Reversing inefficient energy mandates

Washington Post:
The Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank skeptical of climate change science, has joined with the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council to write model legislation aimed at reversing state renewable energy mandates across the country.

The Electricity Freedom Act, adopted by the council’s board of directors in October, would repeal state standards requiring utilities to get a portion of their electricity from renewable power, calling it “essentially a tax on consumers of electricity.” Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have binding renewable standards; in the absence of federal climate legislation, these initiatives have become the subject of intense political battles.

The legislative council, or ALEC, is a conservative-leaning group of state legislators from all 50 states that has sought to roll back climate regulation in the past. It lost some corporate sponsors early this year because of its role promoting “stand your ground” laws that allow the use of force in self-defense without first retreating when faced with a serious threat.

But the involvement of the Heartland Institute, which posted a billboard in May comparing those who believe in global warming to domestic terrorist Theodore J. Kaczynski, shows the breadth of conservatives’ efforts to undermine environmental initiatives on the state and federal level. In many cases, the groups involved accept money from oil, gas and coal companies that compete against renewable energy suppliers.

The Heartland Institute received more than $7.3 million from Exxon Mobil between 1998 and 2010, and nearly $14.4 million between 1986 and 2010 from foundations affiliated with Charles G. and David H. Koch, whose firm Koch Industries has substantial oil and energy holdings.

James Taylor, the Heartland Institute’s senior fellow for environmental policy, said he was able to persuade most of ALEC’s state legislators and corporate members to push for a repeal of laws requiring more solar and wind power use on the basis of economics.

“Renewable power mandates are very costly to consumers throughout the 50 states, and we feel it is important that consumers have access to affordable electricity,” Taylor said. “We wrote the model legislation and I presented it. I didn’t have to give that much of a case for it.”

Taylor dismissed the idea that his group pushed for the measure because it has accepted money from fossil-fuel firms: “The people who are saying that are trying to take attention away from the real issue — that alternative energy, renewable energy, is more expensive than conventional energy.”

Todd Wynn, who directs ALEC’s energy, environment and agriculture task force, said the group decided to take up the issue because some of its members are worried about the mandates’ “impacts on their state’s economies and their constituents.”

“It is not that ALEC is opposed to renewable energy in any way,” Wynn said. “But we are opposed to government intervention mandating certain energy sources over others.”
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The article focuses too much on the source of funding for the studies and not enough time on the merits of the arguments.  You could make similar points about the funding for studies supporting alternative energy.  The bottom line should be getting the most reliable energy sources at the best price.  At this point that is probably going to be natural gas.  If it is ever going to be alternative energy it is going to require significant improvements to it dependability and efficiency as well as price.

The Koch brothers are interested in promoting free markets.  Energy is just one of the products they sell, but they donate generously to groups who promote free market economics.  The article should have noted those facts rather than pushing the anti energy left talking points.

It should also be noted that the mandates were made at a time when there was a perception of a shortage of traditional energy.  We now know that is not the case and that is reason enough to reconsider these mandates.

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