Where to start with right-wing maven Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, especially when he weighs in on the environment and renewable energy in his typically uninformed, anti-intellectual, anti-science, ideological and agenda-ridden style?
Well let’s start with the fact that Norquist and Patrick Gleason, director state affairs for Norquist’s organization, have published an op-ed article in Politico, “Rethink Energy Mandates,” which calls on states to scrap renewable electricity standards (RES).
That’s where the facts end.
RES are a successful, bipartisan policy that requires utilities to gradually increase their use of wind, solar, and other renewable power sources over time. The standards have been a primary driver for deploying clean power sources for the last fifteen years, says Jeff Deyette, assistant director of research & analysis, Clean Energy for the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Deyette took on the admirable task of discrediting the Norquist article. His response blows it out of the water.
It is no wonder, Deyette writes, that “champions for the coal industry and a 20th century power system have launched an all-out assault on the popular and successful [RES] policy.”
He continues that the most ridiculous claim in the Norquist/Gleason piece, “which was thoroughly debunked in an excellent blog post by the folks at Climate Progress, attempts to lay sole blame on state RES policies for the wide range of electricity rates paid by consumers in various states.” Norquist writes that RESs are intended “by design” to drive up energy costs by “requiring utilities to use more expensive and often less reliable sources of energy.”
There is utterly no evidence to confirm that assertion. “Suffice it to say their level of analytic rigor in supporting this claim wouldn’t pass muster even in a middle school classroom,” says Deyette.
Norquist believes that state RES are driven by “global warming alarmists” and thus are ripe for repeal in Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania because their state legislatures and governors are controlled by Republicans. He conveniently ignores the fact that “Republicans played a substantial role in originally adopting the RES in each of those states,” Deyette writes. “In both Ohio and Pennsylvania, Republicans had majority control of the House and Senate chambers that approved RES legislation. In Michigan and Wisconsin, Republicans controlled one of the chambers at the time of enactment, and Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Tommy Thompson signed it into law (one year before then-Governor George W. Bush signed the Texas RES into law).”
Of the 35 states that adopted either enforceable RESs or voluntary renewable energy goals, all but eight were put in place with the support of a Republican-controlled House, Senate, or governorship, and three other states, Colorado, Washington and Missouri, adopted their RESs via ballot initiatives.
In fact they are hugely bipartisan.
“The reason that Democrat and Republican policy makers alike have backed state RESs is that they recognize the economic development, job creation, fuel diversity, and public health benefits that come from increasing our use of clean, homegrown renewable energy,” says Deyette.
Then there is the jobs thing. Norquist falsely claims that state RESs could lead to job losses, says Deyette, despite strong evidence to the contrary. “Renewable electricity standards create demand for investments in new clean power facilities, which in turn lead to jobs in project development, construction, operations, and maintenance.”
There’s nothing wrong with the RES system. Yet it’s a target of influential ideologues like Norquist, who cater to the interests of Big Coal and the old energy economy, and are just ticking the boxes in the right-wing playbook.
[Image Credit: North Allegheny Windpower by Duke Energy via Flickr Creative Commons]