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Mitzvah Moments - January 2014


Mitzvah Moments - January 2014

The Good News and the Bad

by Tish Levee

There’s water, water everywhere. And that’s the good news (except for those of us living in a flood area). The December rains have been tremendous, the reservoirs are filling up, and everyone is breathing easier. Rainfall totals through December 20th for Santa Rosa alone were over 140% of average.

The bad news is that the drought isn’t over. It’s “not even close,” says Jeffrey Mount, a senior fellow with the Public Policy Institute of California, focused on water, "…three consecutive years of extreme dryness…translates to much lower groundwater levels, and very dry soils. It’s going to take a lot of rain to break this drought."

That means we can’t quit worrying about water conservation. Unfortunately many of us will think water’s not a problem anymore, but the truth is that all this rain can’t do away with three years of critical shortfall. Furthermore, we have more people using more water than ever, in what is essentially a desert country, so water conservation can’t end just because it rains a lot (and even floods!). California’s population is projected to increase by more than one-third to 52.7 million people by 2060. Regardless of rainfall, climate change, or anything else, water will continue to be an issue. So all the water conservation practices we learned during the last few years need to become a habit regardless of the amount of rain. Go or to refresh your memory.

Fracking Uses A Lot of Water. Hydraulic fracturing or fracking competes with agriculture for water in the drought stricken Central Valley, most of which is rated as being in exceptional drought—the rest is in extreme drought. While fracking uses less water on average in California, which is changing as the Monterey Shale—believed to be the largest untapped oil resource in the US—is developed. Fracking involves blasting huge amounts of water, mixed with sand and toxic chemicals, under high pressure deep into the earth, breaking up rock formations to allow oil and gas extraction. But it can also pollute local air and water and endanger wildlife and human health. To learn more about fracking, go to So why, in a state in which 80% of the area is such severe drought, are we allowing fracking? It’s been said that the oil companies are just too big, and we can’t take them on. But, hey people, New York State just did exactly that—banning fracking because of health reasons. Fracking will impact Californian’s health just as much as it does people in New York, AND then there is the water issue. On Feb. 7th, you can do something to stop fracking in California. “The March for Real Climate Leadership: Our Water, Our Health, Our California” takes place in Oakland, starting at 11:30 AM. RSVP at

Good News or Bad (?)—Gas Prices are Dropping! For the average driver, and especially low- income families, gas prices of less than $3.00 a gallon seems to be good news. But if it leads us back into using more gasoline: driving more, idling more, buying SUV’s, taking public transit less, and forgetting all the gas saving economies ( we learned when it was closer to $5.00 a gallon, then it can be bad news. On the other hand, it can be good news, if it slows down the extraction of fossil fuels by fracking and mining coal tar sands in Canada and Utah, because it will cost more to produce them than they are selling for. Still if the price of fossil fuels drops even more, the bad news is that it can make alternative energy seem too expensive to switch.

However, the cost of alternative energy is rapidly dropping. In the past five years the cost of wind power has dropped by over 50%, and its still decreasing. In that same period over one third of all new generating capacity has come from wind. Solar prices have dropped 80% over the last five years. In 2013 30% of all new electricity generated came from solar energy. Often rooftop solar power is cheaper than energy from new fossil fuels without no CO2 or other greenhouse gas emissions. (Methane from natural gas is traps 20 to 30 times more heat than CO2).


©Tish Levee, 2014. All rights reserved.