A bill filed in the Wyoming legislature would require utility companies within the state to provide electricity to their customers that comes from “eligible resources.” And what are “eligible resources?” Coal, hydroelectric, natural gas, nuclear, and oil. Electricity from renewable energy sources like rooftop solar or backyard wind projects would also be permitted. The bill would require 95% of all electricity in the state to be derived from “qualified resources” by 2018 and 100% by 2019.
But wait, there’s more. Any utility company who violates the proposed new renewable energy law would be fined $10 for every megawatt of non-conforming electricity provided to Wyoming residents.
Wyoming is a large exporter of energy. It is the nation’s largest producer of coal, fourth largest natural gas producer, and eighth among US states in crude oil production. It also is rated highly as a source of wind power. In fact, several large wind energy installations are in existence in the state or are under construction, but all of their output is scheduled to go to customers in other states. Under the proposed legislation, electricity from wind or solar farms for Wyoming residents would be illegal.
What would anyone propose such a law? To preserve jobs, supposedly, and to strike a blow against the alarmists and kooks who insist global warming is happening. Representative David Miller, a Republican from Fremont County and principal sponsor of the bill, tells InsideClimate News:
“Wyoming is a great wind state and we produce a lot of wind energy. We also produce a lot of conventional energy, many times our needs. The electricity generated by coal is amongst the least expensive in the country. We want Wyoming residences to benefit from this inexpensive electrical generation. We do not want to be averaged into the other states that require a certain [percentage] of more expensive renewable energy.”
Is Miller serious? Does he not know that solar and wind power are now less expensive than coal? Why would any person want to burden his constituents with higher cost electricity, unless it is because his point of view has been influenced by money from major campaign donors? That worn out shibboleth about renewable energy being more expensive is one of the patented talking points from the so-called think tanks funded by money from Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, and other fossil fuel companies.
Representative Scott Clem, another sponsor of the bill, puts his erudition on full public display with this observation. “The controversy of climate change affects our families in Campbell County. Coal = Jobs. The fact of the matter is that man-made climate change is not settled science. Instead, it is hotly disputed by reputable and educated men and women….”
No, Mr. Clem, it is not. It is hotly disputed only by people who are bought and paid for by the same corporations. Clem is apparently blissfully unaware that ExxonMobil is currently being sued by the attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts for defrauding the public about climate change for the past 40 years. Fossil fuels have wide ranging negative health implications for the people you represent, sir. With this legislation, you are sentencing the people you represent of shorter lifespans and elevated rates of respiratory and coronary disease. On that subject there is no debate.
Wyoming, like every other state in the US, needs legislators who can see beyond the end of next week and who are committed to representing the best interests of their constituents, not some corporation with offices on Wall Street that stuffs its profits into offshore accounts.