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A wind farm, part of the Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm, is pictured in Tehachapi, Calif., June 19, 2013. (REUTERS/Mario Anzuon) A wind farm, part of the Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm, is pictured in Tehachapi, Calif., June 19, 2013. (REUTERS/Mario Anzuon)  

Senate bills would force people nationwide to buy green energy

Senate Democrats have begun a renewable energy blitz, with two bills mandating an increase in renewable use through 2025.

Sens. Tom Udall of New Mexico and Mark Udall of Colorado introduced a bill last week that would require that 25 percent of the country’s power come from renewable energy sources by 2025.

Another bill introduced by Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Ed Markey would require the country to get 25 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2025. Like the Udall bill, the Markey legislation would allow companies to purchase renewable energy credits to comply with the mandate. Companies that don’t comply would be forced to pay a fine.

“The American Renewable Energy and Efficiency Act would quadruple renewable energy production in the United States,” said Markey. “It would create more than 400,000 jobs. We can put steelworkers and ironworkers and electricians back to work building the new energy backbone for America, from Massachusetts to Montana.”

Markey was also the co-sponsor of the failed cap-and-trade bill in 2009, and his 2013 Senate campaign received large amounts of funding from environmental groups. For example, the environmentalists of the League of Conservation Voters were MAakey’s top contributor in the Massachusetts special election, forking over more than $188,000. The League is also a supporter of Markey’s renewable energy bill.

“As a nation, it’s time to break our addiction to fossil fuels and invest in a cleaner, healthier future for our children,” said Franz Matzner with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Coupled with President Obama’s climate change initiative, this legislation can takes us one step closer to meeting the moral obligation we have to our children to cut pollution, tackle climate change and develop more sources of clean, renewable energy — and the jobs that come with it.”

However, renewable energy mandates have been criticized for raising energy costs across the country. Earlier this year, conservative state legislators in 16 states led an effort to repeal or weaken state mandates, arguing they raised energy costs.

Natural gas prices, they argue, have plummeted and can provide cheaper, more reliant energy than solar and wind.

“We’re opposed to these mandates, and 2013 will be the most active year ever in terms of efforts to repeal them,” said Todd Wynn, former energy director at the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group representing state lawmakers pushing to reform green mandates. “Natural gas is a clean fuel, and regulators and policy makers are seeing how it’s much more affordable than renewable energy.”

A 2011 study by the free-market Institute for Energy Research found that electricity prices were 40 percent higher in states that had green energy mandates as opposed to states without them.

“While the renewable mandates may not be the only reason electricity prices are higher in those States, these mandates likely contribute to higher prices and certainly are not helping to decrease the price,” reads the report. “After all, renewable electricity mandates require the generation of electricity from more expensive sources.”

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