Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Guest Essay: A Conservative Argument For Clean Energy -- Follow The Market, Fossil Fuels Are No Bargain

The following goest essay first appeared in the Erie Times on March 27, 2023--

We are at an inflection point on energy: 2022 was the first year when global investment in carbon-free sources of energy matched investment in fossil fuels. This trend is not driven by politics, but rather by a rapidly changing energy market and sound business sense.

As this past year's high power bills demonstrated, the price of generating electricity with natural gas or coal is no longer a bargain for Pennsylvania utility customers. 

High overseas demand for U.S. natural gas, along with old, expensive to maintain power plants, caused electricity prices here to soar.

Relief can only come from our utilities diversifying their energy mix more with cheaper energy sources. 

In today's energy market, solar, wind, and nuclear power — which are virtually immune from overseas influence — offer lower and more price stable electricity generation.

Having a cheaper and cleaner energy mix also will help the Keystone State to secure a bigger share of this growing clean energy investment. That means thousands of new jobs as clean tech companies locate their manufacturing operations here in the United States.

In fact, clean energy is expected to be a $23 trillion market by the end of this decade.

You would think Pennsylvania leaders would be doing everything possible to embrace this once-in-a-generation opportunity to lift up the state's economy and give a boost to their communities.

Unfortunately, too many "leaders" have their heads in the sand, falsely claiming increased gas production will bring relief to Pennsylvania families. 

They overlook a basic economic point: because increasing amounts of U.S. natural gas are now being shipped overseas, the price is determined by global demand and what other countries are willing to pay. 

That makes gas prices here volatile, and subject to rapid spikes beyond our control.

Repeatedly, Pennsylvanians are fed promises of cheaper energy due to in-state gas production, only to see their electricity bills keep rising. 

During the past year alone, electricity bills in Pennsylvania jumped as much as 45% due solely to the rise in natural gas prices.

The debate around the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is a perfect example of where some leaders are holding Pennsylvania back from lower electricity costs and economic growth. 

RGGI is a market-based program, patterned after the successful Reagan-Bush era acid rain program. It reduces pollution by encouraging utilities to better diversify their energy mix with cleaner, cheaper sources.

Although the state's RGGI rule is final, its participation — and access to the program's benefits — has been tied up by legal battles brought on by some misguided state lawmakers and fossil fuel interests.

Greater fuel diversity will help the state attract new business investment, and is projected to create some 30,000 jobs. 

It will also get Pennsylvania ratepayers off the natural gas price rollercoaster and provide them with more stable electricity bills. 

We have already seen electricity bills fall well below the U.S. average in states that participate in RGGI.

This should surprise no one, given that over the last decade the costs of solar and wind have plummeted by a record 90% and 70%, respectively. And today's low prices are guaranteed for 20 years through power purchase agreements.

Diversifying our energy mix through RGGI is not only good for the economy, and our wallets, it is good for our energy security too.

Because sunshine and wind are free, there is no fuel cost associated with wind and solar. It's produced here and it stays here. 

As former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus put it, clean energy is "controlled locally and essentially bulletproof from foreign manipulation."

There is nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain for states that embrace RGGI and today’s new energy market.

The big question is: will the Keystone State seize this opportunity to be part of the new energy market — with its lower electricity prices, jobs, new investment, and greater security — or will it let those benefits go to other states, as leaders cater to yesterday's energy market and the fossil fuel lobby.

There are no red, blue, left or right, energy sources. Energy is energy. 

The correct path for Pennsylvania is what conservatives have preached since time immemorial: follow the market!

Dave Jenkins is the president of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship

Related Article:

-- Feature- Remembering March 28, 1979 At The Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant - The Accident No One Thought Would Happen -- Like With Natural Gas Infrastructure Today  [PaEN]

[Posted: March 28, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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