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.
In the last several years, Montanans, like citizens across the United States, have become more and more concerned about the economy and the availability of good- paying jobs here at home. However, Sens. Baucus and Tester, along with obstructive environmentalist groups, fail to recognize that the key to increasing the number of good paying jobs in our state is the development of our natural resources, such as oil and natural gas.
Montanans are in need of the good-paying, stable jobs that the energy industry can provide. Why then do Sens. Baucus and Tester want to increase taxes on U.S. energy companies?
Both of our senators will be voting on two proposed tax hikes following the November election. One of these increases will repeal Section 199 of the tax code that allows businesses to receive a tax credit for production related costs while the other will repeal the “dual capacity” foreign income tax credit given to companies that have to pay income taxes to our foreign competitors. By increasing taxes on energy companies, our senators can expect ratepayers across Montana will be forced to cover the increased cost of production to energy companies—a cost that right now Montanans simply cannot afford.
Even worse is the fact that the tax increases on the energy industry that both Sens. Baucus and Tester recently voted for will harm job growth and decrease the jobs available for future generations. Many of our state’s best and brightest are being forced to seek employment in other states with higher paying jobs. By voting to increase taxes on the energy industry, our senators are just exacerbating the problem.
Sens. Baucus and Tester need to get their priorities straight: The health and well-being of the Montana economy is more important than honing their political capital with environmental groups.
Shelby F. DeMars
Kids across America love Halloween; they get to adorn wild costumes and wander house to house collecting candy into the late evening hours, for no particular reason. But in truth, this is a mutually beneficial night, allowing parents to reconnect with neighborhood kids and marvel at the wild costumes for the small price of a few chocolate bars.
Montana has discovered its own Halloween recently. The opportunity is a mutually beneficial project in which a variety of companies will help update our scenic state highways using local labor for the right to ship equipment to Canada. The Kearl transportation project is unfortunately being threatened by a masked hooligan though—politically motivated international groups indifferent to the plight of Montanans who have attempted to hijack the issue for their own gain.
The Kearl shipments along Highway 12 are an important boon to local employment, and particularly critical to contracting jobs. I know, because my own members in the Montana Contractors’ Association have desperately needed contracts on the line—employment opportunities that will support local workers and keep families afloat in tough times.
New road surface repairs, new and improved turnouts, modified overhead signs and bond payments on new repairs are all critical infrastructure investments in our rural roads in Montana. By generating an estimated $68 million in economic benefit for Montana, these shipments will ensure that local jobs are created today, and growth is sustained for the future.
However, outside groups have drowned out this reality in their efforts to shut down these shipments. The Natural Resources Defense Council has generated the majority of public comments in opposition to the project, taking our local jobs and investment hostage to their global agenda. Instead of asking locals about their economic conditions and the prospects of new contracting opportunities that mean jobs and growth, outside interferers have used mass e-mails to mobilize folks who don’t care about Montana. This project is about local jobs and local growth for Montana, and should not be held hostage to political agendas.
Furthermore, these shipments have been planned with safety and the environment as the foremost concern. The Kearl project has been working with state authorities in Montana and Idaho for over two years, including state police and through environmental assessments, to ensure that the shipments are done in the safest and most environmentally conscious way. Highway 12 will remain the safe and scenic route we know it to be, but will be improved for the future through these infrastructure investments.
During this economic downturn, Montana needs to focus on developing locally for future growth. By blocking the permits for this project, our state risks creating a terrible precedent for projects down the road.
Don’t be fooled by clever disguises this Halloween season. The Kearl project is mutually beneficial for the state and the companies desiring passage. In fact, by cultivating this opportunity, Montana could actually chase off the real boogeyman of late—the recession.
Montana Contractors’ Association
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