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No Love For Mandates

At the moment, Democrats are struggling to get a renewable energy mandate passed in the Senate. The National Review has decided this is a bad idea because, well, a press release from Pete Domenici's office told them so:

Senate Democrats are also pushing a measure that would require utilities to generate 15 percent of their power using solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources by 2020.

The chief opponent of this provision, Sen. Pete Domenici (R, N.M.), argues that this would lead to an unacceptably high increase in the price of electricity for consumers--tantamount to a stealth tax increase--and argues for broadening the definition of "renewable" to include other sources of power like nuclear and "clean coal" technologies, which are not technically renewable but release fewer emissions into the air than traditional fossil fuels.

Okay, but a few years ago, the Department of Energy actually looked into the effects of a 20 percent renewables mandate, and found that "electricity prices are not expected to be significantly impacted." That is, if a mandate was put in place, then by 2020, the retail price of electricity would be exactly the same as it was in 1999 (and only a shade higher than it would be with no mandate at all--see page 34). Maybe Domenici thinks it would be an outrage for consumers to pay the same amount for electricity that they did back in 1999, but it'd be nice if he just came out and said so.

--Bradford Plumer