Wednesday, April 24, 2013, may go down in history as the day when the anti-“green energy” movement hit its high-water mark.
And the epic event that could mean a “greener” future took place right here in North Carolina’s General Assembly.
The global fight over the wisdom of “green energy” may very well pivot in favor of the people and businesses wanting more solar, wind and biofuels at the expense of coal, oil and natural gas.
After all, if a state under conservative Republican control can’t repeal legislation that requires utilities to provide sustainable energy and also provides subsidies to the emerging industry then what legislative body ever can – or will?
Heavy hitters on both sides of the issue lobbied extensively in Raleigh – and the “greens” as they are called in Europe won.
At least for now.
Many Businesses See Dollars and Benefits in “Green”
So as the state becomes the home to more and ever-bigger data centers run by such high-tech firms as Google, Apple, Facebook, IBM and many more, so too will at least for now the march toward a bigger mix of sustainable energy to power them.
Look for that forthcoming tariff from Duke Energy to help obtain more “green” energy for Google’s $1.2 billion complex in Lenoir – as required by Google to get the $600 million expansion – to make rapid progress at the Public Utilities Commission.
Let’s not forget – industry, particulary high-tech, is supporting the move to sustainable energy. Just read the new Greenpeace Cool IT” report with a focus on North Carolina. And last week a sustainable energy conference in Raleigh was packed.
As The Skinny noted Wednesday about the Greenpeace report: “These IT companies are pursuing sustainable energy for many reasons, not just being “cool” or cutting emissions. Firms are under more pressure to change their energy policies in order to recruit environmentally conscious workers. There also can be bottom-line benefits of reduced costs, government subsidies, more business (Think IBM’s whole “Smarter Planet” play) and increased efficiency with such moves made through LEED certification.”
Struggle Not Over
But don’t expect Republicans and others who don’t march to the tune of the “greens” to give up completely.
The bet here is that they will return when the stars – or key votes – shift in their favor.
Republicans have run “Imperial Raleigh,” as politicos call it, just as one-power control Democrats have in the past. From top to bottom, the GOP is pushing through initiative after initiative, law after law. And the repeal of “green” subsidies appeared a fait accompli under House Bill 298 championed by Rep. Mike Hager, R-Rutherford.
But in a stunning defeat on Wednesday, a House panel turned “out the lights” in a “stinging defeat,” on his efforts, as WRAL’s Matt Burns described the action.
“[Hager] had pulled House Bill 298 from the House Committee on Environment, where it faced questionable support, to put it in front of the House Committee on Public Utilities and Energy, which he chairs, in hopes of keeping the legislation moving forward,” Burns wrote.
“Instead, an 18-13 vote killed the bill, with powerful Republican Reps. Tim Moore, Ruth Samuelson, Nelson Dollar and others joining Democrats in opposing the measure.”
The bill would have overturned subsidies dating back to 2007. Those tax benefits and requirements have fostered what advocates such as the N.C. Sustainable Energy Coalition the creation of jobs and emerging industries. Critics such as the John Locke Foundation have criticized a report that was filled with statistics supporting the subsidies and the economic impact. Then there is the whole argument about climate change and/or global warming. The debate will continue.
WRAL’s Burns noted that Donald Bryson, a policy analyst with the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, called the 2007 renewables law “shoddy” and told lawmakers that consumers shouldn’t have subsidies for green-energy firms “rammed down their throats.” Yet advocates on the other side made strong arguments with a big turkey and pork processor, Prestage Farms, saying subsidies would help it build a waste-to-energy plant. In other words, perhaps get rid of those messy, smelly lagoons.
North Carolina became a big battlefield in the green vs. green struggle.
And the tide may have turned.