Monday, March 28, 2022





        Very quietly, the University of California’s faculty has for almost half a year been considering putting at risk the institution’s tax exempt status and its longstanding impeccable credentials as an impartial source of reliable information.


        This is not the first time UC has seriously contemplated a harebrained move – and sometimes those moves actually get made. Only last year, for one example, UC decided it would no longer require prospective freshmen to take standardized exams like the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or those of the American College Testing Program (ACT).


        Instead, UC admissions now rely primarily on high school grades, meaning all high schools are considered equal, even though every parent in California knows there are vast differences in quality of curriculum and instruction.



        Amazingly, the faculty which votes on these sometimes fashionable and politically correct moves is loaded with folks holding Ph.D. degrees from the world’s top universities, with a fair sprinkling of Nobel Prize laureates among them.


        This group’s latest senseless proposal, kept mostly quiet until a UC Santa Cruz professor let the cat out of the bag early this month, would allow academic departments to take official stances on political issues of all kinds. This proposal originated last fall in a letter from the head of UC’s Committee on Academic Freedom to the system-wide Academic Senate’s top official.


        “Departments should not be precluded from issuing or endorsing statements,” said the letter from UC Berkeley law Prof. Ty Alper to fellow Berkeley Prof. Robert Horwitz. The letter admitted “such statements are sometimes ill-advised and have the potential to chill or intimidate minority views.” But it said that’s OK, so long as minority views are explicitly included as addenda and the names of those voting for the official statement are revealed.


        Of course, those very actions do chill minority views and would influence hiring of new faculty, who in UC’s confidential processes could easily be weeded out because of political views.


        Officially sanctioning such statements on issues from elections to international affairs to scientific beliefs would essentially make UC departments political institutions. That could quickly cost the university its tax exempt status, which now gives alumni and other donors large and small tax writeoffs for every penny they contribute.


        It’s not as if individual faculty members don’t already have complete freedom to express any idea or thought they like. That’s how, for just one example, former UC Prof. Linus Pauling became known as “the father of Vitamin C” and also won a Nobel Peace Prize for his activism in favor of nuclear disarmament.


        Similar policies of complete individual license at the California State University system (which would surely imitate any actual UC action on the current proposal) allowed Ku Klux Klan ally Kevin McDonald, long blasted by the Southern Poverty Law Center and others as a “racist” and an “anti-Semite,” to remain a psychology professor at Long Beach State until he retired.


        They allow some departments at San Francisco State to be almost completely politicized, too, even if those departments don’t official adopt the ideas preached by some of their more vocal faculty members.


        It’s not as if departments don’t already go rogue sometimes, with stances on Israel’s policies, climate change and other issues. Departments may call these positions official, but under a UC policy in effect since 1970, they’re not.


        The policy states that “The name, insignia, seal or address of the university or any of its offices or units shall not be used for or in connection with political purposes or activity.” The policy also bans political campaigning on campuses.


        That’s the way it should and must be, if UC is to be sure of maintaining both its tax status and its reputation for impartial intellectual honesty.


        If anything, the current effort by Alper’s faculty committee ought to serve as a warning to UC’s Board of Regents to be more vigilant in enforcing its longstanding and upstanding policy.


        Otherwise, why pretend the university or its

departments are impartial observers or analysts of anything at all, from vaccines to political candidates?


    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit 






        For the more than 110,000 Californians now residing in California’s more than 1,250 skilled nursing facilities, no legislative bill this year is more important than AB 1502, carried by Democratic Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi of Torrance.


        That’s mostly because it aims to clean up the way nursing homes operate by compelling the state to investigate and regulate the homes’ owners and operators.


        Among the homes, says Muratsuchi, there is constant “churn.” Churn can often mean that commitments are not kept.


        Example: In a case conference last May, a nursing home director firmly committed herself and her staff to ask one 77-year-old resident each day whether he wants to get out of bed.

The highly-educated man, a longtime teacher of handicapped children and adults, is now himself so disabled he cannot get out of bed on his own.


        The home made good on its commitment for a couple of months, until there was a change of owners and some significant staff turnover.


        For the last several months, the individual has usually been kept abed for a week or so at a time, lacking access even to the desktop computer that is his only way to communicate with the outside world because of his congenital deafness. The promises of the home’s former regime mean nothing today, making this man’s life unstimulating and more lonely than it needs to be.


