GOP No Champion for Energy Freedom in Wyoming

Monday, January 23, 2017

A report from the Christian Science Monitor regarding an energy bill in Wyoming will wrongly frighten "progressives" -- and even more wrongly soothe skeptics of unreliable "renewable" energy. Let's set the record straight right now.

The headline, "New Wyoming Bill Forbids Utilities From Using Renewables," is not wholly accurate. Utilities will remain able to sell energy from unreliable sources to other states. But let's set that aside since headlines are meant to grab eyeballs, and I learned the full truth about that from the article. The article is factually accurate, but completely misses a whopper of a story:

The bill would require utilities to use "eligible resources" to meet 95 percent of Wyoming's electricity needs in 2018, and all of its electricity needs in 2019.

Those "eligible resources" are defined solely as coal, hydroelectric, natural gas, nuclear, oil, and individual net metering.

The latter includes home solar or wind installations in which the owner feeds excess electricity back into the grid, and is paid a predetermined, fixed fee for the power.
Now this will raise the hackles of "progressives," as a link from the Monitor clearly indicates. But it should also trouble proponents of plentiful, reliable energy, as I shall soon indicate. Turning to an outfit called InsideClimate News, we get the following outraged comment:
The bill's nine sponsors, two state senators and seven representatives, largely come from Wyoming's top coal-producing counties and include some deniers of man-made climate change. They filed the bill on Tuesday, the first day of the state's 2017 legislative session. Activists and energy experts are alarmed by the measure, which would levy steep fines on utilities that continue providing (or provide new) "non-eligible" clean energy for the state's electricity. But they are skeptical it will get enough support to become law.

"I haven't seen anything like this before," Shannon Anderson, director of the local organizing group Powder River Basin Resource Council, told InsideClimate News. "This is essentially a reverse renewable energy standard." [links dropped, bold added]
Au contraire, Ms. Anderson, all we see in the energy sector are things "like this." As Brian Phillips recently argued in The Innovator Versus the Collective, utilities haven't been permitted to operate in a free market in a century. Phillips states in part:
In America's Electric Utilities: Past, Present, and Future, economist Leonard S. Hyman notes that standard texts assume that utilities became regulated because they were monopolies. But he questions this assumption, citing a study that concluded that "the concept of state regulation was both compatible with the ideas and political needs of progressives [who were calling for more government regulation of businesses] and expedient for safeguarding the material interests of the utilities. From 1907 to 1913, philosophical compatibility and commercial expediency combined to produce a political necessity." The political goals of progressives -- government control -- served the financial interests of the electric utility companies -- guaranteed profits through a prohibition on competition. [bold added, note omitted]
Phillips argues further that long-term, this has stifled the energy industry in many of the same ways other government monopolies have stifled other industries, such as for telecommunications. I bring this up because the piece that quotes Anderson wrongly implies that this bill will make electricity more expensive for Wyomingites by depriving them of a cheap source:
[The bill] comes at a time when such resources are becoming cheaper and increasingly in demand as the world seeks to transition to clean energy to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.
Let's pretend for a moment that all this "demand" and "cheapness" is real. Shouldn't people like Anderson and the folks at InsideClimate News be clamoring for the government to free the energy industry from the shackles of fascistic state control? This would allow people to vote with their wallets for these vastly superior sources of energy, hastening the death of the coal industry so many of them clamor for so enthusiastically.

But thousands of news stories touting the virtues of solar and wind power don't make them any more inexpensive or reliable, and "progressives" basically admit this in the states they control, where governments dictate every move made by the utilities, including creating artificial (and therefore perverse) incentives for customers to employ less reliable (and thus more expensive) sources of energy.

A desire to free the energy industry from government control should be doubly evident among Republicans, given their alleged friendliness to consumer economy. Instead, we see Republican legislators aping leftist control freaks by introducing this slap-dash proposal. A major reason so many laymen are mired in poorly-informed "debates" about "climate change" is that Republicans do not stand up for capitalism, but only against the more blatantly ridiculous demands of the left -- and thus allow the left to set the terms of the public debate in the process. Were it not for government control of entire industries, there would be little point in having political arguments about matters that should be between them and their customers.

Wyomingites in particular and Americans in general should be free to choose what form of energy they purchase. That freedom will not come from the government enforcing monopolies or telling power companies how to run their own businesses. This bill may rankle leftists, but it really is "more of the same," in terms of the continued abuse of government it entails. The sponsors of this bill should withdraw it, apologize, and start over.

-- CAV

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