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Newsom’s Hopes for Ocean Power

| December 27, 2010
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Gavin Newsom is about to trade offices, leaving San Francisco City Hall for his new gig with the state. But the soon-to-be-former mayor still has aspirations for the city that played midwife to his political career. Specifically, Newsom is still promoting San Francisco as the site for an innovative wave-power project.

In an interview published today in the San Francisco Chronicle, Newsom acknowledges that his initial vision to harness the ocean tides for electrical power had problems. An independent study concluded that the scheme would produce power that was as much as six times more expensive than conventionally generated power. That report begins and ends with an ironic quotation from Adolph Sutro, the developer of the storied baths on the ocean front above San Francisco’s Cliff House: “The possibilities of utilizing the forces of the sea’s waves will soon be manifest.”

Newsom tells the Chron that false starts aside, his enthusiasm for a sea power is undimmed:

“We will get the ocean power project done,” Newsom said during a recent interview overlooking the Pacific Ocean. “You guys have had fun at my expense – which I get. That’s why I’ll have the final word as the lieutenant governor on that.”

Newsom was criticized as naive and stubborn for insisting in 2008 that the city should submerge giant turbines in bay waters near the Golden Gate Bridge to generate power despite a study saying it was financially infeasible.

“I’m committed to it and am going to fight for it,” Newsom said then. “I don’t care about the arguments against it. I care about the arguments for it.”

There’s some chance that Newsom will get a chance to help the city build such a project in his new job, lieutenant governor. California’s No. 2 elected official sits on the State Lands Commission and Ocean Protection Council—positions that could help deliver needed state approvals for offshore development.

(The Bay Citizen weighs in on the mayor’s ocean power scheme today, too: Mayor Newsom Breaks Pledge to Bring Wave Power to San Francisco.)

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Category: Energy, Environment, San Francisco

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About the Author ()

Dan Brekke has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.

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