        Adding to this are continuing state rules that require all visitors to have had a negative Covid test within the last two days. Casual or spontaneous visits from friends or relatives, once common, are thus virtually impossible.


        So most nursing home residents, despite a thorough vaccination program in the facilities that cut by 96 percent the death rates seen there early in the pandemic, are almost as isolated as they were in COVID-19’s early days, when virtually no visitors were allowed – a major detriment to the residents’ mental health and heartbreaking to relatives outside.


        Muratsuchi’s proposed new law aims to fix this by going straight to one main source of the problems: ownership. Nursing home owners with histories of repeat bankruptcies are not unusual. Others lack the financial resources to keep homes operating at a high level if Medicare or Medi-Cal payments are delayed.


        Says the bill summary, the lives of thousands “are endangered by the state Department of Public Health and its failure to prevent unfit owners from (taking over) skilled nursing facilities.”


        The proposed fix would demand that anyone acquiring more than 5 percent ownership of a home be vetted carefully over 120 days before the takeover date, and face rejection if they have a history of bankruptcies or crimes or lack fiscal resources,


        The bill doesn’t spell this out, but such regulation could also end another big problem for nursing home residents, who by federal law are supposed to be asked at least four times yearly if they want to move back into the surrounding community.


        Most nursing homes, the federal government reported in 2016, “never ask, or nearly never ask” residents about this, even if they have the financial resources to move back outside.


        The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that such movement is “a basic civil right” if the residents are able and willing.


        Meanwhile, Covid health requirements imposed on would-be visitors do not apply to staffers, who studies say were the main source of infections that caused nursing homes to account for 45 percent of all Covid deaths in pre-vaccine days.


        At the same time, Covid safety requirements imposed on nursing home visitors are not imposed on comparable hospital visitors, even though many hospitalized patients are far more vulnerable than nursing home residents of similar age.


        All of which means nursing home residents today are not much better off and not much more accessible to friends and relatives than they were when the virus raged uncontrolled through the homes.


        Muratsuchi’s plan to attack the problem from the top, by making sure of the fitness of assisted living home ownership is right now the best hope for widespread lifestyle improvements in nursing homes. Even if it won’t solve every problem, it would be a large step in the right direction.


    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit


Monday, March 21, 2022






        Every day, major pundits and others – mostly on the liberal Democratic side of the ledger – bewail the threat to democracy in new laws adopted by several Republican-controlled states that appear to restrict minority voting rights.


        They’re mostly correct. With no proof, backers of those new laws assume every person living in this country legally has the government documents the new laws require before many voters can vote by mail, vote early or even go to an ordinary polling place.


        But there’s a far bigger threat waiting in the weeds, one that could threaten not only voting rights, but many others assured by the federal and state constitutions, from abortion on demand to emergency room health care and much more.

        This threat goes by the name of “Convention of the States Action.” It is the work of far-right activists who claim they mean no harm to anyone, but want a new constitutional convention similar to the one conducted in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787, several years after the Revolutionary War.


        This putative new convention is authorized by Article V of the existing Constitution and would have the authority to change almost everything in that most hallowed blueprint of American democracy, so long as 38 state legislatures agree.


        Right now, that seems like an impossible number. But only 34 legislatures need to vote for a convention for it to happen, and 18 have already approved, most recently West Virginia, whose state House and Senate okayed the convention on just one day in February. One legislative chamber in each of eight other states has also approved.


        So a new constitutional convention is now more than halfway to reality, with no time limit on when other states can join the effort and no time limit on when the other halves of partially-approving states can vote.


        So far, the effort looks like a purely GOP thing, with approving states including Florida, Texas, Alabama and more than a dozen other GOP-controlled states. No Democratically-run state is on the list.


        Individual backers include Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Donald Trump cabinet member Ben Carson, former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and ex-Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. That’s essentially a list of conservative Republican luminaries.


        Sponsors of the potential convention say it would be strictly limited to discussing Constitutional amendments that “limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, impose fiscal restraints and place term limits on federal officials.”


        But there is nothing in Article V limiting what a new convention could pass.


        How many Americans today believe the current Bill of Rights, with its freedoms of speech, press and assembly, plus its ban on formal connections between church and state would survive in a convention dominated by Republicans loyal to ex-President Trump?


        Even if the convention were to observe the limits its sponsors suggest, it’s plain that health care, freedom of movement between states, allowing states to make almost all land use decisions within their borders and the basic rights guaranteed today have fiscal implications. A convention could pass an amendment banning abortions that would supersede state laws like those assuring the procedures would continue in California even if the Supreme Court negates the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.


