Op-Ed: Renewable energy mandates – Nothing new. Nothing good.


by J Dwight
Special to The Maine Wire

It’s been a difficult time lately for the global-warming-believers at the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM).

Over 69% of respondents to a Rasmussen poll taken last August say it is likely that scientists have falsified global warming research.

Email dumps revealed that the data behind the famous global warming ‘hockey stick’ was, at best, skewed, and at worst, falsified. The Rasmussen poll shows the public has turned against global warming scientists. Will the ‘science’ of global warming (or ‘climate change’) be similarly distrusted? This doubt must be feared by the people at the NRCM.

Additionally, The Pew Research Center’s latest annual survey of Americans’ top priorities found global warming ranked 21st — one spot above last place.

The same Pew survey listed the economy and jobs as the top two issues, with 87 percent of Americans citing the economy as their highest priority.

With unemployment in the 7% to 9% range, and no meaningful growth in Maine’s economy, voters here have become concerned with more important matters: private sector jobs.

Adding insult to the NRCM’s self-importance, Paul LePage won the Governorship and the Republicans won both houses of the Legislature for the first time since the 1960s. The Natural Resources Council of Maine lost their 24/7 access to the Governor’s office, and their power in the Legislature.

LePage’s focus on private sector jobs has confronted the ideology at NRCM. Frustrated and angry, they didn’t know what to do. But now, they’re striking back.

The NRCM is behind the plan to pass an even stronger renewable energy standard (RES), politically blocking LePage’s practical move toward lowering electricity costs. This is the reason behind NRCM’s backing and push for the November 2012 ballot initiative.

Opposition to renewable energy mandates should not be misinterpreted as an aversion to renewable energy or a clean environment. It’s just good policy.

It is also smart politics to lower electricity costs heading into an important election, where jobs and the economy are foremost in the voter’s mind.

The petition being pushed by the NRCM would require utility companies to purchase 20 percent of electricity from new renewable sources — only wind, solar and tidal power would qualify.

Renewable energy standards, by design, are intended to drive up energy costs — requiring utilities to purchase more expensive, and less reliable, sources of renewable energy. That increased cost will be passed on to you the ratepayer.

Such laws hit ratepayers hard. States with binding renewable energy standards have electricity costs 39 percent higher than states that don’t have a binding RES. Maine’s electricity costs are already 40 percent higher than the national average. Analysts believe that cost per kilowatt hour cost could exceed 23 cents, increased by 70% over the current high cost per kilowatt hour after a stronger RES is passed in Maine.

Maine’s renewable energy standard is nothing new. We already have one. The question is do we need one? Or, an even a stronger one?

Maine is the cleanest state in the northeast with over 50% of power produced in this state coming from existing renewable energy producers: hydroelectric (27%), biomass wood (20%), wind (2%), and other renewables (2%) according to Energy Information Agency statistics.

The NRCM loves its record of business projects thwarted, dams removed, and hydroelectric power defeated. Just read their annual reports.

The highest paying manufacturing jobs in the state—those at National Semiconductor—are already threatened by of Maine’s misguided energy politics and policies.

Ok. The NRCM doesn’t hate all jobs. They lobby heavily for those few jobs entirely government subsidized from wind power development, and the companies that get them fully support the NRCM. One hand washes the other, you know.

This ‘environmentally concerned’ organization has been behind many of the political and policy mistakes that have increased the cost of electricity in Maine.

Let me detail those misjudgments for you.

The NRCM was behind the first drive for ‘renewable energy’ in Maine—the failure of the high cost biomass effort in the eighties. Add a cent of stranded cost to your per kilowatt hour charges—‘cha-ching’.

Say what you will about Maine Yankee, but its power was offered to the grid at less than three cents per kilowatt hour. Shutting that plant before its expected lifetime added one cent to two cents to your bill. The Maine culprit: NRCM, cha-ching!

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) pushed by the NRCM—‘cha-ching’—add another cent.

Capacity payments, the payments made to standby-on-demand industrial and commercial electricity producers, yep, pushed by these environmentalists. One cent more—‘cha-ching’.

Finally, long-term contracts to the wind industry and conservation charges lobbied for by NRCM employees—another cent, ‘cha-ching’.

So, that’s about five (5) cents added to your per kilowatt charges by the ‘concerned’ people at the Natural Resources Council of Maine, making your electric bill 50% more costly than it otherwise would have been. While the NRCM has not benefited—directly that we know of—you have been paying for their ideological beliefs.

They have beaten Obama to the finish line of ‘skyrocketing energy cost’, necessarily of course.

With these kind of ‘concerned’ neighbors, no wonder people and businesses are fleeing the state.

Now that we have had a few years to see the results of the NRCM’s ideologically-driven efforts, we can see their record is bad for ratepayers, and job-seekers.

Why should we believe their current political effort won’t result in more of the same: Driving up costs and driving more jobs away from Maine?

For those of us 69% who believe the ‘scientists’ falsified data for ideological reasons, perhaps we should question the ideological pursuit of these polices in Maine by the NRCM.

Had enough of that “Ole Time Global-Warming Religion” yet?