- - Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Should the government compel you to buy a pound of prime steak to offset every pound of hamburger or chicken that you buy? Or a pound of broccoli each time you buy a pound of candy?

What if government gave you a quota of high-priced designer clothing to buy whenever you purchase affordable clothes?

You would be outraged by these attacks on your liberty and your family budget. Yet government does this very thing to our energy bills. Home electric bills. Gasoline bills. And the higher energy costs that are built into everything that we buy.

How? By dictating that you cannot use affordable energy without also buying expensive energy. Mandates require them to be blended together inseparably so you can’t purchase just the affordable stuff.

The truth about mandates is covered up by catchy titles, slogans and advertising. “Renewable Fuel Standard” and “Renewable Portfolio Standard” are two prime examples. Such programs prohibit electric utilities from using the most affordable sources to generate all their power, dictating that they must also use expensive sources for a certain percentage of that power.

This is the equivalent of requiring shoppers to buy a government-set quota of prime steak, not just affordable cuts of meat.

Details differ by state, but broadly speaking, wind, solar and other alternatives are required to be added in place of power from coal, natural gas or other fossil fuels.

California requires 20 percent alternative fuels now, 25 percent by 2016 and 33 percent by 2020.

The 34 other states with an Renewable Portfolio Standard have not yet reached their target dates. And in a half-dozen of those states, they are only voluntary goals, not mandates.

But when wind or solar power can cost two to three times as much as fossil fuel for every kilowatt hour of electricity generated, it quickly makes electric bills rise (or “skyrocket,” as then-candidate Barack Obama once said).

One Heritage Foundation study showed that proposed mandates for renewable energy would cost 1 million jobs. That compares to claims by the renewal energy industry that 274,000 jobs would be created. It’s a lousy trade-off to lose more jobs than a mandate creates! It’s even worse when you realize that the green jobs also receive taxpayer subsidies, like the $150 million loan guarantee granted this month for a giant windmill project off Cape Cod. Or Solyndra’s wasted $500 million.

Like the Renewal Portfolio Standard, our ethanol Renewable Fuel Standard forces people to buy ethanol whether they want it or not. Ethanol raises the price of gasoline, lowers your fuel mileage and can damage some engines. By raising the price of corn, it raises the price of food. Other than that, ethanol is not so bad.

New studies refute the old claims that ethanol reduces greenhouse gases, revealing that more is created to produce ethanol than is saved by using it. But it’s become an addiction as a farm subsidy.

In 2000, according to Forbes magazine, over 90 percent of the U.S. corn crop went to feed people and livestock, many in undeveloped countries, with less than 5 percent used to produce ethanol. In 2013, however, 40 percent of the corn harvest went to produce ethanol, 45 percent was used to feed livestock, and only 15 percent was used for food and beverage.

Even though a separate $6 billion tax credit for ethanol has ended, the Renewable Fuel Standard guarantees sales for those who make ethanol. This year the Environmental Protection Agency mandates that 15.21 billion gallons of ethanol must be blended into our gasoline. The only good news is that it’s lower than last year’s mandate, which was 16.55 billion gallons.

Nobody would accept federal requirements that we cannot buy our choice of food, clothing or any other item unless we also buy high-priced items. Yet federal and state laws dictate just that when we purchase energy. Supposedly, it reduces global warming. But people would grow even hotter if they realized how much it costs them.

Ernest Istook is a former Republican congressman from Oklahoma. Listen online to his daily talk radio show at KZLSam.com, noon to 3 p.m. ET. Get his free email newsletter by signing up at eepurl.com/JPojD.

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