Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Agricultural Jobs Data for 2021 Show Drought Impacts

The best quality jobs data (QCEW) was released earliest this month through the end of 2021, and gives the first reliable data on the state of agricultural employment during 2021, a year impacted by drought and lingering impacts of Covid.  The graphs below show employment and wages data over time for all of California in NAICS 11 (Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting). Agriculture accounts for 99% of jobs in this industry category in California.

As you can see on the graph, jobs had steadied near 423,000 in the years prior to Covid, and then declined by about 15,000 during the first year of the pandemic.  In 2021, Covid impacts on the farm labor were lower, but drought impacts likely prevented recovery.

While I say this is the first reliable data, UC-Merced (in partnership with others) released a projection in February 2022 that the drought eliminated 8,744 jobs in California agriculture compared to what they would expect in non-drought conditions.  Their estimates suggest 2021 employment would have been just under 420,000 in the absence of drought.  That seems pretty accurate to me and I am happy to see that this modeling of drought impacts seems to be much better than what UC was producing a decade or so ago.         

Overall, this is just over a 2% decline in employment relative to non-drought conditions.  While drought employment declines grab the headlines, the more impactful story in the ag jobs data is the continued strong growth in wages.  Average wages in the agriculture industry in California increased again in 2021, and have risen about 60% over the past decade (not adjusted for inflation) after years of stagnation.  While it is still the lowest-paying sector in California, this wage growth is significant and has benefited thousands.  

What will 2022 bring?  The drought continues, and the impacts of the pandemic and less abundant and more expensive labor are also continuing to some degree.  Thus, a recovery is unlikely this year.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Stanford scientists find that the Delta Conveyance Project is a much worse idea than converting Diablo Canyon into a giant nuclear-powered desalination plant.


A recent study from Stanford scientists has caused some policy makers, including Governor Newsom, to reconsider the timeline for closing the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, California's last operating nuclear plant.


Among the future visions for Diablo Canyon plant evaluated in the study was using it as a mega-scale desalination facility.  Mega-scale nuclear-powered desalination!  I can see my environmentalist friends recoiling in horror at the idea.  I am not persuaded it is a good idea either, but the Stanford team clearly demonstrated that it is far from the worse idea in California water.

Here is the second highlighted finding in the Executive Summary

Using Diablo Canyon as a power source for desalination could substantially augment fresh water supplies to the state as a whole and to critically overdrafted basins regions such as the Central Valley, producing fresh water volumes equal to or substantially exceeding those of the proposed Delta Conveyance Project—but at significantly lower investment cost 

Here are some quotes from the desalination chapter,

One of the intermediate sized Diablo Canyon-powered desalination options would produce significantly more fresh water than the highest estimate of the net yield from the proposed Delta Conveyance Project at less than half of the investment cost.

It is also notable that the projected capital cost of the Delta Conveyance Project, at $15.9 Billion, is more than twice the capital cost of the Diablo Canyon Desalination Option 2, discussed below, which, at a capital cost of approximately $6.5 Billion, yields up to seven times the amount as the DCP. 

This comparison really caught my attention because pre-Covid I had given one or two talks on the Delta Conveyance Project where I started by comparing the State Water Project and Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant with a series of multiple-choice questions.   In a future post (yes I am aware I have not posted here in nearly a year), I will dust off that quiz and add some content from the Stanford report.