RICK MARTINEZ: Where Perdue Should Put Her Energy
This is reprinted with permission from The News & Observer of Raleigh.
The energy plan Gov.-elect Beverly Perdue touted in her campaign has some good ideas and some lousy ones. In the spirit of a brighter tomorrow, I'll point them out.
NO MORE COAL-FIRED POWER PLANTS -- Horrible idea. There is no way alternative energy can come close to meeting the growth coming our way. If clean coal (dirty coal is outlawed) is off the table, then the utilities will import power, likely generated at older plants that have higher greenhouse gas output. The net result of this proposal is two-fold: North Carolinians will pay a premium price for dirty power, and more polar bears will die.
REQUIRE 50 PERCENT OF LOAD GROWTH TO BE ACHIEVED THROUGH ENERGY EFFICIENCY -- As Ben Franklin said after he flew his kite in a thunderstorm, a megawatt saved is a megawatt earned, or something like that. Enviro-maniacs are right on this point; conservation is the most lucrative energy source yet to be mined.
FUND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS SO THEY BECOME 'COOL CITIES' -- This initiative will yield more photo ops than environmental benefits. It funds energy efficiency projects that cities should be implementing on their own. If Perdue insists on giving out these grants, they should be targeted toward poorer municipalities.
EXPLORE A REGIONAL GREENHOUSE GAS INITIATIVE -- Explore, and then drop this idea. Congress will develop a national policy soon.
MAKE GOVERNMENT CONSTRUCTION A MODEL FOR ENERGY EFFICIENCY -- Lower operating costs are an immediate benefit of this idea. But for my tax money, the best benefit would be the continued development and innovation of green building practices. That should result in lower "green" costs for the rest of us.
EXPAND NORTH CAROLINA'S "GREEN FLEET" -- For this to become a good idea, mechanics have to be in the loop. They'll point out that hybrids are fine for transporting bureaucrats, but a pain when it comes to working vehicles. If suits end up deciding which alternative-fuel vehicles the state buys, North Carolina's "green fleet" will be cleaner than hoped. That's because those vehicles will sit idle, awaiting maintenance, parts and qualified technicians.
WORK TOWARD ENERGY INDEPENDENCE -- The ideas behind this initiative are so flawed that I'll spare the governor-elect the embarrassment and ignore them.
FUND UNIVERSITY RESEARCH ON GREEN TECHNOLOGIES AND ALTERNATIVE FUELS -- This is an excellent idea, provided biofuel research is dropped. It's hard to justify the environmental investment of precious land and water to grow crops that produce negligible energy gain. Chalk up biofuels as a promising idea that didn't pan out. However, N.C. State University is working on green technologies, particularly in lighting and building design, that will pay healthy environmental and commercial dividends.
EXPAND THE GREEN BUSINESS FUND -- Bad idea. This is nothing more than putting green lipstick on an economic incentive pig.
SALES TAX HOLIDAY FOR GREEN APPLIANCE PURCHASES -- If this proposal were enacted today, the energy hogs in my home would be out to pasture by the weekend.
CHANGE THE PARADIGM OF PUBLIC UTILITY POWER -- This is a complicated subject that deserves much exploration. Beefing up the state's Utilities Commission is one element that should be included. The commission does not have the manpower or expertise to compete with the power companies, as demonstrated when the utilities rolled the General Assembly and environmentalists on SB 3. What started out as a reasonable renewable energy bill ended up a massive transfer of financial risk and cost from utility stockholders to North Carolina ratepayers.
A Perdue energy policy must not come at the expense of a prosperous economy. "Green" must apply both to the environment and to the contents of North Carolinians' pocketbooks.
Rick Martinez (email@example.com) is a contributing columnist to The News & Observer.
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