Grover Norquist, the anti-government ideologue who runs the powerful right-wing lobbying group Americans for Tax Reform, is preparing an all-out assault on state-level renewable energy standards, one of the shining bipartisan achievements of 21st-century American energy policy. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have binding renewable energy standards, helping states end their dependence on dirty, toxic energy and encouraging clean industry. “Legislators in states around the country are now working with Americans for Tax Reform to repeal renewable energy mandates in 2012,” Norquist writes in Politico. “The iron is hottest to strike in states where Republicans recently took control of both the Legislature and the governorship — including Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania.” He also names North Carolina and New Hampshire as future targets if Republicans take the governor’s races in 2012.
At Climate Progress, Stephen Lacey and Richard Caperton dismantle Norquist’s lies about the renewable energy standards.
by Stephen Lacey and Richard Caperton
The truth can be very inconvenient. With real-world experience and numerous non-partisan research organizations showing over and over again that state-level renewable energy targets have not substantially driven up electricity rates, clean energy opponents are simply creating their own numbers.
The latest gusher of lies comes from Americans for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist, who just ran an op-ed in Politico co-authored with his colleague Patrick Gleason. The piece is laughable — until you realize how much power Norquist has over ideologues determined to stop any effort to promote renewable energy or address climate change.
Let’s start with their first assertion:
Renewable energy standards, by design, are intended to drive up energy costs — requiring utilities to use more expensive and often less reliable sources of energy. Not surprisingly, such laws have hit ratepayers hard. States that have a binding RES now have electricity costs that are 39 percent higher than states that don’t have a binding RES.
That’s a scary number. But it’s also totally meaningless. The problem is that these states had higher rates before they ever put the RES in place.
There are two pieces to answering this false assertion. First, renewable energy opponents like to pretend that the only thing that influences electric rates is the cost of energy. But this is only a small part of the whole picture.
In fact, things like customer density, average monthly usage by each customer, and the age of a utility’s distribution grid all play a huge part in determining electric rates. In 1995, researchers from MIT and the Analysis Group identified 14 reasons why a California utility’s rates would vary from the national average. The picture since then has only gotten more complicated, with massive restructuring of the electric utility industry, including “deregulation.”
The more important metric is how much electric rates have changed in states with standards versus states without. Norquist and Gleason would like you to believe that states with clear standards see rapidly increasing electric rates, but it’s simply not true. In fact, the data shows that the presence of a state-level renewable energy standard has a virtually zero statistically-significant impact on how much electric rates changed from 2000 to 2010:
Although states with RES’s had a little more variability in how much their rates changed, there’s no clear evidence that the mere presence of an RES led to a bigger rate increase. From a statistics perspective, we can be 95% confident that the average impact of a state RES on electric rate changes is somewhere between 1.1 percent less and 9.7 percent more than in states without an RES.
And, it’s worth looking at some specific examples. For example, Hawaii had the biggest change in electric rates, but this was mostly due to the fact that much of their power generation is fueled with oil, so their fossil fuel imports are responsible for rate increases. And, Maryland is the second biggest change, but this is probably because of the well-publicized rate increases associated with deregulation in that state.
This real-world experience isn’t going to sway the most determined anti-clean energy crusaders. Norquist and Gleason tout figures from the free-market, pro-deregulation Beacon Hill Institute, which published some pretty bold projections about future price increases:
Suffolk University’s Beacon Hill Institute has examined the effects of these mandates in individual states, and the results don’t get better. The RES in North Carolina, one of 2012’s key battleground states, is projected to reduce real disposable income by $56.8 million and likely be responsible for the loss of 3,592 jobs by 2021.
New Mexicans could pay an estimated $2.3 billion more for their power and lose more than 2,800 jobs by 2020, as a result of that state’s RES. Beacon Hill projected similarly bleak economic effects in various other states with an RES.
By contrast the well-respected, non-partisan Energy Information Administration recently modeled the impact of national Renewable Energy Standard and found that it would leave GDP growth virtually unchanged. Under an 80% clean energy standard by 2035, GDP would grow at 2.67% — just a .02 percent change from the baseline 2.69%
Meanwhile, the experiences from states around the country show exactly the opposite that what Norquist, Gleason and the Beacon Hill Institute claim:
- In the State of Michigan, for example, utility contracts for renewable electricity under their 2008 renewable energy standard have come in at prices below the cost of power generated from new coal plants, and consumers continue to pay below the national average for their electricity.
- A report from the Michigan government clearly states that there is “no indication” that their clean energy standards “have had any impact on electricity prices in Michigan.”
- A report done by Bernstein Research found that wind generation in Texas (complimented with an aggressive RES of 5880 MW of installed renewable capacity by 2015) actually lowered the cost of power for utilities by $2 and $4 per megawatt-hour in 2008.
