Stop Carbon Emissions. Stop the Renewable Energy Standard.

The main problem with the failed cap-and-trade legislation is that we will be generating runaway carbon emissions for the foreseeable future. But the other problem is that the temptation arises to give away all the bargaining chips. That’s what’s happening in Congress now where energy policy legislation is still being churned in the back rooms.

The Governor’s Wind Energy Coalition published a press release last week encouraging Congress to pass a national Renewable Energy Standard (RES), basically mandating that utilities across the nation have a certain percentage of their energy come from renewable sources – wind, tide, solar, etc.

Lots of good things to say about RES. We have one here in Washington, as do more than half the other States. It’s led to a noticeable increase in wind farms and solar panel installations. It even led some utilities to subsidize residential solar panel systems so that they can claim that as part of their source energy portfolio, which is a really good idea. Distributed generation doesn’t get the attention it should in this country.

But the Governors' statement is a little creepy. It touts “cost effective carbon emissions reduction” as one of the benefits, and says that it “could lower electricity bills in Southern Atlantic coastal states.” This is all very nice until you look at the map.

The Governor’s Wind Energy Coalition includes Arkansas, Kentucky, Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, and Oklahoma, a virtual line up of cap-and-trade assassins. And Oklahoma! Sheesh! Oklahoma has the two most obstructive Senators in DC. And that’s saying quite a bit.

Then there’s Florida and the claim that wind may reduce energy costs in the South Atlantic States. With monster homes sprawling to the horizon, and a laissez faire energy code, it’s a bit disingenuous to advocate a RES before seriously implementing conservation.

It’s clear that these Governors see dollar signs on a RES. They see revenue being brought in from nearby states that are not as blessed with renewable resources. (That’s why those other states don’t have a RES yet.)

But the nation as a whole should not allow these states to tap into that revenue stream without getting commitment to a more broadly beneficial cap-and-trade program. The RES was initially proposed as part of the same energy legislation that included the cap-and-trade regimen. Yes, it reduces carbon emissions. Yes, it provides jobs and income. Yes, it jump-starts an industry we should more seriously support. But if we institute a RES without simultaneously instituting a cap-and-trade system, then we will have lost leverage on these myopic Senators who don’t see the threat posed to us by climate change.

Paul Birkeland lives in Seattle, WA, US, and develops Strategic Energy Management Systems for government, commercial, and industrial organizations through Integrated Renewable Energy.

Graphic: AP