Step back and look at all energy options on the table

Lance Brown Contributor
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It’s getting difficult to keep track of all the energy proposals that are on the table. We’ve got Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s (D-N.M.) original American Clean Energy Leadership Act, as well as the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act that passed the House last year with a 20 percent renewable energy standard and ambitious emissions cuts. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) released their CLEAR Act with a cap-and-dividends program shortly before Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) released their American Power Act with a cap-and-trade program. Not to mention, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is attempting to get in the game with greenhouse gas regulations, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and others are attempting to stop them. Who can keep track of all the legislative proposals in the chaos?

As the energy debate continues, we’ve seen many impact-based studies from both the government and private institutions calculating the effects that cap-and-trade provisions and federal renewable energy standards will have on select interest groups. We depend on these studies so that consumers and lawmakers alike know what will happen to electricity rates and choices should any particular bill pass. In fact, according to Renewable Energy World, the American Power Act permits the EPA and the National Academy of Sciences to make policy changes every four years according to the latest climate science and technological advancements.

As the EPA and other organizations are analyzing the American Power Act—or any piece of legislation pertaining to energy—it is important that they keep an eye on the aggregate impact of the proposals on consumers, jobs, and the entire economy.

Why? These bills often contain very expensive provisions that would have a devastating impact on the already weakened economy. A study commissioned by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF) found that H.R. 2454—the Waxman-Markey bill as approved by the U.S. House—would cost up to 2.4 million jobs by 2030. Is Congress aware of this fact?

The study also illustrates how energy prices would rise under the legislation, particularly in states dependent upon traditional sources like coal, oil, and gas. By 2030, for example, natural gas prices would increase between 56.3 percent and 73.5 percent, while electricity prices would rise by up to 50 percent.

The NAM/ACCF study is one of many analyzing the impacts of the various energy proposals, and we need to get a clearer picture of the effects of comprehensive energy legislation. With families struggling to make ends meet, they need to know about the potentially drastic spikes they may see in their electricity bills.

The majority of energy experts and economists would likely agree that the key to affordable energy policy is to utilize the wide range of energy-generation sources found across the country, including renewable sources in states where they are affordable and accessible. The existing studies illustrate that by artificially bolstering demand for expensive sources like wind and solar energy, Congress will be putting the country on the path toward astronomical energy bills and job loss, whether our elected officials are aware of it or not.

The EPA needs to take account of the cost that proposals like a cap-and-trade program or a potential federal renewable energy standard will have on consumers, small businesses, and economic growth. The legislation introduced on May 12 did not include a renewable energy standard, but Senate leadership has given every indication that it could very well be tacked on the bill, should the bill ever get a debate. If and when this happens, the EPA and other organizations need to look carefully at the hidden costs so that the legislation can be fairly debated.

Just as we need a comprehensive energy policy to ensure the security of our energy future, we also need a comprehensive analysis of all the options on the table before anything becomes law. We know these provisions will have a high cost impact on consumers, but we don’t yet know just how high. The Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy applauds the EPA for its attention to the impact of such sweeping legislation, and hopes that American consumers and families are put first.

Lance Brown is executive director of PACE.