It is a bad time to be in the renewable energy industry

2015 may go down in the books as the year support for renewable energy died—and we are only a few months in. Policy adjustments—whether for electricity generation or transportation fuels—are in the works on both the state and federal levels.

OKwellsWhile the public is generally positive about the idea of renewable energy, the reality of years-long policy implementation that offers it special favors has changed public opinions. An October 2014 report in Oklahoma’s Enid News titled: “Wind worries?: A decade after welcoming wind farms, states reconsider,”offers this insightful summary:

A decade ago, states offered wind-energy developers an open-armed embrace, envisioning a bright future for an industry that would offer cheap electricity, new jobs, and steady income for large landowners, especially in rural areas with few other economic prospects. To ensure the opportunity didn’t slip away, lawmakers promised little or no regulation and generous tax breaks. But now that wind turbines stand tall across many parts of the nation’s windy heartland, some leaders in Oklahoma and other states fear their efforts succeeded too well, attracting an industry that gobbles up huge subsidies, draws frequent complaints, and uses its powerful lobby to resist any reforms. 

But, it isn’t just wind energy that has fallen from favor. 2015 state and federal legislation reflects the “reconsider” prediction. Likewise “powerful” lobbyists are resisting the proposed reforms.

Oklahoma is just one state in what has become a new trend.

About a decade ago, when more than half of the states enacted strict Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), Oklahoma and a few other states agreed to voluntary targets. Now, nearly one-third of those states are reconsidering the legislation that sounded so good in a different energy era. Back then, it was widely believed that there was an energy shortage and “dealing with global warming” was a higher public priority.

“Roughly 30 bills relating to the Oklahoma wind industry have been filed in the state legislature in the 2015 session, including at least one targeting the tax breaks and others attempting to alter regulatory policies,” reports Fox News. On April 16, the Oklahoma House voted, 78-3, to eliminate the wind energy tax credit. The measure now moves to the Senate, which will review a companion bill introduced by Senator Mike Mazzei—it is expected to pass and will likely be headed to Governor Mary Fallin (below) soon.

mfallinOklahoma isn’t the first state to reconsider its renewable energy policies. That distinction goes to Ohio, which in May 2014 passed legislation that paused the state’s RPS for 2 years. Governor John Kasich signed it in June. Meanwhile, according to Eli Miller, the Ohio State Director for Americans for Prosperity: “The economic well-being of our working families and businesses can be factored in before moving forward.” The International Business Times projects that the two years a commission has to study will lead to a “permanent reduction.”

Earlier this year, West Virginia became the first state to repeal its RPS. With unanimous support in the Senate and a 95-4 vote in the House, renewable energy supporters are dismayed. Calling it “pure political theater and probably a flop,” Nick Lawton, Staff Attorney at the Green Energy Institute, dismisses the move: “West Virginia’s withdrawal of its weak renewable energy policy is unlikely to significantly change that state’s energy markets.” Nancy Guthrie, one of the four Democrats who voted “No,” did so because she believes “we are running out of coal, it’s that simple”—which is, of course, totally incorrect.

Last month the Texas Senate voted to end its RPS and another program that, according to the Star abbottgTelegram, “helped fuel the state’s years-long surge in wind energy production.” The bill now moves to the House State Affairs Committee. It is expected to pass the House and be signed by Governor Greg Abbott. While Texas is known for its leadership in wind energy, the termination of the RPS will impact the solar industry as well. Charlie Hemmeline, executive director of the Texas Solar Power Association, states: “Increasing uncertainty for our industry raises the cost of doing business in the state.”

Coming up, Kansas, North Carolina, and Michigan have legislation that revisits the states’ favorable renewable energy policies.

New Mexico and Colorado had bills to repeal or revise the RPS that passed in one chamber, but not in the other.

While Louisiana doesn’t have an RPS, it does have generous tax credits for solar panel installations that have exploded the cost to the state’s taxpayers. The credits were originally expected to cost the state $500,000 million a year. In 2014 the payouts ballooned to $63.5, according to the Baton Rouge Advocate. Repealing or revising the policy is a key priority in the current legislative session.

“Taxpayer support for wind energy is also losing momentum in Congress,” says Fox News. It points out: “Capitol Hill lawmakers at the end of last year did not extend the Federal Production Tax Credit (PTC). And in March, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) failed to rally support behind an amendment that would have put a 5-year extension on the PTC.”

It is not just wind energy that has lost favor in Congress. The ethanol mandates—known as the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)—are being re-examined, too.

