By Steve Milloy
Kiowa County Signal, September 22, 2010
Will Sam Brownback’s last act as a senator be to sellout Kansas and the rest of America on capping greenhouse gas emissions?
Sen. Brownback joined Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and several other senators earlier this week in introducing a bill to establish a national renewable electricity standard (RES), which Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) has indicated he would try to make the consolation prize in this Congress’ final lame duck-clash over global warming regulation.
Sen. Brownback called RES a common-sense energy policy and said, “the beauty of this is it is not cap and trade.”
What is RES and why should Sen. Brownback not let an RES bill stain his senatorial legacy?
An RES would require that electric utilities generate a set percentage of their power from so-called “renewable” power sources, like solar and wind, by a certain date. The Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, which was disastrous-for-House-Democrats, passed in June 2009 and would, for example, require that utilities generate 20 percent of their power from renewables by the year 2020. Sen. Bingaman’s bill would reduce the Waxman-Markey standard to 15 percent as per Sen. Brownback’s request.
But even a 15 percent RES would be quite the monumental challenge given that solar and wind power provide less than 2 percent of current electricity generation and require massive subsidies to do even that much. According to the Department of Energy, solar and wind are each subsidized at a rate 55 times that of coal, 97 times that of natural gas and 15 times that of nuclear power. Solar panels and windmills aside, it’s only the taxpayer wallet that makes these forms of energy “renewable.”
But cost is not the main reason for rejecting the arbitrary targets and deadlines of a national RES.
Imagine a utility that generates 100 percent of the electricity it sells by burning coal or natural gas . Impose the Bingaman-Brownback RES standard on that utility and, all of a sudden, only a maximum of 85 percent of its electricity can be generated by fossil fuels. In other words, the utility’s use of fossil fuels has been capped.
Since the passage of the Waxman-Markey bill, Americans have been up in arms against cap-and-trade. But the same reasons for opposing cap-and-trade can, and ought, to be applied to RES, which should be labeled “cap-and-subsidize.”
Under cap-and-trade, electric utilities would be compensated for higher generation costs by charging consumers more for electricity and by selling billions of dollars of carbon credits, received for free 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. So the difference between RES and cap-and-trade is merely a change in form, not a change in substance of an economy-killing consumer/taxpayer rip-off.
Sen. Brownback hasn’t yet figured out that the effort to regulate greenhouse gases is not spurred by good faith intentions to protect the environment as much as it is spurred by the left-wing political agenda to increase government control over the U.S. economy through energy rationing.
It is ironic that just as Kansas succeeds in beating back the radical green agenda — witness the likely permitting this year of the controversial Sunflower coal-fired power plant in southwest Kansas — Sen. Brownback would surrender the state and nation to the agenda of the Obama administration’s admitted socialists, energy czar Carol Browner and former green jobs czar Van Jones.
America has rightly rejected cap-and-trade and its associated political agenda. Sen. Brownback should too; and if he returns to Kansas as governor, he needs to leave such bad green ideas in Washington, D.C.
Steve Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and is the author of “Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them” (Regnery 2009).