- A study of the Xcel system, a utility in Colorado, found that the wind already on their system would save Colorado ratepayers over $251 million.
- A recent request for proposals by Southern California Edison (one of the largest investor-owned utilities in the country) found that solar power is already among the cheapest ways for them to generate new electricity.
Could we see some future price increases in certain areas of the country? Absolutely. But the wholesale assertion that these standards are driving up electricity rates and decreasing economic productivity is blatantly false.
Of course, these claims are being made by the same type of ideologues who said that the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative would drive up rates 90% — only to have an independent consultancy find that the cap and trade program saved ratepayers in the Northeast $1.1 billion and created $1.6 billion economic value.
Richard Caperton is director of clean energy investments for the Center for American Progress. Stephen Lacey is a writer with Climate Progress.
The Obama administration, under the leadership of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, is finally closing loopholes in the Clean Air Act that allowed coal plants built before 1970 to have uncontrolled pollution. The EPA has established two rules for these dirty power plants, the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule that curbs pollution that crosses state lines, and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards that finally limit mercury pollution. These rules, which would save tens of thousands of lives a year and improve the health of millions of Americans, have been the target of brutal attack by polluters and their conservative allies. The Associated Press’s Dina Cappiello surveyed the plant operators who would be affected by these rules, and discovered that the “average age of the plants that could be sacrificed is 51 years“:
The average age of the plants that could be sacrificed is 51 years. These plants have been allowed to run for decades without modern pollution controls because it was thought that they were on the verge of being shuttered by the utilities that own them. But that didn’t happen.
The number of plants that will be shuttered, the AP found, is as low as 32 and as high as 68. The survey, “based on interviews with 55 power plant operators and on the Environmental Protection Agency’s own prediction of power plant retirements, rebuts claims by critics of the regulations and some electric power producers.”
These dirtiest coal plants in America are toxic dinosaurs, enjoying loopholes in the original Clean Air Act of 1970 and the updated rules in 1990. Some of the plants were built when Harry S Truman was president.
“We can’t say there isn’t going be an issue. We know there will be some challenges,” John Moura, manager of reliability assessment at the North American Electric Reliability Corp., told AP. “But we don’t think the lights are going to turn off because of this issue.”
In the AP’s survey, “not a single plant operator said the EPA rules were solely to blame for a closure,” because coal prices are going up, natural gas is cheaper, and state clean air rules and existing EPA rules discouraged keeping the dirtiest coal plants open.
Defenders of coal pollution who have raised panic about America’s lights turning off because of the EPA include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), and presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr.
Rick Perry: There Is No Proof That Fracking Causes Groundwater Pollution, Americans Have Been ‘Hoodwinked’
Like debates, a firm grasp of basic facts is not known to be GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry’s strong suit. So Perry surprised a few town hall attendees in Iowa yesterday when he confidently asserted that there is absolutely no proof that hydraulic fracturing (more commonly known as fracking) for natural gas causes groundwater pollution.
“We can have this conversation but you cannot show me one place, not one where there is a proven pollution of groundwater by hydraulic fracking,” Perry said, interrupting an Iowan concerned about fracking’s environmental effects. “That’s false,” replied one audience member, spurring Perry to demand published proof and add, “I’m truly offended that the American public would be hoodwinked by stories that do not scientifically hold up”:
PERRY: Bring me the paper, bring me the paper, show me the paper. I am truly offended that the American public would be hoodwinked by stories that do not scientifically hold up. If that was true, it would be on the front page of every newspaper. It would be on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News. Everybody would be running that story. We have been using hydraulic fracturing in my home state for years and this is a fear tactic that the left is using and the environmental community is using that absolutely, excuse the pun, does not hold water.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Not true.
PERRY: Bring me the evidence and once we do that, you show it to me, and I’ll be the first to say you’ve got a point.
In fact, if Perry wants to be shown “one place” where fracking has polluted groundwater, he has at least five to choose from. Pavillion, Wyoming; Sublette County, Wyoming; Dimock, Pennsylvania; Bradford County, Pennsylvania; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are all home to confirmed cases of groundwater contamination caused by fracking.
In fact, Perry’s home state is so concerned about the consequences of fracking that it joined Colorado in adopting rules “that require oil and natural-gas companies to disclose the chemicals they inject underground.” The new rules show that Texas is “serious about regulating the rapidly expanding hydraulic fracturing,” the Wall Street Journal noted.
But since Perry seems to have missed all this, perhaps a photo will be proof enough. After all, nothing says fracking like a sulfur-smelling fireball in a glass.
December 19 News: U.S. Lightbulb Industry Slams GOP, Saying Repeal of Efficiency Law Will “Undermine Investments”
Big Business usually loves it when the GOP goes to war over federal rules.
But not when it comes to light bulbs.
