Renewable energy standard will never be the answer

Lance Brown Contributor
Font Size:

In the final hours, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) accepted the inevitable: an energy package was simply not going to pass before the August recess.

Senator Reid had scheduled a vote on his diluted (and un-vetted) energy efficiency and oil spill package to take place on Wednesday, three days before the August recess.

It became increasingly clear, however, that neither this bill nor any other energy bill would get the 60 votes needed for passage. On Tuesday afternoon, Senator Reid canceled the energy vote and said the Senate would re-visit energy in September.

Some Senators and energy activists have said they can now make the bill “a little more meaningful,” to use Senator Amy Klobuchar’s (D-MN) words. By “meaningful,” she and her colleagues mean adding a federal renewable energy standard that would raise energy bills and destroy jobs across America.

However, if they couldn’t get the 60 votes now, or any time within the past year, they are unlikely to get the votes in September—and with good reason.

When Congress began discussing a federal renewable energy standard about one year ago with the release of the Waxman-Markey bill in the House, it was clear that the bill’s 20 percent renewable energy standard by 2020 would do more harm than good to the economy.

An August 2009 study by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF) found that the legislation would increase energy prices by as much as 50 percent. As a result, the United States would see a loss of 1.8 million to 2.4 million jobs by 2030 and reduce the U.S. GDP by as much as $571 billion by the same year.

Similarly, an August 2009 study by the Heritage Foundation found similar results: a loss of about 2.5 million jobs by 2035 and a 90 percent increase in inflation-adjusted energy prices, in addition to “significantly” higher gasoline prices.

These studies are much the same as more recent studies, such as the Heritage Foundation’s May 2010 findings that a 15 percent federal renewable energy standard would result in a 36 percent increase in household energy bills and a loss of over 1 million jobs.

It’s clear, then, that a federal renewable energy standard wasn’t popular at the beginning of the energy debate, isn’t popular now, and isn’t going to be popular come September. For some reason, 27 Senators are still pushing for the inclusion of a renewable energy standard in any energy package that comes to the floor, yet it’s obvious that any Senator or Representative would be illogical and especially unwise to vote for it in an election year.

I’m grateful that the Senate now has the opportunity to responsibly debate a solution to our country’s energy problems. We need affordable and reliable energy, and we should use renewable sources where it makes economic sense to do so. Still, a renewable energy standard is not the answer, and never will be.

And, after these Senators spend a month in their districts listening to voters who are fed up with Congress’s recent attempts to raise taxes and spending, while passing measures that will raise energy bills and destroy jobs, I’m certain that many will agree with me.

Lance Brown is the Executive Director of the Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy.