Your link has a glaring omission, which you address later in your post, to wit:
Water’s a big issue. Californians haven’t paid market price for water since William Mulholland last drew breath. The rest of the country paid for the bulk of the canals and their ongoing maintenance. Arizona has a growing population of thirsty retirees and doesn’t want Californians to make any long-term plans for the All-American Canal and Colorado River. Funny how the gentleman farmers of the Central Valley who want the “gummint off our backs” keep forgetting this.
Personally, I think water subsidies are something the feds should be doing. But once California secedes, do you really think their tax burden will go down when they assume full cost of their water resources? I don’t.
Politically speaking, California probably would be one state least likely to secede. In my own scenario (watch for the blockbuster novel sometime before I die) the secession includes 17 western states, mostly over water, property and immigration issues cloaked in “states’ rights.” Water issues neatly divide the land mass along the Mississippi River into east and west.
Politically, there might be enough hotheads with enough power in key western states – Colorado, Nebraska, Texas, Washington, Arizona – to force the issue. In a media-saturated world, the glamor and glory of building a new nation founded on old values might sell to enough of the middle class and working class that it could embolden governors to activate NG and Reservist forces; this would ignite the irregulars and tinfoil hat crowd, and it’s possible that secession could be openly agitated in the heart of the West. Depending on the federal government’s response, citizens could be swayed to throw in with the rebellion. California would find itself isolated on the coast – a quick response by federal muscle could “save” California and nip revolt in the bud, but dithering would allow other states to blackmail California into seceding by threatening water supplies and transportation routes.
Not that such a secession would last long. Broad expanses of the West would have to be given up in early fighting – and there would be a fight. The High Plains from the Mississippi to the Rockies is simply indefensible. The West would have only two things going for it: The massive inventory of weaponry that would be trapped in the rebel states; and the mountains, which could shelter a large fighting force for a very long time. The downside, of course, would be limited supplies of oil and – as with the Southern rebellion – a lack of heavy manufacturing and raw material to replace expended weapons, and a manpower shortage.
Well, I wouldn’t go that far. California’s power problems were partly of their own making (due to the way they carried out power deregulation, attempting to artificially keep consumer energy prices low, and historical disincentives to build power plants in state), and partly due to out of state energy companies like Enron taking advantage of loopholes in the deregulation laws to play games that made them a lot of money at the expense of California power companies.
$20 billion a year for water? I think we should be able to buy it for less than that. There is no doubt plenty of leverage that can be brought to bear. But all those details would have to be worked out, which is one reason I think this is not going to happen.