoff averages out at 18 million-acre-feet (MAF); the San Joaquin Valley unimpaired runoff averages out at about six MAF; in the 2006-2009 period in the Sacramento valley it was 16.39 MAF; San Joaquin Valley 5.35 MAF.

         Hydrologic and Water Supply Conditions and Precipitation in California: The 2009 Water Year (October 1, 2008 through September 30, 2009) was the third consecutive year of below average precipitation for the state. In DWR Bulletin 120 series, Summary of Water Conditions, average statewide precipitation totaled 80 percent, 85 percent, and 65 percent of average for Water Years 2009, 2008, and 2007, respectively. According to DWR’s Bulletin 120, water year 2006 was 140 percent above average. Ironically, the average of the four years is 92 percent of normal precipitation; reservoir storage for that same period would have averaged out to 96 percent. Furthermore, at the end of 2009 statewide reservoir storage was averaging 80 percent of capacity. In addition, according to DWR’s Bulletin 120-4-10, in May 2010, statewide reservoir storage was at 95 percent, and statewide precipitation was at 110 percent.

         Conversely, during the previous drought, reservoir storage capacity statewide in 1992, the last year of that drought, was at 70 percent; average for the 1989-1992 period would have been 75 percent. Those numbers indicate that the 1989-1992 period were much more drastic than the recent “drought”. Yet, the 1989-1992 drought was not compared to the “Dust Bowl” or the Armageddon of California agriculture.

        Wet and dry cycles are a part of California’s climate, as is indicated by water runoff, which is illustrated in Figure 2. Precipitation varies widely from year to year. In average years, close to 200 million acre-feet (MAF) of water falls in the form of rain or snow in California. That is enough water to flood the entire state two feet deep in water.

      - Over half of that water soaks into the ground, evaporates or is used by native vegetation.      That leaves somewhere around 82 million-acre feet of usable surface water in average years.
      - About 75 percent of California’s available water occurs north of Sacramento, while about    80 percent of the demand occurs in the southern two-thirds of the state.
      - There have been about 30 years out of 92 (since 1918) or about one in every three years that the state includes as part of a drought period.

      The North Coast Hydrological Region produces the largest volume of runoff; however, it has limited storage capacity. The Sacramento River Basin is the second-richest water producing area, and has the largest volume of water storage capacity in California. The average annual runoff in the basin is around 18 million acre-feet of water, as is indicated in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Sacramento River Unimpaired Runoff Since 1906 – Source, DWR (Click to enlarge)
As indicated on the Sacramento River Unimpaired Runoff Since 1906, California has experienced eight- notable drought cycles, four of which occurred in: 1928-1934 (pre-government water project development); 1976-1977 (post SWP and CVP); 1987-1992; 2007-2009). A similar request for unimpaired runoff for the San Joaquin River watershed and a statewide graph was also requested; however, according to a DWR official, this information does not appear to exist. Water year types for the Sacramento Valley and the San Joaquin Valley can be viewed at http://cdec.water.ca.gov/water_supply.html.
MOTIVE FOR THE DROUGHT: Doubts are being raised as to why Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issue a drought proclamation at the onset of the below average conditions, and opted not to declared the drought as being over in 2010, when precipitation exceeded 110 percent of normal and statewide reservoir storage reach 95 percent of average.  Obviously, the drought proclamation opened up the floodgate to release hundreds of millions of dollars of public moneys used to fund so-called drought relief programs to a host of local water agencies and agricultural recipients http://www.water.ca.gov/lgagrant/docs/120309grant.pdf.  Also, when a state-of-emergency is proclaimed it essentially sets aside many regulatory and environmental safeguards; precipitating assertions that the Governor is using excerpts from the Chinatown script.
Next in the series: Harvesting Windfall Profits from the so-called Drought – While Funds for Public Safety-Net Programs and Jobs Dry Up. Other drought-related stories, published by the authors, can be obtained at the following websites: www.planetarysolutionaries.org; www.lloydgcarter.com or Google “Doubts About the Drought”.

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Monday, September 6, 2010

Who’s Behind the Bond?

