Opinion: Daily Journal

Renewables Debate Not for the Faint of Heart

Renewable energy lobbyists wailed that the mere appearance of a bill to repeal North Carolina’s renewable energy portfolio standards mandate “dramatically disrupts” investment and jobs in renewable energy and “sends shock waves” through the industry.

Those were actual terms used by the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association’s “governmental affairs director,” a title given presumably because “director of rent-seeking histrionics” or “coordinator of public conniptions for public dollars” was too lengthy for business cards.

The hysterics were inordinately premature, as a version of the measure was voted down in committee by Republicans whose official party platform, not even a year old, explicitly calls for “the repeal of the state renewable energy mandate.”

Lawmakers also extended the state’s 35 percent investment tax credit for renewable energy for an additional application of smelling salts.

So two of the 117 government programs for renewable energy and energy efficiency in North Carolina were saved. That count of federal, state, and local programs comes from the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency operated by the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center at N.C. State University and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

It’s not enough, however. Clearly, one more government program is needed.

The North Carolina Fainting Room and Fainting Couch Subsidy

Frequent fainting spells, outbursts of hysterics, and extreme mood swings are serious medical conditions. They were so prevalent during the Victorian era that the “fainting room” featuring a “fainting couch” was an actual design feature in homes.

If the unsustainable energy industry is indeed as dainty and hypersensitive as the Victorian ladies of yore, then they should have their own fainting rooms and fainting couches. And since they are so feeble they cannot accomplish anything without government support, then of course the state of North Carolina should incentivize this production for them as well.

Consider it! What a boost this new program could be to, for instance, the High Point furniture industry.

Noneconomists playing around with IMPLAN “economic impact” software could no doubt churn out a report in days proclaiming Heap Big Job Creation and Investment Returns from a new North Carolina Fainting Room and Fainting Couch Subsidy.

Of course, the report writers will have to hand-pick a multiplier greater than nine, just in case a less gullible legislator thought about it for a second and concluded the state would be better off giving money to the film industry again. But by ignoring opportunity costs, that is quite easily done. And besides, policymakers aren’t concerned about the validity of the numbers; they just want them to be really, really big. Q.E.D.

North Carolinians have no choice in who provides them electricity or how much it costs. Thanks to inaction by the General Assembly, in July their maximum surcharge for renewable energy will nearly triple. What’s one more public program for an industry whose business model is capturing public subsidies, not the general public’s support?

North Carolina’s renewable energy industry is a veritable powerhouse that desperately needs fainting couches now! Or else … oh, their poor nerves …

Jon Sanders (@jonpsanders) is Director of Regulatory Studies for the John Locke Foundation.