        It could also end birthright citizenship, under which anyone born here is automatically a citizen, wherever their parents hailed from. That could be done in the name of ending immigration by pregnant women, the rationale being that schooling their children here is a public expense.


        So in reality, there would be no limits on such a convention and its products, if 38 states ratify them. Article V sets no time limit for ratification, so these things could be voted on in various states years or decades down the line, when political leanings in many places may have changed.


        There’s a reason why no constitutional convention has been held since the original one: A general sense of the danger in letting anyone tinker with or reverse basic American principles. That’s exactly what a convention of the states could bring, and that’s why it’s such a dangerous possibility.


    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit






        For anyone who’s lived more than a few months in California, the current gasoline price spike to as much as $8 per gallon probably seems like déjà vu all over again.


        You might, in fact, call this “gas gouging 10.0” because it is the 10th time in the last 12 years that gasoline prices have risen suddenly and far more than external circumstances can justify.


        It’s too early to class this episode as pure gasoline price gouging, because we are months away from getting the quarterly financial statements of the oil companies that dominate the California market: Valero, Marathon, Chevron, PBF Energy and Phillips 66. Together, these firms control about 95 percent of  California gasoline supplies.


        Do the math: The average price per gallon of regular gasoline in California stood at $5.99 in late March, up about $1.45 over the previous month. That’s an increase of more than 25 percent. The oil industry blames the rise, which most sharply skewered motorists immediately after President Biden embargoed Russian oil, on the war in Ukraine.


        But Russian oil accounts for barely 3 percent of local supply, so why should its absence raise prices by 30 percent? Right, it should not, even if international oil prices rose somewhat after the ban started. What’s more, when worldwide prices dropped $30 per barrel during the spike, pump prices actually rose a bit more.


        When he imposed the embargo, Biden said the federal government would tolerate no gas price gouging. But the government has been helpless to stop what is apparently just that.


        California has seen this many times. It was almost as dramatic in 2016, when prices also rose sharply, topping $4 per gallon for the first time in many places.


        Then, as now, the oil companies denied any gouging. Crude oil prices were lower than they’d been in half a generation, mostly because of large supplies from fracking in much of the American West and in Pennsylvania and the Dakotas. At that time, the former Texas-based Tesoro Corp. took $423 million in profits from California drivers alone during the fourth quarter of 2016. Former Tesoro facilities, now part of Marathon Oil, make about 27 percent of California gasoline, sold under the Shell, ExxonMobil and USA labels, plus a few others.


        Valero, meanwhile, quadrupled its usual quarterly profits from California while the 2016 spike lasted, making $882 million in that period.


        We don’t yet have figures covering the time-span of the present price hikes, nor do we know how long they will last. But there’s a sheep-like quality to most California politicians as they propose government rebate checks and tinkering with gas taxes rather than attacking the real problem – oil company greed.


        One exception to this pattern is Democratic state Sen. Ben Allen of western Los Angeles County, who proposes that oil refiners be forced to disclose once a month their per-gallon gasoline profit margins and what they pay for crude oil. He says this would allow Californians to know at last just how much the oil companies profit from their gasoline gouging.


        Said Allen, “We ask the oil companies: Let’s end the…smoke and mirrors. Open your books and show the public your true costs of doing business.”


        Good luck, Ben. As far back as the 1970s, former Democratic Assemblyman Walter Karabian of eastern Los Angeles County proposed a very similar measure and was quickly voted down. When he pushed the same ideas during a run for secretary of state, he was easily beaten in a primary by a rival funded in large part by the oil industry.


        Allen cannot reasonably expect his new measure to do much better this spring in a Legislature where the oil industry remains a major campaign donor.


        That does not make it any less necessary than it was in Karabian’s heyday, a time when gas first surpassed the dreaded level of $1 per gallon. Also, oil companies should be forced to break out their California profits from other locales in their financial statements.


        Otherwise, their denials of gas price gouging will always ring as hollow as they have for most of the last 50 years.


    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit


Monday, March 14, 2022







        Rarely has a major group of Californians suffered a less deserved rash of insults and attacks than the myriad homeowners often described as “NIMBYs” – an acronym for folks who may favor new developments, but “not in my backyard.”


        NIMBYs have killed liquefied natural gas projects pushed by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Southern California Gas, thus saving California consumers billions of dollars in rates they otherwise would have paid for generations for unneeded and dangerous gas imports.


