Energy and air pollution are closely related--especially in California. As one who\u2019s spent a good deal of time dealing with both, I thought it would be interesting to connect the dots between some recent developments and trends that on their face may seem unrelated. Let\u2019s see what picture emerges for California\u2019s energy and environmental future. Here are the dots: -America\u2019s new 100-year plus supply of natural gas--thanks to shale development--touted in nightly television commercials sponsored by the natural gas industry: \u201cWe\u2019re America\u2019s gas.\u201d -Growing pressure for utilities and generators to either clean up or replace their coal power plants, particularly in California, which has barred utilities from making investments to lengthen the life of their out-of-state coal plants. -The ever-present push to clean up smog--that haze of ozone and particles regularly clouding the skies of San Joaquin Valley and hanging like a faint, but omnipresent haze over the giant Los Angeles metropolis. The most recent manifestation of this push was when environmental groups earlier this month filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that ultimately could compel a federal plan with the force of law to meet the Clean Air Act health standard for ozone pollution in the two areas. I\u2019ll spare you the details, but it seems that the local air pollution control agencies just aren\u2019t doing what it takes to get the job done. By historical standards, the air in the two areas is cleaner, but remains the dirtiest in the nation. -The South Coast Air Quality Management District\u2019s emerging energy policy for the Los Angeles area. Seemingly a rhetorical document with no legal teeth, it discusses energy as if it\u2019s talking about mom and apple pie--renewable energy, energy storage, walking, biking, public education, zero and near zero emissions technologies, yada, yada. Who could argue and why would such a policy statement matter so much that it would be a year in the making and subject to a series of ongoing stakeholder meetings? Here\u2019s why: It\u2019s likely to be incorporated into a legally-binding plan for meeting the ozone standard in Los Angeles (and providing a template for San Joaquin Valley), whether issued by the federal Environmental Protection Agency or the Air District. Now let\u2019s connect the dots between the plan, as it\u2019s emerging, and the other developments. The science of air pollution tells us that both in San Joaquin Valley and Los Angeles it\u2019s going to be virtually impossible to meet the federal ozone standard while still burning large amounts of fossil fuel. The combination of climate and geography creates such stagnant atmospheric conditions that anything emitted hangs in the air near the ground. A renewables-only energy policy didn\u2019t go over too well with the natural gas industry and one of the major clean air environmental groups dominated by the industry that\u2019s active both in Los Angeles and San Joaquin Valley. Among the gas proponents are SoCal Gas, T. Boone Pickens, and the Coalition for Clean Air. The latter group\u2019s under the gas industry\u2019s wing--even though it backed an end to fossil fuels in the 1980s. Before you say I\u2019m an unrealistic idealist, I know it\u2019s true that gas is cleaner than coal and can be cleaner than gasoline, and diesel. More gas undoubtedly could bring some continued improvement in California\u2019s air quality and help in achieving the state\u2019s greenhouse gas reduction goals, at least in the near term. But can burning more gas deliver fully healthful air? Can it get the state to an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions? It\u2019s doubtful given what\u2019s scientifically known. California needs to move to wind, solar, geothermal, and electric- and hydrogen-powered transportation, with gas reserved for selected niches. But for the gas industry, that would mean less demand at a time when it\u2019s sitting on a 100-year supply. Less demand would mean lower prices. So that\u2019s why the gas industry is pushing to burn more gas and switch liquefied natural gas import terminals into export terminals, such as the one planned in Oregon featured in these pages last week (Current, July 22, 2011). Expanding the market for natural gas--particularly by developing export capacity and legally-mandated markets in clean air plans--surely will help firm up or even boost the price amid the current glut. In essence, the gas industry has California caught in a pincer movement aimed at extracting more money from utility ratepayers and motorists even as we\u2019re told we now have an abundant and economical supply of natural gas. I like T. Boone Pickens. He\u2019s charming and tells good stories. But he\u2019s in business to make money. That\u2019s why Californians need to be skeptical of Pickens and the gas industry. That\u2019s why it\u2019s time for California\u2019s energy leaders to scrutinize the growing influence of \u201cAmerica\u2019s gas\u201d over our state environmental policies and to connect the dots so we all don\u2019t wind up facing a price shock due to over-dependence on natural gas by the end of the decade.