This year, House Republicans made it a top priority to roll back regulations they say are too costly for business. Last week, the GOP won a long-fought battle to kill new energy efficiency rules for bulbs when House and Senate negotiators included a rider to block enforcement of the regulations in the $1 trillion-plus, year-end spending bill.
The rider may have advanced GOP talking points about light bulb “freedom of choice,” but it didn’t win them many friends in the industry, who are more interested in their bottom line than political rhetoric.
Big companies like General Electric, Philips and Osram Sylvania spent big bucks preparing for the standards, and the industry is fuming over the GOP bid to undercut them.
After spending four years and millions of dollars prepping for the new rules, businesses say pulling the plug now could cost them. The National Electrical Manufacturers Association has waged a lobbying campaign for more than a year to persuade the GOP to abandon the effort.
Brazil, caretaker of the world’s largest rain forest, is about to enact broad new regulations that opponents say could loosen restrictions on Amazon deforestation and increase the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The move comes after two years of often roiling debates and dozens of hearings across the country over how to update a 1965 law that was designed to control slash-and-burn agriculture. Backers say the proposed Forest Code bill, which is expected to be signed into law early next year, would protect the Amazon while easing the regulatory burden on small farmers.
Brazil, a leader on climate change and host of next June’s U.N. Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, is charting a climate strategy shaped by domestic politics and economic concerns that sometimes appears at odds with its international environmental rhetoric. Such domestic pressures — clear also in increasingly influential developing countries such as China and India — have created uncertainty over how the world will curb its carbon output by the end of the decade, even as negotiators gear up to forge a new global warming pact by 2015.
“It sends a mixed message because Brazil has positioned itself as a country that’s committed itself to saving the forest cover to the benefit of the world,” said Christian Poirier, Brazil program director for Amazon Watch. “The new forest code flouts all that.”
The development of coal ”mega-mines” in central Queensland such as the massive China First project will destroy the world’s chance of keeping global warming to 2 degrees, Greenpeace says.
In its submission tomorrow to the federal government on the environmental impact of mining magnate Clive Palmer’s $7.5 billion China First mine, the environmental group will say that this and other big projects in Queensland’s Galilee Basin will lock in huge coal exploitation for decades to come.
”If this goes ahead, it will destroy our chances of keeping global warming to 2 degrees,” Greenpeace campaigner John Hepburn said.
The International Energy Agency recently reported that the world needed to make ”urgent and radical policy changes” if it was to stick to the internationally agreed goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees by the end of the century. The agency drew up a ”carbon budget” that would allow the world to meet that target.
After decades of global competition and collaboration, many solar markets around the world have reached grid parity—the point at which generating solar electricity, without subsidies, costs less than the electricity purchased from the grid. In other words, solar technology is ready to be a major contributor to solving our planet’s energy and environmental crisis.
However, trade protectionism threatens to inhibit the solar industry at the very time when it is breaking through to a new level of global interdependence, collaboration, and maturity.
On October 18, the U.S. government was asked to impose tariffs on imports of Chinese solar cells and modules, based on the argument that China-based producers have been heavily subsidized and are selling solar products at unfairly low prices. Perhaps not surprisingly, some Chinese companies have now asked the Chinese government to impose tariffs on imports of American solar products, arguing that U.S.-based producers have been heavily subsidized, too. And just like that, the production of affordable and competitive solar products has become a political liability in the world’s two largest producers and consumers of energy.
India’s Rajasthan state started accepting bids from developers to set up 200 megawatts of solar power projects in an area that has the country’s second-most solar radiant exposure.
The state plans to auction contracts for 100 megawatts of photovoltaic plants and 100 megawatts of solar thermal plants, Naresh Pal Gangwar, chairman of the state-run Rajasthan Renewable Energy Corp. said today by telephone.
Reliance Power Ltd. (RPWR), Shriram EPC Ltd. (SEPC) and SunEdison, the solar development unit of MEMC Electronic Materials Inc. (WFR), are among companies that are developing projects in Rajasthan, believed to have some of India’s most promising resources to develop energy from sunlight with its sprawling desert terrain.
Solar thermal technology uses sunlight to heat liquids that produce steam for generators, while photovoltaic plants use panels to turn sunlight directly into power.
Mitt Romney took a jab at GOP frontrunner Newt Gingrich today during a town hall meeting for an ad the former speaker filmed with Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi aimed at spreading awareness on climate change.
Asked about his views on global warming by an audience member, Romney responded without missing a beat, “First of all, I’m not planning on cutting an ad with Nancy Pelosi.”
The crowd erupted in applause.
“In all fairness, Speaker Gingrich also said that was the biggest mistake of his life,” Romney quickly added, laughing.
Romney was referring to an ad, titled “We Can Solve It,” that was released in 2008 and featured Gingrich and then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sitting on a couch together urging people to address global warming.