A federal renewable energy standard would be disastrous

Lance Brown | Contributor

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) made headlines when he said a federal renewable energy standard would “absolutely” be considered in energy legislation following the recess, adding that it would be more likely to pass during the lame-duck session following the elections.

Hold, please. Did I hear correctly that, after a year of debates on the energy bill and being unable to pass even a simple oil spill package before the August recess, Sen. Reid now thinks a misguided and much derided renewable energy standard is back on the table and able to pass?

It can’t be true, can it?

Yes, it’s true. Earlier this week, Sen. Reid’s spokesperson Jim Manley confirmed, “We are only in for a few weeks when we reconvene next week, and while we are still mapping out the schedule, energy legislation, including the possible inclusion of RES, may have to wait for a lame-duck session.”

Why pass it during a lame-duck session? Because, as everyone knows, a federal renewable energy standard is an unpopular and poor policy proposal that would cause trouble for members of Congress at the ballot box if they voted for it prior to an election, especially during a time when we desperately need affordable energy solutions and jobs. After all, study after study has shown that a federal renewable energy standard would serve to raise energy prices and cause a loss of jobs.

Yet, for some reason, despite rising bills—especially for electricity—and the dismal 9.6 percent unemployment rate in our country, Sen. Reid is determined to push through the renewable energy standard despite the numerous other options on the table. He also claims he has enough support, including two unnamed Republican senators, to pass it—after the Senate has battled it out at the ballot box, of course.

I’ve written many times about the cost and job impacts of a federal renewable energy standard. The National Association for Manufacturers, the American Council for Capital Formation, the Heritage Foundation, and others have all touted the all-but-certain negative impacts of legislation. (I wrote about those studies here in August.) To summarize, all three groups agree that we’ll lose over 1 million jobs and see at least a 30 percent increase in energy prices.)

I thought Congress had finally gotten the picture that a federal renewable energy standard was poor policy—not just because it’s unpopular with the public, but also because it would be seriously harmful to our economy and the millions of Americans who continue to struggle to pay the bills or find a job. I know our members of Congress want to work in the best interests of the American people—after all, why else would you devote your life to public service?

However, it appears that Congress hasn’t yet gotten the picture. Sen. Harry Reid and others are still touting the supposed benefits of a federal renewable energy standard, which will force every state to use a certain percentage of mandated renewable energy sources regardless of whether or not a state has affordable access to those sources.

Sen. Harry Reid, let me repeat those numbers: over 1 million jobs and at least a 30 percent increase in energy prices.

If Congress still wants to try to pass a federal renewable energy standard, they should at least do it before the election, so the American people can then respond appropriately.

Lance Brown is the Executive Director of PACE.

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