The inconvenient spin

PG&E also is spending a chunk of money to attack SMUD’s environmental credentials. If you live in Davis, you may have gotten a glossy mailer sporting a cute tree frog and a quote from the Al Gore movie An Inconvenient Truth: “…inconvenient truths do not go away just because they are not seen.”

But look a little more closely at the math. The No campaign boasts that PG&E gets “30 percent of its electricity from wind, solar and water.”

Part of that percentage includes “large hydropower"—big dams that energy regulators don’t consider to be renewable energy. If SMUD were to include the power it gets from big dams, its green percentage would rise to about 42 percent.

And according to the California Energy Commission, PG&E’s renewable-energy mix, the share of its electricity that comes from wind, solar and biomass, is about 11.4 percent. Measured the same way, SMUD’s renewable share is 14.5 percent.

PG&E also touts a 35 percent smaller “carbon footprint” than SMUD. In other words, less of its energy, per kilowatt, results in greenhouse gases being released. SMUD has to concede the point, but notes that PG&E gets a big chunk of its energy from its Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. Nuclear reactors don’t give off carbon dioxide, but there is that little problem of what to do with all that nuclear waste.