Pacific Institute Responds to the CFWC’s Attack on “Energy Down the Drain”

NOTE: The Pacific Institute and the NRDC published “Energy Down the Drain,” a report that looks at the connections between water use, energy use, and air pollution in August of 2004. Soon after, the California Farm Water Coalition published a criticism (new window) of our report that misrepresents our conclusions and our work. We have published the statement below in response.

December 4, 2004, Oakland, CA: The Pacific Institute welcomes the California Farm Water Coalition’s (CFWC) scrutiny of our recent report, “Energy Down the Drain,” which was co-produced with the NRDC.

We are, however, extremely disappointed that Mike Wade, Executive Director of the CFWC, makes inaccurate and false comments about our organization and our work in an effort to rebut the content of the report.

Our report’s message is clear and irrefutable: Water use decisions can have significant energy impacts. Being aware of this connection can help to reduce energy use and cut the amount of pollution in our skies. And indeed, Mr. Wade leaves this central assertion unchallenged.

Instead, Mr. Wade claims that we are making this point because we “want farmer’s water” for environmental purposes. On the contrary, one could conclude, based on our report, that water for the environment should come from cities since that would often yield higher energy savings. Or one might conclude that agriculture-to-urban water transfers are a bad idea because they often increase energy use, a point which “protects” farm water. We leave these types of conclusions to readers; our point is that the energy dimensions of water management are significant and need to be considered.

Mr. Wade makes another serious error when he claims that the Pacific Institute is “bent on establishing a conservation approach to all water use in an effort to prevent the development of additional water supplies…” As we have clearly stated in a wide range of publications and presentations we are not opposed to new water infrastructure once more cost-effective efficiency improvements have been made — nor are we opposed to projects focused on increasing the reliability and flexibility of our existing water system. We do, however, oppose spending scarce taxpayer money irresponsibly on boondoggles that bring few benefits. We also oppose subsidies that hurt California’s economy.

“Energy Down the Drain” asks policy makers and water users to think about energy use when making decisions about water issues. Better understanding this relationship will help us make better decisions – benefiting everyone across the state.

While we welcome open and honest discussion about any of the issues we work on, Mr. Wades’ attacks against our work and our organization are irresponsible, inaccurate, and baseless. Despite his distortions, we look forward to working with the majority of responsible farmers, urban users, water agencies, and other stakeholders to fashion a cost-effective, sustainable, and equitable approach to managing California’s water.

Dr. Gary H. Wolff, Principal Economist and Engineer
Dr. Peter Gleick, President