The U.S. Senate and House are both awkwardly attempting to balance the importance of solving the global warming crisis while mitigating energy costs, but they are accomplishing neither. Thanks in large part to our very own Congressman Baron Hill and Senator Evan Bayh carrying water for the utility and business interests, legislation in both chambers is quickly turning into a utility wish list designed to line the pockets of shareholders at the expense of consumers, public health, and the environment.
The legislation does little in the way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and even less to protect ratepayers. Being the "populists" that they are, both have expressed grave concerns regarding the cost of energy for Hoosier ratepayers. Senator Bayh said that Indiana would be among the states that would bear a disproportionate share of the cost of meeting climate requirements, while Representative Hill said that he has "worked diligently to safeguard the taxpayers of Southern Indiana from being unfairly penalized by the bill."
Yet both have sat idly by while residential electric bills in Indiana have risen over 30 percent in the last five years. These increases are not from government mandates requiring renewable energy production, energy efficiency standards or carbon reductions, but from the alleged least-cost form of energy: coal. According to the federal Energy Information Agency, the cost of the commodity itself has risen from $35 per ton in 2007 to $71 dollars per ton currently.
Additionally, the Duke-proposed coal plant in Edwardsport, of which Bayh and Hill are strong supporters, will increase electric utility bills by at least 30 percent. Why haven't Senator Bayh and Representative Hill chimed in with their populist perspectives for the past five years?
Even more alarming, both Bayh and Hill have been publicly vocal in support of nuclear electricity generation, which is the most expensive form of energy (one nuclear unit can cost up to $10 billion) and among the most heavily subsidized industries by U.S. taxpayers. While both are concerned with rate impacts from efficiency, renewables and carbon reduction, both support plans to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in new nuclear and coal generation -- plans brought to you by utilities and paid for by consumers.
It is time to begin phasing out coal and nuclear power plants and start phasing in renewables and energy efficiency. Don't be fooled by our delegates' new-found populist perspective, as they are simply posturing for midterm elections and advancing the near-term profit motives of influential business interests.
Zac Elliot is the Citizen's Action Coalition's 1Sky Indiana Coordinator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.