The Republican controlled NC Legislature is considering a bill to establish a “Renewable Energy Economic Development Study Committee” (see pages 18-20) to examine and make recommendations regarding state public policy toward so-called renewable forms of energy like solar power, wind power, and animal waste. In light of the debates that have been going on related to the state’s renewable portfolio standard and the role of subsidies and incentives in promoting these energy sources, such a committee is probably a good idea. But this bill stacks the deck against any policy recommendations that that would favor a freer, less regulated and less subsidized market for not only renewable energy but energy in general.
The legislation mandates that the committee be composed of a collection of special interest groups most of whom benefit in one way or another from subsidies and regulations and none of whom have had any history of supporting free market energy policies. In fact almost the entire committee would be made up of organizations and businesses who, if they took a position at all, came out in favor of North Carolina’s renewable portfolio standard back in 2007 when it was originally passed. These groups include representatives from left wing environmental pressure groups and their allies in the renewable energy industry and the state’s public utility monopolies. There would apparently be no representatives from free market organizations such as the John Locke Foundation who have been studying environmental issues and advocating for free market environmental policies for decades. Nor, in spite of the fact that the committee is supposed to examine the relationship between renewable energy policy and economic development, is there any slot reserved for an energy or economic development economist. Indeed there should be both.
While, as noted above, a committee to study energy policy in North Carolina is clearly warranted, the committee being mandated by this legislation is clearly not it.