Monday, December 19, 2011

Energy Lies—VI

"Renewable Energy Standards Boost Electricity Rates"

Cartoon: Grover Norquist corrupts GOP loyalties
 ~ Do state mandates for renewable energy generation increase electricity rates?

Some of the usual suspects, like Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, labor to convince you they do. But the signature claim, that ratepayers fork over more in states with a RES, is a classic case of lying with statistics.
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.
States with high electricity rates before continue to have electricity rates. Also, rates are affected by many factors, not just the existence or details of a RES. In fact the 5 states with the most installed wind and solar power saw the least increase in electricity prices over the past 6 years.

Impacts are either overblown or outright false:
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%.
Electricity rates could always go up, but they would likely do so for reasons other than a RES. The purpose of a RES is, of course, precisely not to "drive up energy costs" as Norquist fabricates. Rather, they are designed to decrease costs over time. As fossil fuels become harder to extract and more costly to transport and process, their price will continue to go relentlessly up. The cost of sunshine and wind do not. And were the true costs of each form of energy—the externalities—included, the cost advantage of renewables would be sharper still, and sooner.
Of course, these [energy lies] 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.
To state the obvious, their opposition to renewable energy and to a RES that promotes it does not have anything to do with tax reform. Rather, it is an attack on the effectiveness of government. The whole point is to destroy government programs that work, for it is only by doing so that they can then claim government is feckless and wasteful, and so undeserving of tax revenue. Norquist is the ideologue who famously said that he wanted to shrink government to a size where it could be drowned in a bathtub. It should come as no surprise that he would also murder the truth in doing so.

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