On January 16, 2015, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) introduced the “Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act of 2015.”

cornUcopiaMore recently, a “former Obama economic adviser” issued a report that calls for changes to the 10-year-old RFS. Harvard University Professor Jim Stock served on the Council of Economic Advisers in 2013 and 2014. The Hill states: “His report comes at a time of growing angst among lawmakers, regulators, and the industry over the future of the RFS, which mandates fuel refiners blend a certain volume of ethanol and biodiesel into their traditional gasoline and diesel supplies.” The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) supports the sentiment, calling Stock’s report “a key voice to a growing chorus of people who say the policy isn’t working.” It continues: “The report adds to a growing body of politicians and experts who are questioning the law’s effectiveness amid regulatory uncertainty and lower prices.”

Hawaii, uniquely, has its own ethanol mandate, but it, too, is coming under attack. KHON states: “Nine years after a major change at the gas pump was forced on Hawaii drivers, many are now calling it a failed experiment and want it gone.”

In both the case of Hawaii and the federal government, lawmakers are looking toward advanced biofuels that don’t raise food costs. However, the Environmental Protection Agency—tasked with implementing the RFS—has repeatedly waived or reduced the cellulosic biofuel requirements because, despite more than $126 billion invested since 2003, the industry has yet to produce commercially viable quantities of fuel.

Addressing dwindling investment in biofuels and growing skepticism, The Economist, on April 18, said: “Campaigners generally find it easier to fulminate against those which damage the environment or food security than to explain exactly how they ought to be grown.” It concluded: “Whether such bright ideas can be commercialised at scale is a different question. Some companies, indeed, are starting to give up. Several algae-to-fuel ventures in America are switching to the manufacture of high-value chemicals instead. Sunlight is a great source of energy. Biology may not be the best way of storing it.”

And this doesn’t include the public’s failure to embrace higher priced electric cars—even with tens of thousands of dollars of subsidies and tax credits.

Looking at all the policy reviews, the trend is clear. As Watchdog.org, in a report titled, “Why repealing the renewable energy mandates is good for the economy,” concludes: “The best policy for the states is to leave energy consumption decisions to consumers in the market rather than legislate them.”

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About the Author: Marita Noon

Marita Noon

CFACT policy analyst Marita Noon is the author of Energy Freedom.,

  • Dorian

    How incompetent are people, take Nancy Guthrie. She voted “No” to kill off subsides for green energy bills because she thought that coal was running out. Mrs. Guthrie, why are you even allowed to be in office! Can’t you do any research at all?

    Google, “how much coal is left in the world”, and you will find in the first links returned this nice little bit of information,

    “There are two internationally recognised methods for assessing world coal reserves. The first one is produced by the German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) and is used by the IEA as the main source of information about coal reserves. The second one is produced by the World Energy Council (WEC) and is used by the BP Statistical Review of World Energy.According to BGR there are 1052 billion tonnes of coal reserves left, equivalent to 134.5 years of global coal output in 2013. Coal reserves reported by WEC are much lower- 892 billion tonnes, equivalent to 113 years of coal output.”

    So you, Guthrie, you vote “No” because you’re afraid of coal running out in 130 years time, either that, or you don’t know how to do your job properly.

    Guthrie you’re a joke. You are just another moron in office.

    Social Entropy continues on. Oh brother!

    • l penn

      HUNDREDS of MILLIONS have been made off of the greeeeeeeen PC CRAP by the DEMORATS who invested in these companies years ago and then Pushed their CRAP to make a Fortune!! The Mindless Obamabot Convenient Idiots swallowed the SWILL and LIES!!

      • veloaficionado

        Please, get a bit more angry. It only makes you sound more ridiculous.

      • DavidAppell

        How much has been made off fossil fuels?

        • jimoaklanduniv

          U mean fossil fuels that WORK, that contribute to our economy and country, as opposed to the Idiotic wind and solar CRAP that only WASTES our money and DESTROYS JOBS and our Economy and Country!!??

          • DavidAppell

            Do you know that renewable energies are now producing more jobs than fossil fuels?

            • l penn

              U swallow all of the LIES and SWILL that spew out of ole barry, your LIAR in chief Socialist pres mouth, don’t u??!!! How about ALL of the JOBS lost by barrys STUPIDITY in fighting COAL and its JOBS davey??!!! DUH!!!

            • ninetyninepct

              Tell that to the Spaniards. They have lost 3.4 jobs for every “green” job temporarily created.

          • DavidAppell

            “Over 3 Times More Green Jobs Per $1 Invested Than Fossil Fuel Or Nuclear Jobs,” Clean Technica, 3/20/13

            http://cleantechnica.com/2013/03/20/over-3-times-more-green-jobs-per-million-than-fossil-fuel-or-nuclear-jobs/

            • canuckpuck

              Data from a left wing green energy website? Please…Maybe if they included all the bureaucracy to dole out the billions in wasted green subsidies.

