On July 21, renewable-energy advocates hosted the “People’s Energy Forum” in Reno, Nevada. Sponsored by the Sierra Club and the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, the forum focused its efforts on ways Nevada can promote renewable-energy mandates. Recent attempts to increase renewable-energy mandates have reignited the debate over America’s energy future around the state and across the country.
Twenty-nine states have Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) laws, most of which passed in the early 2000s. In the past two years, dozens of states have considered reducing or repealing these mandates. In July 2014, Ohio became the first state in the nation to pass a freeze of its renewable mandate, and in 2015, West Virginia repealed its mandate as well.
Renewable portfolio standards – often referred to as “renewable power mandates” or “renewable energy mandates” – force expensive, heavily subsidized electricity on ratepayers and taxpayers while providing few if any net environmental benefits. The wind and solar power forced upon consumers by renewable power mandates is extremely expensive.
A recent study by Timothy J. Considine, distinguished professor of energy economics with the School of Energy Resources and the Department of Economics and Finance at the University of Wyoming, found while RPS investments stimulate economic activity, the negative economic impacts associated with higher electricity prices offset the economic “benefits” from RPS investments. The study, which examines 12 different states, suggests RPS mandates are costly and inefficient means to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, and the study says they ultimately reduce economic growth and employment.
Thomas Tanton, president of T2 and Associates, argues in a 2015 Policy Study published by the Reason Foundation only some renewable-energy technology installations conserve resources. Tanton also argues while some of these installations are efficient, many are not.
“Renewable portfolio standards (further exacerbated by various federal tax treatments and local subsidies) fail to recognize this distinction and foster the development of inefficient installations, thereby discouraging the use of more efficient and environmentally effective facilities,” wrote Tanton.
“For example, most of the compliance with state-level RPSs has come in the form of wind energy,” wrote Tanton. “Wind energy is unpredictable and volatile, leading to lower value and imposing significant costs on others. Advocating for RPS reveals the belief by proponents that the market would not otherwise embrace cost-effective, resource-conserving installations of renewables. History proves otherwise.”
A recent fact sheet produced by the Palmetto Promise Institute argues Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards and rules continue to drive electricity costs higher in Palmetto’s home state of South Carolina. “The EPA’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) bears much of the blame for these negative consequences,” wrote the Palmetto Promise Institute. “The RPS was set into motion by the EPA in 2014 and requires states to increase the percentage of energy produced by renewable energy sources. The EPA has required 2.1 percent of South Carolina’s total energy consumption be renewable energy by the year 2021.”
In a recent Research & Commentary, Policy Analyst Tim Benson argues repealing renewable power mandates will raise living standards, stimulate long-term economic growth, and create a substantial increase in net jobs. “Living standards increase because lower-cost electricity frees up money for consumers to purchase additional goods and services that improve their lives,” wrote Benson. “Economic growth and net job numbers increase because the newly available money spent on additional goods and services creates additional jobs throughout the economy.”
What We’re Working On
Only Two Weeks Until Heartland’s 2016 Summer Emerging Issues Forum!
The Heartland Institute is hosting two Emerging Issues Forums in 2016. The first will be held in Chicago, Illinois on August 7–8, immediately before the National Conference of State Legislature’s Legislative Summit. The second will be held in Orlando, Florida on December 15–17. The Emerging Issues Forum brings together elected officials, policy analysts, and government affairs professionals from across the country. You will hear from leading free-market experts as we explore innovative solutions to the top public policy issues that will face the states in 2017 and beyond. Registration to the event is free for elected officials, spouses, and legislative staff, and travel scholarships are available. Register today!
Budget & Tax
Research & Commentary: Taxpayer Funded Stadiums a Bad Deal for Taxpayers
Cities across the country are spending millions of taxpayers’ dollars to fund the construction of private sports facilities, which provide little value in return for the public’s massive investment. In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans argues states and cities should move away from funding these projects. “States and cities should end the use of tax-free municipal bonds to fund new stadiums, and they should instead increase economic competitiveness by reducing tax rates or only using taxpayer money on core functions of government,” wrote Glans. Read more
Research & Commentary: Indiana School Choice Parental Satisfaction Should Lead to More School Choice
The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice has released an expanded follow-up study to a 2014 report examining why Indiana parents choose to take advantage of the state’s Choice Scholarship Program voucher and use it to send their children to private schools. Fifty-three percent of respondents were either very (29 percent) or somewhat (24 percent) satisfied with the public schools they were leaving behind. By comparison, 93 percent of school-choice parents were either very (81 percent) or somewhat (12 percent) satisfied with their child’s private school. While academic considerations were important in factoring in why parents decided to choose a private school – 20 percent said it was the most important reason – 39 percent said the most important factor in choosing a private school was the school’s “religious environment/instruction.” In this Research & Commentary, Policy Analyst Tim Benson argues, based on the parental satisfaction shown in these surveys, “Indiana lawmakers should consider turning the Choice Scholarship Program into a universal voucher program.” Read more
Energy & Environment
Research & Commentary: Study on Fracking-Related Air Pollution in Ohio Retracted Due to Errors
In this Research & Commentary, Policy Analyst Tim Benson writes about a joint study by researchers at Oregon State University and the University of Cincinnati – originally published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology in March 2015 – that claims hydraulic fracturing, also called “fracking,” of the Utica shale in Carroll County, Ohio is causing significant air pollution. Benson explains that since the study was first released, researchers have been forced to retract the controversial study due to its numerous miscalculations and errors. When much of the erroneous data was corrected, the researchers found they “significantly” changed “air concentrations … relative to those reported in the published article.” Read more
Hawaii Says ‘Aloha’ to Direct Primary Care
Michael Hamilton, research fellow and managing editor of Health Care News, writes in the Consumer Power Report about the recent emergence of direct primary care (DPC) in Hawaii. The report highlights Dr. Michelle Suber, a naturopathic physician who is combining stewardship and health in a way Hawaii patients have never seen. Suber and her husband, Dr. Buzz Hollander, converted their traditional fee-for-service practice into Iris Integrative Health, Hawaii’s first DPC practice. “Suber and Hollander have taken the DPC plunge. Will others follow? The answer may hinge on lawmakers’ willingness to recognize DPC as the feast amid the government-funded health care famine – a feast to which patients of all income brackets are invited,” writes Hamilton. Read more
From Our Free-Market Friends
The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) Awarded a Three-Year, $1.8 million Grant
The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) has been awarded a three-year, $1.8 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation to define new and better ways to communicate with Millennials about the humane values and ethical principles of a free society. Through experimental message testing, digital distribution, and data feedback analysis, FEE will communicate to Millennials that the pathway to human flourishing, dignity, and abundance is through individual liberty, free markets, limited government, and the entrepreneurial spirit. Read more