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Renewable Lunacy

Yesterday some people who looked like college students were going door to door in my neighborhood. I didn't answer the door because I assumed they were door-to-door salesmen, but they weren't. After muttering something about how nobody in this neighborhood was home on a Saturday afternoon (or perhaps just not wanting to be bothered by strangers, I suggest) they put a card in my my door and left.

The people were from some local political advocacy group I'd never heard of before called The Bus Project and one entire side of the card was devoted to how cool they are because they have a bus. Sure, everyone loves a bus (the wheels go round and round, round and round…) but I have my own transportation, thanks.

The other side of the card mentioned some recent Oregon legislation. Among the items was a bill to require 25% of Oregon's electricity to come from renewable sources by 2025. I was disappointed to discover that this bill has already passed.

(Shockingly, the ~40% of Oregon's electricity that currently comes from hydroelectric plants doesn't count as "renewable" under this bill!)

Let's pretend for a moment that I don't know anything about power generation or mineral extraction or environmentalism or politics. From a purely economic point of view, this bill is lunacy. It's a government mandate for electricity generators to use higher cost methods to create the power you and I buy. Despite the claims of supporters that it will reduce costs, higher costs are an obvious reality for two reasons: (1) The existing PGE program for customers to buy power from renewable resources costs more than the standard program, and (2) If renewables were cheaper, no legislation or subsidies would be necessary to induce generators to switch — they are profit-seeking, after all.

It's mind-boggling that legislators and supporters croon about how many jobs this bill will create or how much money it will pump into local economies. Those focused benefits to a few people come at the diffused expense of everyone living in the state — and they do not cancel out. By mandating objectively less efficient means of electricity generation, this bill will cause a net loss to the Oregon economy.

Won't someone please think of the poor? A few extra dollars on my electricity bill won't cause me any hardship. But it will to someone who is struggling to make ends meet. This recently-passed bill is a poke in the eye to every poor person in the state. It makes me sick that people believe politicians who say (sincerely!) that they're looking out for the little guy, when in fact they're making the little guy's problems worse.

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