        They’ve prevented building prisons in urban areas, thus sending murderers, rapists, burglars and more to isolated areas where escapees are less likely to harm anyone than if they make off into crowded neighborhoods.


        They kept freeways from running through the greenest (and most expensive) residential parts of the state.


        Now they often fight placement of permanent supportive housing for the previously homeless in their areas, because those developments sometimes bring crime increases with them. They also have pushed cities and counties to clean up or wipe away encampments of the unhoused, often placed beneath freeway bridges.


        Their moves, whether flawed or beneficial for all law-abiding Californians, mostly drew invective and eventually spawned creation of a opposing group called California YIMBY (yes in my backyard), largely funded by developers who essentially want a license to build what they want, where they want, and never mind the cost to the mental or financial health of anyone living in the area.


        Nowhere have supposed NIMBYs taken more heat than in Berkeley today. In the wake of a court decision won by a homeowners group called “Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods,” the academically choice UC campus there claimed it would have to accept more than 3,000 fewer students for the next academic year than planned.


        In this dramatic town vs. gown dispute, the homeowner group won a ruling that some say will force the onetime flagship campus of UC (these days, UCLA is higher ranked and gets more applicants) to lower its planned enrollment.


        The residents essentially complained that adding thousands of enrollees could produce a new corps of homeless students or drive up rents in the area so high that current occupants might be forced out. They also griped that introducing thousands of new student residents into off-campus housing would create nightly noise problems for other residents.


        And, using a sometimes maligned law called the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), they won in California courts at every level.


        For this, they were labelled “reactionaries” and “backward” and “selfish” by some of the state’s largest newspapers and television stations.


        Meanwhile, after taking a closer look, something that perhaps should have been done before the neighborhood group went to court, the Berkeley campus concluded things would not be so drastic after all: It turns out a thousand or so of the new enrollees can take classes online wherever they live, others can wait six months and then enroll, and no one need be deprived of an education, as critics of the so-called NIMBYs all the way up to a dissenting state Supreme Court justice, had claimed.


        In fact, the folks labeled NIMBYs previously accepted many campus expansions, but resisted this one primarily because UC did not build new quarters for its new students. Yes, that was proposed, but the campus conveniently did not examine all the effects of its putative expansion on the area, and no construction was imminent in any case. The neighbors, then, are really being lambasted for a failure by campus officials to take care of needed business and preparation.


        But blasting NIMBYs is politically correct in this era, when YIMBY has claimed SB 9, a new law it helped push through the Legislature last year, would simply allow homeowners to make duplexes of their single-family homes. That’s untrue: The 2021 law actually allows at least six new units on virtually every current single-family lot in California.


        Politicians also find it convenient to blast what they call NIMBYism whenever their proposals are exposed as harmful to many Californians. Not surprisingly, dozens of today’s legislators, and the governor, have been major beneficiaries of campaign donations from developers and building trade unions who want to build anywhere they can.


        All of which means the current anti-NIMBY fashion is often hooey. Informed Californians must learn to see through it.



    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit







        Big change was in store for people like John Garamendi and Ken Calvert and Raul Ruiz from the moment California’s bipartisan and fairly apolitical redistricting commission published its final maps in mid-December.


        But only now that the March 11 filing deadline has passed can we see which longtime members of Congress will be threatened and who will not.


Garamendi, a onetime lieutenant governor, looks fine, even though much of his old district may soon go to fellow Democrat Josh Hawley, who has mostly represented territory a little south of his new 13th District. Hawley also looks safe.


        But longtime Republican Rep. Ken Calvert can’t be so sanguine.


        Calvert, an Inland Empire congressman who has represented districts with numbers 42 and 43 since 1993, now must run in the new 41st. He gets to keep his hometown of Corona, once near the center of his territory, but that city sits in the far western portion of his new district. More populous are added cities like Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage, the heart of the Coachella Valley constituency that has sent Democrat Ruiz to Washington, D.C., since 2013.


        Calvert may have trouble defending the new seat, which also includes cities like Anza and Calimesa, but if it had been a district in 2020, it would have voted for ex-President Donald Trump by a 1 percent margin. Calvert’s old district went for Trump by 7 percent.


        Ruiz, meanwhile, keeps the far eastern Coachella Valley parts of his old district centering on Indio, and gets new territory extending south toward the Imperial Valley and the Mexican border. He looks safe, but has said he’s chagrined at losing the unity of his old district covering the area from Palm Springs east.


