Government Bytes


The Dirty Reality Behind Obama's Clean Energy Standard

by Brandon Greife / /

For the second year in a row President Obama used his State of the Union to call for the creation of a “clean energy” standard (CES). Although various proposals have been knocking around Congress the past several years, the key feature is a requirement that electric companies generate a stated percentage of their electricity from certain enumerated “clean” sources.

President Obama hasn’t been shy about his desire to create a green (or clean) energy economy. In fact, one of his oft-repeated campaign promises was to invest $150 billion and create 5 million green jobs. Obama has been doing his best to make good on the promise by using deficit financed loan guarantees, cash grants, and subsidy payments to try and jumpstart the market for green energy.

The result, as one executive of a green-energy company told the New York Times, “I have never seen anything that I have had to do in my 20 years in the power industry that involved less risk than these projects. It is just filling the desert with [solar] panels.”

States have also been chipping in, offering their own tax breaks and clean energy standards, but the results have led many to reconsider. The New York Times reports:

These mandates often have resulted in contracts with above-market rates for the project developers, and a guarantee of a steady revenue stream.

“It is like building a hotel, where you know in advance you are going to have 100 percent room occupancy for 25 years,” said Kevin Smith, chief executive of SolarReserve. His Nevada solar project has secured a 25-year power-purchase agreement with the state’s largest utility and a $737 million Energy Department loan guarantee and is on track to receive a $200 million Treasury grant.

Because the purchase mandates can drive up electricity rates significantly, some states, including New Jersey and Colorado, are considering softening the requirements on utilities.

Failing to learn from the example of such states, President Obama is now proposing to create a national standard. The result will be a windfall for clean energy companies and a serious hit for taxpayers.

A clean energy standard “works” by taking lower-cost choices away from consumers. By requiring utilities to buy certain forms of energy, namely, wind, solar, biomass, and other Washington-approved fuels, a stable, but artificial market is created. It’s the equivalent of trying to reduce car emissions by mandating that everyone get around using roller-skates at least 80 percent of the time. Sure, it would take a lot longer to get to places, would be completely unworkable for many people who regularly travel long distances, and would create an overnight market for roller-skate makers.

But whereas Americans would largely pay for the roller-skate mandate in wasted time, a clean-energy mandate would result in vastly more expensive electric bills. Those higher prices arise by forcing providers to use costlier forms of energy than they would otherwise use. And those higher costs would go straight to the clean energy companies that President Obama has been so keen on subsidizing.

You see, Obama made a promise to create 5 million green-energy jobs. And that’s a promise he intends to keep…even if it just means shuttling money out of American’s wallets and into “clean” energy companies. Gives new meaning to the words money laundering.