Who’s Behind the Bond? How Proposition 18 Benefits Private Interests over the Public Good

California’s budget is in crisis; lawmakers are struggling to close a $19 billion deficit that threatens deep cuts to vital public services. But Go... (More)

California Waterloo – Tide of Debt May Shift from General Fund to Water Users

California Waterloo – Tide of Debt May Shift from General Fund to Water Users
by Dan Bacher
Patrick Porgans discloses how the Debt Affordability Report released by State Treasurer Bill Lockyer found that water infrastructure should be paid for by users, not the General Fund and the state's taxpayers as it has been for decades. Could this mark the beginning of the end for massive rip offs of water and taxpayers' money by Westlands Water District, corporate agribusiness and other wealthy water users, who have presided over the destruction of California's fisheries?

"Profiteering water users have been getting rich at the expense of unsuspecting taxpayers, who incur insurmountable debt to keep unsustainable agricultural 'operations' in the 'green' and out-of-the red," said Porgans. "Perhaps, as the Treasurer suggests, it is time for change."

The report was released at a time when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Darrell Steinberg and corporate agribusiness are pushing for the construction of a massive peripheral canal in order to export more water from the California Delta to southern California and agribusiness.The environmentally destructive project would cost anywhere from $23 billion to $53.8 billion, according to a recent report by Steve Kasower, economist.
Contact Patrick Porgans, Solutionist, Porgans & Associates, Inc. 415.306.3317

California Waterloo – Tide of Debt May Shift from General Fund to Water Users

On October 1, State Treasurer Bill Lockyer released the 2009 Debt Affordability Report. The report finds that, "further increasing the General Fund’s debt burden, especially in the next three difficult budgets, would require cutting even deeper into crucial services already reeling from billions of dollars in reductions." The Treasurer therefore found that water infrastructure should be paid for by users, not the General Fund.

Have “we the people” been laboring under a misapprehension or can it be that someone in political office has finally come to his senses. For almost a decade Porgans & Associates (P&A) have voiced concerns about the rising General Fund debt being incurred by Californians to bailout State Water Project (SWP) and other water users. P&A diligently reminded Californians and the “leadership” of the fact that the SWP was sold on the premise that it would pay-for-itself; the beneficiaries, water and power users would pay.

Furthermore, the SWP was also promoted on the premise it would unify the State. The record shows it has done neither. Conversely, the SWP is at the core of the Delta Collapse and the State’s never-ending water wars.

Treasurer Bill Lockyer’s recent epiphany that water infrastructure should be paid by users is a far-flung cry from his support and position on General Fund/General Obligation Bond funding for water users when he was Senate Pro Tem, back in the 1990s. It was at that time, Proposition 204, the first of a series of General Obligation Bonds, ultimately totaling more than $18 billion were launched. Repayment of GO Bonds comes out of the General Fund.

In fact, it was in the ante-chamber of the then Senate Pro Tem Lockyer’s office, back in the 1996, P&A openly tape-recorded former State Senator Costa (D), representing agricultural water use in the San Joaquin Valley, and the who’s who in California’s water contingent, caucusing an “impromptu” so-called “conference committee” discussion, pertaining to the General Obligation Bond poster-child bailout-funding scheme -- Proposition 204.

During that discussion, Senator Costa was the only one seated in the room, in which there was standing room only. Patrick Porgans was the only uninvited participant who witnessed the ante-chamber “legislative” process first hand.

Proposition 204, started out at about $250 million; however, before the discussion in the Senate Pro Tem’s anti- chamber was over, and the ink was dry on the proposed proposition, and all of the water users gave their input as to how many millions it would take for them to come on board the financially sinking SWP flotilla, the final number for Proposition 204 totaled $995 million, plus $776 million in interest. Total cost to the taxpayer is about $1.8 billion, which was more than what the entire SWP was sold to the voters back in 1960; which was $1.75 billion.

Essentially, the GO bond-funding scheme was designed to keep the unsustainable agricultural sectors in the San Joaquin Valley from going bankrupt. Although, Treasurer Lockyer was a player in that get-the-public-to pay script, he is to be commended as the first major elected official to take up the Legislative Analyst Office and the Little Hoover Commission’s recommendations that water users/beneficiaries should pay.

