The Democrats' Plan to Jack Up Electricity Prices

Instead of working to increase the price of electricity, it's about time policymakers work on reducing energy prices.

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The U.S. could experience an increase in dangerous power outages if issues are not addressed.

Daniel Simmons is the director of state affairs at the Institute for Energy Research.

It is difficult to understand why some people want to see electricity prices increase even more. According to the USA TODAY, household electricity bills have "skyrocketed" the past five years adding about $300 to the yearly household electricity costs. With an economy that continues to struggle, you would think that politicians would be feverishly working to lower electricity prices, but instead many are working to further increase prices.

The latest example is Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman's proposed "Clean Energy Standard." According to a recent study by the Energy Information Administration, the analytical arm of the Department of Energy, Senator Bingaman's plan would increase electricity prices by 18 percent by 2035.

Senator Bingaman's proposal would require 24 percent of electricity generation in 2015 to be from "clean" sources, increasing to 84 percent by 2035. But the bill has a truly bizarre definition of what is "clean." For example, hydroelectric and nuclear plants placed in service before 1992 do not get full credit for being "clean," but hydroelectric and nuclear plants placed in service after 1991 are "clean." Only in Washington, D.C. would a hydroelectric plant only be considered "clean" if it placed in service in 1992, but not in 1991.

[See a collection of political cartoons on energy policy.]

Most people think of "clean energy" as energy that produces low amounts of pollution such as soot or  toxic chemicals, but Senator Bingman's proposal does not concern itself with actual dirtiness. Instead, the bill defines "clean" only based on how much carbon dioxide a power plant emits. This is strange because carbon dioxide itself is not dirty—it is an odorless, colorless gas that is not toxic until carbon dioxide concentrations are many times higher than in the atmosphere.

This "clean" energy standard is designed to reduce the amount of electricity generation from coal-fired power plants and replace it with higher-cost sources of electricity. This is why the Clean Energy Standard and other renewable energy mandates increase the costs of electricity.

[Read the U.S. News debate: Should the Government Invest in Green Energy?]

The supposed need for a Clean Energy Standard is even more puzzling when one considers the abundance of affordable energy resources we have at our disposal. In fact, the United States has the world's largest supply of coal—enough coal to satisfy our needs for at least the next 500 years.

Instead of working to increase the price of electricity, it's about time policymakers work on reducing energy prices. But sadly, time after time, our policymakers make it harder for America's families to make ends meet by working to increase the price of energy. 

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