- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 27, 2011

America faces a European-style debt crisis, but you wouldn’t know it from observing what’s happening on Capitol Hill. At a Senate committee’s request, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on Tuesday issued an analysis of proposed renewable (RES) and clean-energy standards (CES). The federal government has grown so large that it’s actually studying how to spend money to make electricity more expensive.

In fact, it’s a White House priority. In his State of the Union address, President Obama called for 80 percent of America’s electricity to come from windmills and solar panels by 2035 as part of his Win the Future (WTF) campaign. That can only happen if federal laws and regulations are used to shut down cheaper sources of power, such as coal. As CBO concluded, “Either an RES or CES would also raise the average cost of generating electricity in the United States because, in the absence of the standard, regulators and generators would generally choose the lowest-cost method of producing electricity.” In a sane world, that would be the end of the story, but it isn’t.

Currently, coal provides 45 percent of our power and nuclear 19 percent. Wind accounts for 2 percent, and solar power is so weak it earns an asterisk. That’s not going to change, so federal bureaucrats want to tell private companies they must produce 20 percent or 25 percent of their electricity from inefficient, intermittent sources using a complex scheme of production credits to impose their will on the industry.

Mr. Obama also has opened up the piggy bank and doled out $5.6 billion in stimulus funding, 84 percent of which went to windmills - a market dominated by General Electric. Last year, that company just happened to spend $39 million on lobbying and $2 million in campaign donations. Its push for a pro-subsidy agenda has paid off - for them, not us.

The average retail price for a megawatt hour of electricity is $91, but if it happens to come from a windmill, Uncle Sam will write the owner a check for $23. That $23 still comes out of the pockets of consumers, but it shows up on the tax bill, not the electric bill. If consumers were aware of the true cost of solar and wind power, they wouldn’t want either.

Likewise, the public wouldn’t care for higher corporate average fuel efficiency (CAFE) standards if they knew that meant driving tiny, dangerous and boring European-style city cars. That hasn’t stopped House Democrats including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Henry A. Waxman and Rep. Edward J. Markey from sending the president a letter Wednesday demanding repressive fuel-efficiency standards in the name of fighting “carbon pollution.”

The days when power plants and automobiles belched out toxic clouds of black soot are over (except in the case of mass-transit buses). That reality forced leftists to invent a new problem to justify their marketplace meddling. When they reference carbon, they’re talking about carbon dioxide, the harmless gas that’s the natural byproduct of respiration. Using their terms, everyone who breathes becomes a “polluter.” CAFE and renewable-energy standards are about increasing Washington’s power, not clean air or the environment.

Mr. Obama will announce his CAFE decision on Friday. We’re not holding our breath in anticipation of him making the right call.