One wonders if his ephinany is a dollar short and a day late, after all, Proposition 204 was only the first of series of water and water-related General Obligation bond acts, commencing in 1996 through 2006; totaling $18.5 billion, with interest it is more than $30 billion. In reality, the “waterloo” that bought this ingenious-funding scheme to its end was the astronomical amount of debt that State incurred. The State is so far in debt that the only way it can get out from under its self-induced financial crisis is to cut jobs, essential services and contemplate selling off public assets.

As P&A has stated, in its 79-page Sixty Day Notice to sue the government, about $6.5 billion in GO bonds were expended through CalFed, which, essentially turned out as a qualified failure to “fix” the Bay-Delta Estuary. Albeit, when you add in the interest for the CalFed debacle, the costs almost double.

It has always been P&A’s objective to follow and expose the source and flow of money. In the process we have been very effective in shedding light on the underlying issues fueling California’s water crisis.

Profiteering water users have been getting rich at the expense of unsuspecting taxpayers, who incur insurmountable debt to keep unsustainable agricultural “operations” in the “green” and out-of-the red. Perhaps, as the Treasurer suggests, it is time for change.

Empowering You!

Grain Drain: The Hidden Cost of U.S. Rice Subsidies | Daniel Griswold | Cato Institute: Trade Briefing Paper

Grain Drain: The Hidden Cost of U.S. Rice Subsidies Daniel Griswold Cato Institute: Trade Briefing Paper

Water Column

PLANETARYSOLUTIONARIES is designed to provide insight and empirical knowledge as to how government “functions”, dispelling  the illusion that it is dysfunctional, and why it has become “buy”-functional (controlled and operated for the politically connected corporate interests) to amass their fortunes and retain their power base, in the administrative, legislative, and judicial branches of government.

It will reveal how and why government and big businesses’ actions affect our quality of life and the cost of living. Providing leverage-based solutions, prefaced upon 40 years of hands-on-experience, effectuating beneficial changes to assist and or compel government and business to be more responsive to the needs of society and the consumer.

Although government professes that there is a need to cut social programs and essential services to the public, it is not because there is a shortage of funds. Rather, it is more about the spending priorities influenced by corporate entities and billionaires, as to where the money is to be spent, which is generally for their vested interests.

Government Data Raises 'More Doubts About the Drought

Government Data Raises 'More Doubts About the Drought

Government Data Raises 'More Doubts About the Drought'by Dan Bacher
Wednesday Sep 1st, 2010 11:05 AM 

This outstanding article by Patrick Porgans of Planetary Solutionaries and author Lloyd Carter is the second in a series entitled, "Doubts about the Drought." This article exposes how the doomsday predictions by Schwarzenegger and state officials about the alleged three-year "drought" were all wet, since USDA figures reveal that agricultural earnings in California reached record breaking highs during these years.Further Info: Contact Planetary Solutionaries at pp@planetarysolutionaries.org, By: Patrick Porgans (415) 306-3317

Government Data Raises ‘More Doubts About the Drought’

California Agriculture Cashing In at Record Breaking Highs

The Golden State’s agricultural earnings have reached historic highs during the so-called three-year drought.
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture, (USDA), California’s cash receipts from crop and livestock sales, in billions of dollars, are as follows: 2009- $34.841; 2008- $38.407; 2007- $36.386; 2006- $31.426; 2005 - $32.4; 2004- $30.939; 2003- $28.232; 2002- $26.544; 2000 - $26.206; and 2000- $25.185.

California’s Governor Schwarzenegger, state water officials, 60 Minutes’ Leslie Stahl, and Fox Cable TV host Sean Hannity, were among those espousing their “Dust Bowl” drought rhetoric for the past three years, depicting images or fallow fields, orchards being ripped out and projections of the state’s agricultural industry going under. It appears their doomsday predictions were all wet.

Government data released yesterday by the USDA, does not support their draconian doom and gloom prophecies reminiscent of the “Great Drought – Dust Bowl” of the 1930’s, and their predictions that billions of dollars in lost revenues were imminent.