        Who both men face next fall will be determined in the state’s June 7 “jungle” primary, where the two leading vote-getters move on to the November runoff election. So far, Calvert appears likely to face tougher competition than Ruiz.


        Further west, in the new 47th District of Orange County, including cities from Seal Beach in the north to Laguna Beach in the south and swinging inland to take in Orange and Irvine, two-term incumbent Katie Porter looks like a survivor. She has already run off former one-term fellow Democratic Congressman Harley Rouda and may face onetime county Republican chairman Scott Baugh this fall, but has far more money on hand than any potential opponent.


        In the Sacramento area, current Placer County Republican Rep. Tom McClintock moves south to a new and very safely conservative district stretching toward the Nevada state line. Current Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, who represents some of northeast Sacramento and suburbs, along with Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones will contest in June, together with a few Democrats. One of them could survive into November if Kiley and Jones essentially split the GOP vote in the new 3rd District.


        For reasons unknown, Kiley believes the 3.5 percent of the recall replacement vote he got in last fall’s gubernatorial recall election qualifies him to advance. But he polled a mere 15.6 percent in Placer County, which he has represented in the Legislature and which is the population key to the new district.


        In the central San Joaquin Valley, the oft-challenged Republican Rep. David Valadao, one of the very few GOP congressmen voting to impeach Trump in early 2021, will run in a new district that seems even more Latino and Democratic than his old one, where he split the last two elections with Democrat T.J. Cox.


        He’s expected to face Democratic Assemblyman Rudy Salas this fall in what could be a tight election.


        The bottom line is that there are new districts like these all around California, one reason folks like Rouda and current representatives like Jerry McNerney and Jackie Speier are getting out of this rat race and retiring.


        For folks like Calvert and Garamendi, who have not previously had to worry much about reelection races, the anxiety the contests bring is unwelcome.


        It could also bring newer, more energetic representation to the state, and maybe even a more unified purpose to the entire 52-person congressional delegation.


        The primary will begin to tell that story.       



    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit


Suggested pull-out quote: “Kiley believes 3.5 percent of the recall replacement vote last fall qualifies him to advance.”



Monday, March 7, 2022







Blockbusting. A technique used to encourage people to sell their property by giving the impression that a neighborhood is changing for the worse, causing property values to decline. The property is later resold at inflated prices.


Definition 2, American Heritage Dictionary


     Blockbusting has not been a major force in California life since the early 1980s, when civil rights laws took hold strongly. Those laws prevented brokers from trying to scare white homeowners into selling quickly and at a loss just because a family of another race moves into a residential neighborhood, the prime definition of blockbusting.


      Now a new era of blockbusting may be upon us, thanks to the landmark housing density laws passed last year, known as SB 9 and SB 10. SB 9 does away with almost all single family, or R-1, zoning by allowing all but a few residential lots to be split down the middle, with two new apartments or condominiums and an "additional dwelling unit" (grandma-style one-room structure) on each half.


        So SB 9 essentially allows six housing units on virtually all lots where there now is only one, everywhere in California. Cities and counties cannot stop this. SB 10, aiming to radically densify housing near light rail transit stops or major bus routes, allows high-rise development on any lot within half a mile of those transportation features.


        Neither bill requires developers to provide new parking, new water supplies, new school buildings, new parks, traffic mitigation or any other community amenity in exchange for the right to build.


        Developers merely need to get control of properties they want to remake.


        This is an open invitation to blockbusting, as described in Definition 2. If it happens, it will eventually lower property values in current R-1 areas at least temporarily and raise them in places where the current occupants move.


        Much of this could have been prevented if a proposed initiative to take land-use decisions away from state government and give them permanently and completely to local city and county elected officials had reached this fall’s ballot and passed.


        But in late February, sponsors of that putative measure, known as “Our Neighborhood Voices,” announced they’ve given up on qualifying the measure for a vote this fall and will aim instead for 2024.


        “We are not stopping, we are not slowing down, we are not ever going to give up until we have restored a neighborhood voice in community planning,” went the plaintive declaration of Redondo Beach Mayor Bill Brand, a sponsor of the proposed measure.


        Translation: The group saw it had neither the money nor personnel to gather enough signatures in time to qualify the measure this year. This may be because sponsors failed to raise enough cash to pay the army of petition carriers needed to get the 1 million-plus signatures now required. The number will be different, likely lower, for 2024.