          • DavidAppell

            What are the negative externalities of fossil fuels?
            Who do you think pays them?

          • DavidAppell

            What do you mean by “fossil fuels that WORK?”

      • Frank Energy

        And shout more, could you, that improves your credibility.

  • veloaficionado

    I think a good, hearty “FUCK OFF YOU GOP TROLL” is in order here.
    Please, try to make your antievidential musings sound considered and sound, but, still, we know you’re paid by people who have money from dirty industries as their raison d’être.

    See Fact. You know there’s bullshit blowing in the wind when you have to reach for credibility via your acronym.

    Feel free to burn in hell, but, I and many won’t be going along with you, however much you should wish it.

    • jimoaklanduniv

      Talk about STUPID, i bet u r one of ole barrys Convenient Idiots who put your LIARin chief in office TWICE!! DUH!! U bet, NORMAL ppl get Angry when their taxes are WASTED by the DEMORATS!! Nothing ANTIEVIDENTIAL about TRUTH, only to MORONS of your ILK vellly!!!

      • Fed up with psychopaths.

        Are you real. No you’re not are you. No human being in their right mind would spout such crap. You may as well have said “we should all know our place” or “Rich people are just better”
        Honestly do you get paid for typing this stuff or are you in a padded cell with a cell phone?

        • l penn

          Guess that means that you are one of ole barrys Convenient Idiots, who believes and swallows the SWILL and CRAP and LIES spewing from your LIAR in chiefs mouth Daily! IF you had a Brain and used it instead of listening to the LIES of your LIAR in chief you would know that the Rich are the ones who ole barry is helping, it;s the Middle class his Incompetence is Destroying!! Under Socialist barry the Rich have gotten much Richer and the Middle class has gotten Much Poorer and there has been a 40% increase in ppl who have to be on Food Stamps!! Look at the Actions of ppl, Not believe the LIES that spew from their mouth!! DUH!!

  • Rikaishi Rikashi

    “public’s failure to embrace higher priced electric cars”

    Try that again, the link’s broken, and apparently you are wilfully ignoring Tesla’s success. Even with the setback in china, they are still taking orders faster then they can build cars.

    With battery-powered cars a proven and even desirable alternative to internal combustion, replacing all gas burners with electrics in 35 years (15 to re-tool production, 20 to replace most vehicles at natural attrition rates) is looking very achievable. Especially with the $35k tesla set to be released in 2017.

    • l penn

      YOu Obamabot Idiots who fall for the global warming CRAP and LIES are welcome to buy whatever you want, but DON”T make me PAY EIGHT THOUSAND DOLLARS everytime you Morons of barry buy one of his greeeeenie mobiles kashi!!!!!!!!! NOT ONE CENT OF MY MONEY!!!!!!!

      • Rikaishi Rikashi

        http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-suv-war-dumb-and-dumber/

        “It’s a highly stimulating provision in the [Bush] administration’s economic stimulus program. The loophole would allow someone who buys an $102,581 Hummer H1 for “business purposes” to deduct $87,135 from his taxes immediately. Seriously. Good deal if you can get it.”

        Oh no. Obama’s $8,000 give-away for cars that do not increase the nation’s healthcare bills will destroy the nation’s finances. If only we could go back to the fiscally responsible Bush dynasty and their $90,000 give-away for the most polluting cars money can buy.

        Whatever shall you do? Luckily I’m not American so I don’t have to deal with this level of stupidity.

    • canuckpuck

      No idea how to get rid of the batteries though…I wonder how much a new tesla battery will set you back?

      • ninetyninepct

        Too expensive to replace. Just drive it to the dump and walk away.

  • ninetyninepct

    Just to let everyone know – solar and wind are NOT renewable.

  • Frank Energy

    The real problem with this Country? The size of the federal
    government is crushing us under it’s weight, cost, and regulations.

    There
    are over 500 federal agencies. The complete list is here. Review
    it, it is absurd. Send this to your local politicians.

    Under the constitution, there should only be 2 handfuls of federal agencies.

    List is herehttp://nukeprofessional.blogspot.com/2015/08/over-500-federal-agencies-but-basic-law.html

  • Joe Dick

    Is there any good time to be in the “renewable” energy industry? Perhaps when there are subsidies from tax dollars, that’s always good for the people making a profit from that. How about for the rest of us? If “renewable”, a.k.a.”sustainable” energy was all that and a bag of chips, wouldn’t there be windmill powered windmill factories, and solar powered solar panel factories? If they’re going to talk the talk, why don’t they walk the walk? Don’t you think if it actually worked, they’d be first to Prove the point by producing their products by going entirely off the grid?

    It seem a fair question… 🙂