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Arizona voters should reject big green tax on poor

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Liberals love to talk about helping the poor and the middle class, so why are they pushing one of the most regressive taxes in modern times?

Proposition 127 would require half of Arizona electric power production by 2030 to come mostly from wind and solar power. Green groups and activists like billionaire Tom Steyer say that Prop. 127 will be virtually cost-free to Arizonans. Really? In my study for the Goldwater Institute, I examined the disappointing results of states like California, New York, and Vermont, which have been duped into similar energy regulations. States with renewable mandates of 50 percent or more, as required by 127, have average power costs that are roughly 50 percent higher than states that allow utilities to buy the cheapest energy from the power grid.

Stephen Moore

Stephen Moore

A recent Wall Street Journal analysis found that California, which has already moved to a 50 percent green energy mandate, charges businesses and families 67 percent more for electricity than cheaper states like Arizona. Thanks in part to its stringent renewable mandate, the WSJ reports, “California electricity rates have surged 30 percent since 2011 compared to an 8 percent increase nationwide.”

Florida, by contrast, which uses natural gas, solar energy, clean coal, and nuclear power and doesn’t have a clean energy mandate, has seen its utility costs fall by 3 percent over this same period. Does Arizona want to be like high-cost California or low-cost Florida?

Prop. 127’s hardest-hit victims will be low-income families. The U.S. Census Bureau reports the poor pay about five times more of their income on energy than rich families do. The energy mandate is Robin Hood in reverse: It steals from the poor to subsidize the rich.

These price hikes might make some sense if the scheme would actually clean the air—but it won’t. The mandate doesn’t include nuclear power or natural gas as “clean energy” sources, even though they’re among the environmentally safest producers of energy. Even coal-burning plants are far cleaner today than 30 years ago with pollution reductions of 30, 40 and even 50 percent for lead, carbon monoxide, and smog.

The initiative would foolishly restrict Arizona’s natural gas use at a time when America is in the midst of the biggest shale gas boom in history. Natural gas prices have fallen over the past decade by 70 percent, thanks to domestic shale gas production. Conversion to natural gas is the reason the United States has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions more than virtually any other nation over the last decade.

Nuclear energy is even cleaner because it emits virtually zero air pollutants into the atmosphere. Why would a green mandate exclude nuclear and potentially force the closure of the Palo Verde plant employing hundreds of Arizonans?

Yes, sunny Arizona is an ideal state for solar power. As it gets cheaper, the state should use solar whenever it makes financial sense. But politicians shouldn’t force you to buy it regardless of cost. It doesn’t make sense to insert into the state Constitution a requirement on energy use that locks Arizona into 50 percent wind and solar. Betting the state’s financial future and job base on wind and solar power is a huge risk to Arizona’s economic health.

— Stephen Moore is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and author of “Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy” (Regnery, 2015). His new study for the Goldwater Institute is: “Arizona’s ‘Clean Energy’ Initiative: All Pain, No Gain.”

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The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.

2 comments

  1. bradley taylor hudson

    When reading articles, first consider the source. Mr. Moore works for the Heritage Foundation, an arm of the Koch brothers empire. So you know immediately the article is a sham. He is not interested in the welfare of poor people. His job it to take whatever twist he can to protect the oil interests. One example of a twist is his reference to California “power costs” with a number like 50% higher, would scare anyone. But this is misleading. According to the California Public Utilities Commission, the average utility bill in California is around $90 a month. Now, one can choose statistics to support a “for” or “against” position, but Mr. Moore does not disclose this. Next, he writes “politicians shouldn’t force you to buy it regardless of cost”. This is again language chosen with a partisan purpose. Prop 127 is not “politicians” forcing. It is a proposed action of the people. The word “forcing” is more appropriately applied when a utility, such as APS, gives large contributions to a public servant, such as Brnovich, who then forces a change in ballot verbiage to support APS’s position, as he did on Prop 127. In his last paragraph, Mr. Moore tries to present himself as friendly to solar energy “As it gets cheaper”, but his employers have done everything they can to prevent that from happening, in order to preserve oil profits. This article is well-written, and it is a sham.

  2. “Clean coal” is an industry marketing phrase. There’s no such thing. When you take hydrocarbons out of the ground and burn them, you add carbon dioxide (greenhouse gases) to the atmosphere. Period. This is not debatable. It applies to any form of coal as well as natural gas. Clean coal is the industry’s way of putting lipstick on a pig.

    The author’s choice of Florida as an example is intriguing. Climate change will flood most of Florida. It has already started. Devastation due to more severe storms has taken its toll and will continue to do so. The red tide is another environmental disaster exacerbated by warmer oceans. Yet in spite of all this, Florida’s Republican governor refuses to acknowledge that the disasters foretold by climate science are already upon them. They say people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Florida’s refusal to take definitive action to reduce carbon emissions flies in the face of every species’ instinct for survival. It’s mind boggling.

    As a society we should not spare any expense to take measures to reduce carbon emissions. It’s a moral imperative. This initiative, with all its flaws, is the result of the abject failure of our leaders to take the necessary steps.

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