It’s terrific that Sen. Jon Tester wants to help out Montana’s wind industry, but does he have to sell out the rest of the state in the process?
Tester recently co-sponsored a bill (S.3813) to establish a national renewable electricity standard (RES), legislation that Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., has indicated he would take up in this Congress’ final lame-duck clash.
An RES requires electric utilities generate a portion of their power using “renewable” power sources. The Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill requires utilities generate 20 percent of their power from renewables by the year 2020. S. 3813 would reduce the Waxman-Markey standard to 15 percent.
The RES standard means only a maximum of 85 percent of a utility’s electricity can be generated by fossil fuels. The utility’s use of fossil fuels has been capped—the results are skyrocketing energy prices.
Under cap-and-trade, electric utilities would be compensated for higher generation costs by charging consumers more and by selling billions in carbon credits, courtesy of taxpayers. Under RES, electric utilities would be similarly compensated for higher generation costs, courtesy of over-charged consumers and untold billions in taxpayer subsidies.
This is not to dissuade Tester from trying to help Montana’s wind industry, which, sometimes referred to as the “Saudi Arabia of wind,” is itching for explosive growth. But that path forward is much different than a job- and economy-killing cap on fossil fuel use.
Wind entrepreneurs should push for tax and regulatory policies that will restart national and local economic growth. Consumers who value renewable electricity should be allowed—not forced—to purchase it at whatever price the market will bear.
The renewables industry should be encouraged to look for niches where its technologies are competitive. Finally, like all other business enterprises, the renewable energy businesses should look for efficiencies that make its products more cost competitive.
Many in the renewable energy sector have gotten lazy and have decided that hiring lobbyists is easier than innovating and competing. Sen. Tester should work to help the latter and to discourage the former.