Oregon has a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by forcing electric companies to stop burning coal and to get half their energy from renewable resources. It sounds like a great plan, but like so many government plans, it has a few flaws.
First, it won’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Second, it will increase energy prices, thus reducing the viability of Oregon’s economy.
At least, that’s the conclusion of Oregon’s Public Utility Commission, the three-member board that is supposed to regulate electric utilities. The only problem is that the commission was never consulted about the energy plan, suggesting that the state is listening only to groups who are already true believers.
“We have some deep concerns about these negotiations because we think they will not be effective in reducing carbon emissions,” wrote commission chair Susan Ackerman in an email to the governor’s staff, “but they will be expensive to consumers.”
The energy plan “won’t alter one bit what coal plants run and what are shut down,” added commission member John Savage in another email. “I see absolutely no carbon benefit,” so the plan would “drive up rates for no good reason.”
In another email, Ackerman complains that “We (the OPUC) were shut out of the discussions” about the energy plan. “Industrial customers, consumer owned utilities, independent power producers, and community solar advocates were shut out” as well, she added, and ” no one on the group that crafted the bill represented the public interest,” which is the interest the commission is legally required to represent.
These commission members are not Koch-brothers-funded right-wing conservatives. They were all appointed by Democratic governors. Once upon a time, John Savage and the Antiplanner worked side-by-side for the Ralph-Nader-inspired Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group on various exposés and studies. In fact, in 1975 John was a co-founder with the Antiplanner of the group that became the Thoreau Institute, which hosts the Antiplanner web site.
I haven’t talked with John for many years, but his political leanings are suggested by the fact that Barbara Roberts–the most liberal governor in Oregon’s recent history–appointed him director of Oregon’s Department of Energy in 1993 and Ted Kulongoski, also a liberal governor, appointed him to the Public Utility Commission in 2003.
Ackerman’s and Savage’s first emails to the governor’s staff were in the middle of December. Apparently frustrated by their inability to influence the plan, Ackerman stated in an email on January 6 that the commission was willing to let reporters know of its views that week. Soon after, an Oregonian reporter just happened to file freedom-of-information request for the commissioners’ emails.
“I don’t have dispensation to speak,” Ackerman replied when asked for a statement on the record. “The governor can fire any of us at any time.” Make of that what you will, but betting is that proponents of the energy plan are not going to be swayed by the dissension of a few commissioners.