        It all opens the door to three years of unmitigated, virtually unregulated development, and very likely a form of blockbusting much like that described in Definition 2 above.


        Here’s how that blockbusting might work:


        Let’s say you own a suburban three-bedroom. two-bath house. A developer offers you $1.5 million for your home, as is (such offers have lately been common). You refuse. But your next-door neighbor to the east accepts the offer and quickly moves somewhere cheaper.


        Next, developers buy the homes to your west and across the street. Now you’re surrounded, knowing you face a year or more of demolition and construction dust and noise from all sides, newly crowded streets and no possible return to the lifestyle in which you invested much of your life savings.


        So you accept an offer lower than what was originally proffered. Now there will be 24 housing units where previously there were four, and original property values have dropped.


        But when you try to buy in a new location, you find prices there have risen because of an influx of folks just like you.


        It’s classic blockbusting, even if it’s not racially based, as blockbusting traditionally was. And it may soon become ubiquitous.



    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit






      A new judgment day arrives soon for rooftop solar development in California, with the state’s Public Utilities Commission due to issue a rewrite of its abortive attempt to dun current and future residential solar owners unprecedented sums, thus discouraging development of home-based solar energy.


        Never mind that more than 1 million homes in this state have solar panels, making California a world leader in localized use of energy from the sun.


        Never mind also that cutting back expansion of rooftop solar would compel utilities like Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric to buy ever more energy from solar thermal plants in remote parts of the state’s vast and sun-drenched deserts.


        There’s nothing these privately-owned, profit-driven utilities want more than that. For them, buying power from distant solar farms means vast profits. That’s because getting the desert’s solar power to cities requires hundreds of miles of new transmission lines, which cost many billions of dollars.


        Since the private utilities get a guaranteed rate of return (e.g. profit) on capital investment that usually varies between 10 percent and 14 percent per year for 20 years, the more desert-based solar thermal, the more money they collect from customers.


        So it was no wonder the utilities all lined up behind the PUC’s clumsy first attempt at cutting back rooftop solar. They even financed the largest “citizen” group pushing for that change.


The attempt, killed just before it could be adopted in late January, would have assessed new monthly fees for owning rooftop solar, also reducing payments to owners when they send excess energy to the state’s overall electric grid.


        Opponents call the present system a “subsidy” of the rich by the poor and others, including renters who don’t control their rooftops. And it is, to a degree. But those folks would pay far more in rate increases from new solar thermal transmission lines than they now pay in unofficial subsidies to rooftop solar owners.


        Not a single official analysis of the PUC’s now-dormant proposal even mentioned this key fact. The precise amount of new rate increases to assure utilities profit from new power lines remains unknown, because no one can yet predict how much more solar thermal power they will buy.


        Because the PUC’s plan did not mention this reality, it was incomplete and deceptive. Similarly, when PG&E happily applies for rate increases to pay for undergrounding many of its fire-prone lines, it also won’t mention its guaranteed new profits.


        Gov. Gavin Newsom also didn’t mention this when he demanded the PUC change its proposed new solar pricing system. He responded only to complaints from rooftop owners who disliked the planned new structure and to complaints it would cost thousands of “green” solar-installation jobs.


        But there is no doubt the PUC knew it was ignoring a vital factor in the pricing of solar power.


        Said a February 2021 PUC study on electric rates of the last 10 years and the next decade, “The growth in rates can be largely attributed to increases in capital additions…in transmission and distribution.”


        The study went on to forecast a 10-year average annual price increase for power from PG&E at 3.7 percent. The figures were 3.5 percent for Edison and 4.7 percent for SDG&E.


        That would give each company guaranteed rate increases just about the same as those they’ve gotten over the last nine years, when PG&E prices rose by 37 percent and SDG&E rates by 48 percent, according to the report.


        It is plain dishonest for the PUC and critics of the present rooftop solar program to ignore this reality and claim the pulled-back proposal would have meant savings for renters and lower-income electric customers.


        But dishonesty rarely stops the often scandal-plagued PUC. It has played ball with the utility companies, in matters as varied as wildfire expenses, by reportedly not collecting fines it claims to assess and by forcing customers to pay for the Edison-caused shutdown of the San Onofre Nuclear Power Station (SONGS).


        The discredited rooftop solar plan was part of that old song, and the new plan will be, too, unless it strongly factors in utility profit increases and rate hikes that would follow decreased rooftop solar installations.




     Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, go to