Setting federal energy standards won’t create jobs

Lance Brown Contributor
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The wind energy industry would have us believe that the industry “is on the edge of explosive growth.”

However, one minor detail is missing. The wind energy industry will only grow with financial and legislative aid from the government—not because wind energy is a reliable and affordable source of power nationwide.

According to the Energy Information Administration, the United States gets well under 10 percent of its energy from renewable sources, and wind accounts for less than .1 percent of the nation’s energy consumption. How will use of wind grow, then?

The American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) Executive Director Denise Bode said at the organization’s annual conference in Dallas this week that the “explosive growth” will occur if Congress enacts a federal renewable energy standard. Specifically, AWEA supports a 25 percent renewable energy standard by 2025, meaning that 25 percent of electricity in every state will be required to come from renewable sources like wind, solar, and geothermal energy by that year.

A federal renewable energy standard might be convenient for the AWEA and other renewable energy advocates, because the government will be requiring electricity providers and consumers across the country to purchase their goods, regardless of whether or not that energy source is affordable or reliable in any particular state.

The problem, however, is that a federal renewable energy standard is wholly inconvenient for consumers. But, if Congress enacts a renewable energy standard, every state will be required to adhere to the standard regardless of the current makeup of their energy portfolio, and regardless of whether or not it makes sense in terms of cost or efficiency to do so.

If it makes sense financially and in terms of efficiency for a state to use renewable sources, the state is probably already doing so. Texas, as AWEA’s Denise Bode noted, has abundant wind power and can affordably transmit that power to consumers. Likewise, California is one of the leading users of renewable sources like solar, wind, and geothermal energy.

However, states that rely on traditional sources like coal or natural gas—the majority of states—will have trouble gaining affordable access to renewable sources and will see their electricity bills rise by as much as 36 percent by 2035, as the Heritage Foundation’s Nicolas Loris recently wrote on this website.

Enacting a federal renewable energy standard won’t help create jobs. On the contrary, as electricity costs rise, businesses will lay off employees in order to pay the air conditioning and lighting bills—and as states are forced to use more renewable sources, they will cut back on coal and other traditional sources, and thousands of jobs in those industries will be lost.

The AWEA’s Denise Bode said, “Congress, by not acting, is allowing our lighthouse to dim.” With unemployment still at 9.5 percent, why should Congress favor one type of energy over another when the evidence shows that a renewable energy standard will raise electricity costs and cause loss of jobs? Instead of ensuring the security of one or two select energy resources that may or may not provide affordable and reliable power to our country, Congress should instead ensure the energy security of our entire country by developing an energy plan that recognizes the unique energy sources found in each state.

Lance Brown is executive director of PACE.