The Renewable Electricity Standard Game Plan

Audrey Jones /

This week, National Journal hosted an energy, environment, and economic policy summit on the Renewable Electricity Standard (RES). Participants included Sens. Mark Begich (D-AK) and Sam Brownback (R-KS); Dr. Robert Simon, the Majority Staff Director of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources; David Friedman, the Research Director of the Union of Concerned Scientists; and Phil Sharp, the President of Resources for the Future.

RES proponents acknowledged that the nation’s current double digit unemployment makes near term adoption of RES politically impossible, but they also outlined a long-term strategy: 1) personal relationships and deals with other Senators; 2) national security messaging; and 3) putting a figurative gun to the nation’s head in the form of the EPA.

Not discussed was how RES fans plan to get around the huge economic costs their policies would inflict on a fragile economy. The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis has found that an RES would cut national income by $5.2 trillion between 2012 and 2035, cut income for a family of four by $2400 per year, and reduce employment by more than 1,000,000 jobs.

While diverse energy sources are ideal, the market is far better at picking industry winners and losers than the government ever could be.  Investors will develop competitive energy products where they see a profit to be made and this is much better than powerful special interests pushing for government funding of uncompetitive products, making energy more expensive for all and disproportionately hurting the poor.

Finally, the strategy gets harsh.  If they cannot win their friends and cannot convince the public that they are acting in what they would consider their best interest, though causing the economy to nose-dive, they will put a figurative gun to the heads of their colleagues through EPA regulations.  Using this back-door method to mandate intrusive environmental regulations is not only unsavory but also ignores the collective will of the people.

There is never a good time for policies which hurt our economy, but pushing costly environmental agendas through at a time when our country is in economic trouble will not only be ineffective but shows an insensitivity to the livelihoods and security of Americans.