California Drought: Higher Food Prices, Fewer Jobs, Less Power
by Joel B. Pollak 20 Jan 2014, 5:54 AM PDT
California's severe drought could have wide-ranging effects beyond familiar water restrictions, ranging from higher food prices to a power shortage in the state. The Fresno Bee reports that farmers in parts of California are leaving fields to lie fallow, bulldozing fruit trees and selling cattle stocks prematurely--all of which could add up to higher food prices around the country if production elsewhere does not pick up the shortfall.
In addition, the lack of rainfall could mean that many of the state's hydroelectric plants, powered by reservoir dams, will struggle to generate power for the region. The ten most powerful hydroelectric plants generate some 2,500 megawatts, more than the 2,150 megawatts once produced by the recently shuttered San Onofre nuclear plant. That, in turn, could lead to rationing of usage and potentially higher prices for scarce supplies of power.
These impacts add up to potentially higher unemployment--and not just in the state's agricultural regions. Gov. Jerry Brown, who came into office in a time when rainfall was plentiful, declared a state drought emergency on Jan. 17. He will face the greatest administrative challenge of his new term in office as he navigates looming battles over water resources and strain on the state's budget--all in the context of a campaign for re-election.