In fact, in 2008, the second year of what officials proclaimed as the state’s “worst drought ever”, agricultural “cash receipts” (revenues realized from all agricultural commodities produced in the Golden State) reached a record-breaking high of $38.4 billion (just recently revised from the initial 2008 estimate of $36.2 billion), up from the previous all-time high in 2007 of $36.4 billion.

But wait, in 2009 the third year of the government “proclaimed drought”, agricultural cash receipts reach $34.8 billion. There’s more, the state’s 75,000 farms and ranches received a record $36.4 billion for their output in 2007, up from $31.8 billion in receipts a year earlier (2006), which was a very wet year. The previous high for the state’s annual cash receipts was reached in 2005 when sales totaled $32.4 billion.

Furthermore, the reduction in cash receipts from 2008 to 2009 is predominately attributed to the significant reduction in California’s decline in revenue was led by the dairy sector, not the results of the “drought” or curtailment in Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta water exports, purportedly to protect a three-inch fish. Dairy producers received $4.54 billion for their milk production in 2009, down 34 percent from 2008, and down 38 percent from the 2007 record high of $7.34 billion.  (Source: Cooperating with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, · www.nass.usda.gov/ca, Media Contact: Kelly Krug, (916) 498-5161 or 1-800-851-1127 · August 31, 2010)

According to the USDA’s report dairy - “Herd size decreased 3 percent from 2008. Milk production from the State’s dairy farms decreased 4 percent. Milk prices received by producers continued to fall from $18.05 in 2007 to $16.82 in 2008 to $11.49 per hundred pounds of milk sold in 2009. California produced 18.6 percent of the nation’s milk supply last year. The volatile beginning to 2009 dairy pricing had a negative impact on both dairy income and total farm revenues in 2009. Milk prices remained low for the first 7 months before beginning to recover.”

The record-breaking cash receipts raise questions and doubts about the government’s motive. Critics claim that this is yet another testament of how government, the agricultural industry and the water agencies are “milking the drought” as a means to instill fear among Californians to gain public support for another $11 billion General Obligation Bond bailout to subsidize cheap water for the water buffaloes, while the masses suffer from the debt-ridden General Fund and draconian cuts in jobs, health care, safety net programs, schools, and a much higher cost for the state to borrow money.

According to the government, Agricultural Statistical Review, “Almond Cash Receipts, 1998-2007”, indicate that revenues peaked in 2005, years before the “pre-drought proclamation”, and show a steady decline each year thereafter. Essentially, they saturated the market.

Coincidentally, the government’s records show that during California’s previous drought, which occurred from the years 1987 through 1992, and, if the government’s records are valid, was, without question, a much worse drought then this latest so-called drought, which occurred when ranchers/farmers/agribusinesses were planting new almond orchards in the San Joaquin Valley.

The records also attest to the fact that between 1998 and 2001, cash receipts from almond production remain relatively constant at around $700 million annually. The increase in almond production (new orchards) was done with the full knowledge that the risk of a drought could have potential adverse impacts on permanent crops, which absolutely require water every year. 

However, that apparently did not serve as a deterrent. Be mindful that many of the major government surface water projects were built as back-up supplies during droughts; it is customary to use more groundwater during dry periods, even if it cost more. Fortunately, California has 10 times the amount of “useable” groundwater than it has stored in all of its surface reservoirs.

In their rhetoric, the officials and the media, showed pictures of almond orchards being ripped out in certain areas of the arid San Joaquin Valley; however, they failed to inform the public that in some cases those orchards were being ripped out and replaced with a higher and more productive variety of almonds, and/or because some of the orchards had outlived their useful production years.

The global financial crisis also played a key role in the demands for certain high-end agricultural commodities, as did naturally occurring climatic cycles and the related agricultural production elsewhere on the planet. The financial crisis was also aided and abetted by the very same government officials whom are entrusted to protect the public’s interest. ý Copyright © 2010

Porgans and author Lloyd G. Carter are involved in publishing a series of articles, entitled: “Doubts About the Drought. For more information you can Google Hay! Doubts About the Drought, or visit the following websites; www.planetarysolutionaries.org and www.lloydgcarter.com   blogs.alternet.org/danbacher/.../hay-doubts-about-the-drought/?
 The next of this series, “Doubts About the Drought – Whether the Weather Mattered