Power Shortage, Indeed

By July 8, 2007Energy

Like most big city newspapers, the Washington Post has an editorial board and a team of opinion writers who research and mull and create consensus, a process supposed to produce well-considered, consistent expressions of the paper’s editorial policies.

Process notwithstanding, writers specialize in issues and their personal opinions often emerge in the editorials. Whoever writes the Post’s editorials on energy, for example, surely cannot be the same person who writes on trade. The former wants the government to actively manage the nation’s energy use and distrusts the public, while the latter sees the value of the free market in improving people’s live. The energy editorialist also writes much more from a reactively “government good, business bad” point of view.

Case in point, Saturday’s editorial: “Power Shortage.” Like the NAM, the editorial finds fault with the House energy legislation, but only because it doesn’t do enough to control people’s buying decisions. Give us more, bigger, stricter CAFE standards, the editorialist pleads, adding a predictable invidious swipe against “Big Coal” and “Big Auto.” (How can you skip “Big Oil?) The NAM’s criticism comes more from the bill’s lack of anything to expand domestic supply of the energy sources that power the economy, i.e., oil, coal and clean coal, natural gas and nuclear energy.

The line in the editorial that stood out was this one, offered in support of a federal renewable fuels portfolio, that is, a national standard for use of alternative energy in the production of electricity. “There’s no reason a federal equivalent shouldn’t be established — unless members of Congress sympathetic to Big Coal and Big Auto continue to kill efforts to implement one.”

There’s no reason. NO REASON? That’s just dumb. How about this for a reason: Some places are different than others.

Some places have easy access to wind, others not. Solar energy will probably never generate a lot of electricity in western Washington State, for example. And wind, solar energy, geothermal, what have you, is almost certainly going to be the most expensive power available. A federal standard would force some regions to purchase that expensive power from elsewhere, disadvantaging the region’s manufacturing while pushing up the price of electricity for consumers, too. And do we even have the infrastructure in place, an adequate electrical grid, to move all that high-priced electricity across the country?

Congress has repeatedly rejected more lenient renewable fuels portfolio provisions (NAM background here) because it’s an economically destructive idea. Saying there’s no reason for doing so is the sign of an ideologue wedded to a big-government view of the world, where good intentions, legislation and regulation can take the place of market forces. If the result sends more American manufacturing jobs overseas, well, there must be a good reason.

No there’s not.

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