Green energy boondoggle raises costs while killing jobs and birds

You have to wonder if most California politicians simply can’t stand the notion of a thriving economy.  In a move that will have a devastating effect on jobs and on the pocketbooks of regular citizens, Jerry Brown recently signed legislation that will dramatically increase the amount of costly “green” energy California’s citizens will be forced to purchase.

In this time of record high unemployment, the political class should focus on stimulating the economy to create jobs.  Instead, the politicians have imposed a new mandate called “renewable portfolio standard” or RPS which decrees that 33% of our energy needs to be green by 2020 – as of right now, we have not even met the 20% target that was set for 2010.

Statistics from the Department of Energy show that renewable energy, as defined by the RPS mandate, can cost three or four times as much as traditional energy on a per-megawatt basis.  Higher electricity bills will further strain taxpayers’ budgets and lead to even more job losses.  The US Bureau of Statistics just released a report saying California lost 572,400 manufacturing jobs over the last decade, and our unemployment is now a full two percentage points worse than Michigan, a state famous for Detroit and its poorly performing economy.

In fact, California’s environmental regulations are so extreme that the majority of the renewable power we will be forced to buy will not even be produced in this state but imported from Mexico, Canada and other states.  While the political class likes the idea of green energy, getting any type of power plant built in California is difficult in a state as tangled in government red tape as ours.

Boosters of green energy promise it will create a prosperous “green economy” and “green jobs.”  Spain was long the example they cited as a model green economy – until a study showed that Spain killed over two traditional jobs for each new green job created, and 90% of the green jobs were temporary, in fields such as windmill construction.  That analysis by a Spanish university was later verified by the Spanish government.  Spain’s economy is now in such a shambles that tens of thousands of Spaniards rallied in the streets ahead of an election where they threw out the ruling Socialist party responsible.

Beyond massive job losses, RPS will expose us to brownouts and cause trouble for electrical grid managers because of the intermittent nature of wind and solar power.  The wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine, so windmills and solar panels produce unpredictable fluctuations on the grid.  To avoid brownouts, traditional power sources such as oil and gas need to pick up the slack, but running power plants this way is inefficient, much the way a car gets poor gas mileage in stop and go traffic.  This fact alone makes RPS self-defeating in its stated goals.

There is even a lawsuit currently being pursued by the American Traditions Institute out of Colorado challenging that state’s RPS policy as a violation of the United States Constitution’s Commerce Clause for the havoc RPS causes to states across an interconnected electrical grid.

Finally, as if RPS was not an illogical policy enough, the law actually bars large-scale hydroelectric power from “counting” as renewable.  Hydro power is a clean power source that provides such vast amounts of affordable energy that Hoover dam was a main factor in making Las Vegas a thriving neon-lit tourist destination.  12% of California’s energy comes from hydro power, and excluding it makes no sense.

Without a doubt, some staunch environmentalists would defend the exclusion of hydro power on the grounds that large dams can harm fish populations and displace wildlife.  This may be true, but then why are we steaming full speed ahead with the construction of windmills when three times more birds died in California’s Altamont Pass wind farm last year than died in the well-publicized Gulf oil spill?  And among those killed in the avian cuisinarts of Altamont Pass every year are hundreds of protected birds such as eagles and hawks.

RPS is a good example of why on a trip to Utah, the legislators there told me they love California’s state government.  The reason?  Our government’s illogical anti-business policies make it particularly easy for them to recruit our entrepreneurs to their state.

 

Jon Coupal is the president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Comments

  1. These environmental rules are also subject to very fuzzy science. While in London earlier this summer I read that the British Government was pushing back from the idea that burning real wood in fireplaces contributed to pollution, and that British forests should be left untouched in park like conditions. In fact, the Government is allowing significant foresting of previously untouchable forests because otherwise it is making their wildflowers and bird species extinct. In the meantime high “carbon” counts from excessive use of electricity for heat in winter is found to be contributing to pollution far more than previously banned wood-burning fireplaces, so some of those that have been banned are being brought back to reduce carbon counts!

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