Green ambitions scaled back as funding realities hit cities, states

by WorldTribune Staff, February 20, 2019

The Green New Deal proposed by Democrats calls for the entire United States to be powered by clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources within 10 years.

Cities and states which actually have turned to reliance on renewables, tried to institute carbon taxes, or envisioned massive high-speed rail networks often find it difficult, if not impossible, to overcome the economic realities tied to their green ambitions.

In 2012, a Republican city council member in Georgetown, Texas proposed that the city move to meet 100 percent of its electricity needs with solar and wind power.

That council member is now the mayor. In 2016, Mayor Dale Ross locked Georgetown’s municipal utility into 20- and 25-year wind and solar energy contracts to make good on his 100 percent renewable pledge.

Ross quickly became a star among environmentalists, even being featured Al Gore’s 2017 film “An Inconvenient Sequel”. Gore called Georgetown a “trailblazer” in the fight against global warming.

Georgetown, which has 71,000 residents, reportedly now pays $1,219 per household in higher electricity costs.

“While Ross was being lauded far and wide, the residents of his town were paying a steep price. His decision to bet on renewables resulted in the city budget getting dinged by a total of $29.8 million in the four years from 2015 to 2018,” Chuck DeVore, a vice president with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, noted in a Jan. 29 op-ed for Fox News.

“Georgetown’s electric costs were $3.5 million over budget in 2015, ballooning to $6.3 million in 2016. By 2017, the mayor’s green gamble was undercut by the cheap natural gas prices brought about by the revolution in high-tech fracking. Power that year cost the city’s budget $9.5 million more than expected, rising to $10.5 million last year, according to budget documents reported by The Williamson County Sun.”

In the past year, voters in Washington state rejected a carbon tax – for the second time.

“Carbon tax opponents successfully framed the proposal as an energy tax that would raise prices and do nothing for future global warming,” noted Michael Bastasch, energy editor for The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Initiative 1631 was supported by Democrats, including Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who is also mulling a 2020 presidential run.

The carbon tax would have cost households an extra $230 per year in 2020, according to the Washington Policy Center. Energy bills, including gasoline prices, would also increase because of the tax.

Ronald Bailey, science correspondent for Reason Magazine, noted that Initiative 1631 would have created a multi-million dollar taxpayer slush fund with scant accountability:

“Unlike the earlier proposal, this new initiative has the backing of most environmental lobbying groups. What’s different? Instead of going back into the pocketbooks of citizens, this time the funds will be directed toward projects chosen by a new 15-member board of political appointees, over which environmental activist groups will exercise outsized influence. Seventy percent of the revenue is earmarked for renewable energy investment and public transit, 25% for water and forests, and 5% must go to communities both impacted by fossil fuels and those looking to transition away from them. It is estimated that the fee will generate $2.2 billion in revenues during its first five years.”

Using the projections of carbon tax proponents, Bailey found that the end result of Initiative 1631’s passage in Washington “would amount to reduction of just under 1 million tons of carbon dioxide annually; in other words, a negligible reduction with respect to the problem that it purports to help solve.”

The viability of high-speed rail, a key cog in the Green New Deal, took a massive hit when California Gov. Gavin Newsom put the brakes on the Los Angeles to San Francisco rail line.

“Let’s level about the high-speed rail,” Newsom said in his State of the State address earlier this month, announcing most of the project would be halted.

“Let’s be real, the current project as planned would cost too much and, respectfully, take too long. Right now, there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to L.A. I wish there were,” Newsom said.

Newsom said the state would complete a 119-mile section of high-speed rail between Merced and Bakersfield in the Central Valley. That line is not expected to be finished until 2022 at a cost of $89 million per mile.

Electrified mass transit is also proving difficult in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The Los Angeles Times that Albuquerque canceled its $133 million plan for an all-electric bus line through downtown.

Massive construction in downtown Albuquerque hurt local businesses, modernized bus stops were vandalized and the electric buses themselves were found to have flaws that made them unusable, the report said.

The city has sued the Chinese-owned electric vehicle manufacturer and contracted with another company for diesel buses, according to The LA Times.

Last month, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that the U.S. electric power sector “plans to add more than 4 GW of new solar capacity in 2019 and almost 6 GW in 2020, a total increase of 32% from the operational capacity at the end of 2018.”

The increase will result in solar contributing slightly more than 2 percent of total utility-scale generation by 2020, the EIA said.

Fossil fuels will still provide most of the electricity generated in the United States. Coal and natural gas combined provided 63 percent of electricity generation in 2018 and EIA forecasts that they will provide 61 percent by 2020.

In a February 2015 report for Forbes, David Williams, president of Taxpayers Protection Alliance, noted that “The Government Accountability Office not long ago counted 345 different federal initiatives supporting solar energy. The programs are managed by nearly 20 agencies and support more than 1,500 individual projects. Over the past five years alone, the federal government spent $150 billion on solar energy and other renewable energy projects. Preferable tax treatment given to solar and other alternative electricity initiatives cost Americans nearly $9 billion annually, according to the IRS. Billions of dollars have been blown on solar boondoggles – Solyndra being just one of them – and more boondoggles are in the pipeline (so to speak), since nothing encourages the venture capitalists at the Department of Energy like failure.”

After decades of massive “investments” and disappointing results, Williams said “Americans need to take a critical second look at whether our failed or faltering federal solar initiatives deserve continued support. With so little to show for so many costly initiatives, it should be clear to the objective observer that federal solar power efforts haven’t been a productive or prudent use of precious tax dollars.

Solar energy’s day in the sun may yet come. But taxpayers have done enough. It’s time for Big Sun to stand on its own, powered exclusively by private investment and initiative.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Dick Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said on Feb. 20 that after reading the Green New Deal resolution he asked a key sponsor of the legislation: “What in the heck is this?”

“At this point, I would be – I can’t tell ya, to be honest with you. I’ve read it, and I’ve reread it. And I asked Ed Markey what in the – what in the heck is this? He says it is an aspiration, you know, it’s a resolution aspiration,” Durbin said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

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