In the far right’s desperate efforts to stop its precipitous fall, it might end up harming those remaining red states that still support it. It seems that for the American Legislative Exchange Council, sponsored by companies that include Exxon Mobil, Koch Brothers, BP and Shell, the clear choice is to go on the offensive. That is exactly what the council has done in a move that is about as offensive as it gets.
The Electricity Freedom Act is nothing more than a shameless attempt to repeal Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) legislation in any and all of the 29 states (plus D.C.) in which it exists, for the simple reason that doing so would increase sales of fossil fuels – the climate and the people who depend on it be damned.
Past Rebukes Haven’t Withered ALEC’s Intentions
Not that it’s likely that such efforts will pass, but every time these folks crawl out from under their well-appointed rock, it is usually under the cover of darkness when they hope no one is looking.
You may recall that there was a mass exodus of companies divesting themselves of any affiliation with ALEC last year, including Coca-Cola, Amazon, McDonalds, Johnson & Johnson among others, out of sheer embarrassment at the group’s extreme positions. You would think that would leave those hangers-on withering in the blinding glare of public disdain. But you would be wrong. As dependable as dusk, the group has managed to keep some 2,000 state legislators on their membership rolls. State legislative seats can be purchased fairly cheaply these days, given the relatively small voter turnout, small margins of victory and even smaller salaries paid to those elected.
The Electricity Freedom Act is based on the false premise that renewable energy is more expensive than conventional sources of power, and it argues that states should not be forced to use more expensive energy when cheaper options are available. It completely ignores the fact that even with the distorted economics that discount the many serious impacts of fossil fuels as “externalities,” the cost of wind power, as an example, is now significantly cheaper than power from a new coal plant, no matter how you measure it.
As newer legislation designed to let the economics to catch up with the science comes online in the form of carbon taxes or cap-and-trade programs (like the one that started recently in California), this price difference will become even more pronounced.
Still, groups like ALEC, determined to keep their heads in the sand, insist that “forcing business, industry, and ratepayers to use renewable energy through a government mandate will increase the cost of doing business and push companies to do business with other states or nations, thereby decreasing American competitiveness.”
Renewable Energy Delivers Competitive Advantages, Jobs
Of course, the reference to “competitiveness” is intended to invoke the specter of jobs, the Holy Grail of today’s economy. But this is exactly where these backward-thinkers are shooting themselves in the foot.
When Congress voted to extend the wind Production Tax Credit (PTC) as part of the fiscal cliff agreement, several conservative Republican governors cheered, including Sam Brownback of Kansas and Terry Branstad of Iowa. Brownback said he was, “pleased Congress recognized the positive impact the wind PTC has on creating jobs and growing the economy.” Bransted called wind power, “an American success story that is helping to build our manufacturing base, create jobs, lower energy costs, and strengthen our energy security.”
At the beginning of the year, there were approximately 75,000 people employed by the wind industry. Roughly half of those might have been laid off if the PTC hadn’t been renewed. Renewal of the credit is expected to add as many as 54,000 additional jobs if the credit is extended for four years.
Red State Reports Praise Economic Benefits of Wind Power
A report prepared for the Kansas Energy Information Network, in evaluating the 19 projects currently underway in the state, found that wind energy, “is equivalent to, or in some cases significantly cheaper than, new natural gas peaking generation.” It also found that wind power was responsible for “3,484 construction jobs, 262 operation and maintenance jobs, and 8,569 indirect and induced jobs for Kansas citizens.” That adds up to $273 million for landowners and revenues of over $208 million for community organizations and local and county governments, the report found.
In short, the report concluded that rather than “forcing business, industry, and ratepayers to … increase the cost of doing business … thereby decreasing American competitiveness,” as the Electricity Freedom Act alleges, “the Kansas Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) has become an important economic development tool for attracting new businesses to the state.”
Another report by ERCOT, the Energy Reliability Council of Texas, another conservative state that happens to be the largest producer of wind power in the country, came to similar conclusions.
Not Just a Little Wrong
So it appears that ALEC was wrong on this one, and not wrong by a little bit either. Another report by the Political Economy Research Institute, found that, in 2009, every $1 million invested in clean energy would generate 16.7 jobs, while the same investment in oil, natural gas and coal, would only produce 5.3 jobs. That’s more than a 3-1 margin.
Of course, these facts are not necessarily dissuading ALEC and their disciples from pressing this anti-renewable agenda forward in state legislatures in Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio. We can only hope that the people voting will take the time to become informed about the reality
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