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January 16 2017

The Wrong Way to Restore the Energy Economy

Jillian Kay Melchior

Most states distort the market in favor of renewable energy, using subsidies, incentives and other tools. But a group of Wyoming legislators have proposed precisely the opposite, introducing legislation that would penalize utility companies supplying consumers with wind-generated energy.

The Casper Star-Tribune has the details:

If Senate File 71 were law, there would be six permissible resources for generating electricity for Wyomingites, including natural gas and coal. Wind and solar are not on the list, except for individual use.

Utilities would have a year to reach the first compliance milestone of the bill, in which each company would have to get 95 percent of its Wyoming-sold energy from the approved resources.

The following year, 2019, companies must reach 100 percent compliance.

Under the bill, if electricity were generated by wind or solar in Wyoming to serve customers in the state it would come with a $10-per-megawatt-hour penalty. That penalty would be double the suggested tax hike on wind also under consideration this legislative session.

If any state had a reasonable temptation to interfere, it would be Wyoming. The Obama administration’s war on coal has meant hundreds of job losses in the past year, leading Wyoming into a one-state recession.

While we disagree with special treatment for renewable energy, this bill is also a terrible idea. Chuck Mason, a University of Wyoming economist, rightly said this legislation “strikes me as protectionism.”

Conservatives aren’t skeptical of green energy because of some sort of bizarre animus for the wind and sun. Instead, we don’t believe that the federal government should be picking winners and losers in the energy market (or anywhere else).

Right now, renewable energy is vastly more expensive than traditional energy, so when the government uses regulation and subsidy to create artificial demand for green energy sources. That meddling means that American families pay more for their fuel and their utilities.

IWF has long argued that renewables will be a viable option when they can succeed in providing affordable, reliable energy without a government boost. That would be a welcome development, a cause for celebration.

But using regulation to penalize renewables creates a disincentive for innovators, making it more difficult to develop alternative energy sources that are viable in the unfettered market.

Lawmakers in Wyoming and across the United States would do Americans a bigger favor by butting out of the energy market altogether.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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