If renewable forms of energy are the solution, what is the problem? Using fossil fuels and nuclear materials, electricity producers can generate all of the electricity we need and are likely to need in the foreseeable future.
When I turn on the light, I care only that it shine every time. There is no way that a consumer of electricity would ever know or even care about the source of the power used in the home.
Recent developments in technology are making natural gas so abundant that prices have dropped and U.S. gas producers are looking to export significant amounts in the years to come.
The United States, in fact, has enough natural gas to last 105 years at current usage levels, according to an April article in the Denver Business News. These estimates have been revised up in recent years.
Over time, there is no reason natural gas cannot displace coal-burning plants, thereby eliminating much of the air pollution linked to power generation. Coal still accounts for about 40 percent of the electricity produced in the United States.
So what is at play here? Why are we all paying a surcharge on our electricity bills to subsidize the production of renewable forms of energy?
On my Progress Energy bill, there is a monthly charge of $0.42 that appears as REPS Adjustment. If you bother looking things up, the acronym stands for Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard.
The play book is well-known.
Special interest groups organize themselves and start pressuring politicians. They may advocate subsidies, trade protection, tax breaks or credits, regulations that favor them or keep out the competition.
All of us pay. However, the amounts do not justify organizing opposition. No one is going to demonstrate in the streets or go to meetings to oppose a program that may cost $5 a year.
There is no equivalent to Moral Monday when it comes to surcharges on our electric bills. The lobbies, in this case advocates for solar energy and wind energy, have the debate all to themselves, and they are savvy enough to enlist the media to their side.
This is not a unique situation. A quick look at my phone bill from Vonage tells me that plan charges of $19.99 end up costing me $30.12 after surcharges and government-mandated fees and taxes.
You can be sure that behind every one on those charges is an army of lobbyists whose only function in life is to keep the gravy train on track.
What is the end result?
We have politicians smiling at ribbon-cutting ceremonies for yet another solar panel farm. The smiles on the politicians may not be genuine. However, the smiles on the executives of the companies are not just for the photographer. They know that those trifling surcharges on our electric bills translate into millions of dollars for their companies.
No one had wider smiles than the executives of Solyndra, a company that benefited from $535 million in loan guarantees from the federal government as part of the Obama administrations $80 billion clean-energy program.
When Solyndra ceased operating after about a year, we were left holding the bag for close to $400 million.
A Washington Post special report confirmed what many suspected. The story of Solyndra is one of political chicanery at every level.
Where does North Carolina go from here? State lawmakers need to get back to work on Rep. Mike Hagers bill that would repeal the requirement that Duke and Progress increase their purchases of electricity generated by renewable sources.
The sun does not always shine. The wind does not always blow. However, our sources of fossil fuels are secure, domestic and ample.
To those who argue that the solar-generating industry has been thriving in North Carolina, I would simply say that, given enough subsidies, any economic activity can thrive.
Sadly, Gov. Pat McCrorys most recent pronouncements on the issue will undoubtedly lead to more charges on our electric bills and more ribbon-cutting ceremonies.
Dont you just love those smiles that mean Ka-ching?
Marc Landry can be reached at email@example.com.