According to a poll by Fallon Research, “Nearly 60% [of Ohio voters] would pay an extra $3 a month on a $100 dollar energy bill to support the development of electricity from clean sources.” It is an interesting factoid, I suppose. My initial response is to wonder whether state electric power regulations in Ohio somehow prohibit Ohio voters who are so inclined from buying “electricity from clean sources.” If so, the regulations should be revised so that consumers have the opportunity to buy the kind of electric power they want.
Heather Taylor-Miesle, of the NRDC Action Fund, apparently thinks differently. She reads the survey results and thinks, “Great, this is a good reason for state regulators to force everybody to buy clean-sourced electricity, including the more than 40 percent who said they didn’t want to pay as much as 3 percent extra for clean-sourced electricity.”
Can we imagine polling Ohioans on whether they support the Cincinnati Bengals or the Cleveland Browns, and then having state regulators require every consumer buy a T-shirt from the majority-favored team? Why should electricity policy involve state-mandated purchases?
Granted, electric power production involves environmental harms and we might find state and federal policies useful in addressing these harms. But renewable-power purchase mandates are a inefficient way to pursue environmental goals. Granted also, there may well be positive information spillovers from research and development of less-polluting technologies. Renewable-power purchase mandates are an especially ineffective way of promoting the growth and spread of knowledge.
The main point of Taylor-Miesle’s Huffington Post piece was to suggest the conservative, pro-market policy group ALEC was playing the “playground bully” by advocating repeal of state renewable power purchase mandates. I find the suggestion hilariously backward.
So far as I have seen reported in the press, ALEC isn’t out threatening violence for state legislators who refuse to comply with ALEC’s wishes. So far as I know, ALEC operates mostly by distributing policy papers and hosting conferences where people talk a lot. I’ve never heard of a playground bully hosting a public policy conference.
Of course the policy that Taylor-Miesle favors is a policy of coercion: state renewable power purchase mandates simply require electric power retailers to purchase some fraction of their power from government-approved “clean sources.” Should a utility fail to comply, the state will impose penalties. Should a utility fail to pay, the state will seize money in the utility’s bank accounts. If that doesn’t work, the state eventually will close the utility down.
The state is the bully here. Taylor-Miesle is like that kid on the playground hiding behind the bully, egging him on. ALEC, on the other hand, wants to reduce the bully’s reach a little bit.