Fact Checking ALEC’s Attacks on Ohio’s Renewable Energy Standards
By Jeff Deyette
Members of the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee heard testimony this week on two bills that would roll back Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. Backed by fossil-fuel funded special interest groups and their political allies, these proposals would undermine Ohio’s emerging clean energy industries and make the state even more dependent on coal and natural gas.
It is no coincidence that the primary sponsors of these bills are both members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Last year, the Washington Post,Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and others exposed ALEC’s scheme to deploy model legislation written by the Heartland Institute, and backed by deeply flawed and soundly refuted analyses from the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University, that would repeal renewable electricity standards (RES) now in place in 29 states.
ALEC, the Heartland Institute, and the Beacon Hill Institute all come to the table with dubious records of spreading disinformation to sow doubt about the scientific evidence on climate change and the consequences of tobacco use. Each has received funding from fossil fuel and tobacco interests.
So far, their campaign to roll back RES policies across the country has failed. Policymakers in states like Kansas and North Carolina exhibited sound judgment in rejecting the disinformation and repeal attempts. Likewise, Ohioans should be skeptical of claims about the Buckeye State’s clean energy policies coming from these groups, and the politicians who repeat them.
Senate Bill 34: Repeal Ohio’s Renewable Electricity Standard?
Leading off at the latest Senate Public Utilities Committee hearing was Senate Bill 34. Introduced by Sen. Jordan (R–Ostrander), this bill would repeal Ohio’s requirement that 12.5 percent of the state’s power supply come from renewable energy by 2025. It is a retread version of the RES repeal bill Sen. Jordan first introduced in 2011, which was hailed by ALEC, but ultimately tabled by the Committee.
In his rhetoric against the RES, Sen. Jordan routinely cites a Beacon Hill Institute economic analysis that ALEC distributed to Ohio lawmakers. But the Beacon Hill Institute’s Ohio RES study is deeply flawed in many ways, including that it exaggerates the costs of renewable energy technologies and ignores the benefits of wind and solar power. The study even makes the incredulous claim that variable wind power “could actually increase pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.”
The opposite conclusion was reached in a recent analysis by an economist at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), the agency responsible for overseeing the RES. That study found Ohioans are already benefiting from renewable energy through downward pressure on wholesale electricity prices and reduced emissions. PUCO’s modeling also showed that the more frequent ramping up and down of fossil-fuel plants to accommodate renewable energy resources did not materially affect overall emissions reductions.
Unfortunately, the Beacon Hill Institute deliberately ignores real world evidence about the innovations and tools that make it more efficient and cost-effective to ramp up renewable energy, while maintaining a reliable and cleaner power system. Instead, they effectively cut and paste the same false claim in study after study, spreading misinformation about the environmental benefits of renewable energy.
It is telling that the Beacon Hill Institute grounds its claim in the questionable findings of a single Colorado-specific report from 2010, also funded by fossil fuel interests. Xcel Energy, Colorado’s largest utility with extensive experience generating and integrating wind power, promptly debunked the study’s findings. And more recently, a National Renewable Energy Laboratory study on Colorado and other Western states found that any increase in fossil-fuel power plant emissions to accommodate renewable energy is small, and more than offset by overall reductions in carbon emissions and other air pollutants.
Senate Bill 58: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothes
The second bill considered at the hearing was SB 58, introduced by committee chairman Sen. Seitz (R–Cincinnati), a current member of ALEC’s board of directors. In recent testimony, Senator Seitz stated that what he really wants is to repeal Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. Having failed once already to achieve this goal, his new tactic with SB 58 is a more subtle approach, but would still effectively gut both standards.
In explaining his change of position—Sen. Seitz voted for the original clean energy standards in 2008, along with nearly every member of the Ohio House and Senate—and current rollback attempt, Senator Seitz argues that “[i]n 2008, we projected that there would be a steady increase in electricity demand. That has not happened.”
That’s true, but using electricity more efficiently has always been a central goal of the Ohio’s clean energy law, which requires utilities to achieve cumulative energy savings of 22 percent by the end of 2025. In fact, Ohio’s four regulated utilities achieved nearly 3.1 million MWh of savings through energy efficiency from 2009 to 2011, as PUCO Chairman Todd Snitchler told Sen. Seitz’s committee in March. The fact that the energy efficiency standard is working effectively seems like a spurious reason to be against it.
Sen. Seitz deserves credit for accurately acknowledging that the costs for wind and solar power have declined in recent years. But he also contends that wind and solar “fuels remain far more costly” than “fuel generated from conventional sources, and uncompetitive with natural gas.” In reality, strong evidence shows that wind and solar can protect consumers against fossil fuel price volatility. Once built, the “fuel” to power wind turbines and solar panels is free; whereas natural gas and coal prices are subject to dramatic swings. In fact, coal and natural gas prices projected to increase by 59 and 119 percent, respectively, in the wholesale electricity market serving Ohio.
Putting all of Ohio’s energy eggs in the fossil fuel basket ignores the myriad risks of dependence on coal and natural gas, including risks to public health and climate change. Sen. Seitz recently invited climate deniers from the Heartland Institute to testify on Ohio’s clean energy standards, who used the opportunity to falsely characterized natural gas as “essentially an emissions free-power source.” As with any fossil fuel, burning natural gas for electricity results in the release of carbon dioxide, and thus contributes to global warming, making it a far less attractive from a climate solutions standpoint than renewable energy or energy efficiency.
Time to Move Forward With Ohio’s Clean Energy Future
Periodic review of any policy makes good sense. But such reviews need to be based on sound and transparent analysis from credible sources, not ideological attacks and disinformation from special interest groups funded by the very industry that stands to benefit from dismantling the policy.
A rigorous review of Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards would find that these policies have been effective, affordable and are delivering benefits to consumers and the environment. They should be strengthened—not repealed or diluted.
A recent survey shows that a majority of Ohioans supports requiring utilities to provide 20 percent their electricity from renewable energy (well above the current 12.5 percent requirement). That would be a good step forward. First, let’s make sure Ohio does not become the first state to choose the fossil fuel industry’s fiction over clean energy facts.
Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.
Typhoon Molave is expected to make landfall in Vietnam on Wednesday with 90 mph winds and heavy rainfall that could lead to flooding and landslides, according to the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. To prepare for the powerful storm that already tore through the Philippines, Vietnam is making plans to evacuate nearly 1.3 million people along the central coast, as Reuters reported.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
How does your burrito impact the environment? If you ordered it from Chipotle, there is now a way to find out.
- Food's Environmental Impact Varies Greatly Between Producers ... ›
- Panera Bread Becomes First Chain to Use Climate-Friendly Label ... ›
Are you noticing your shirts becoming too tight fitting to wear? Have you been regularly visiting a gym, yet it seems like your effort is not enough? It's okay to get disappointed, but not to lose hope.
By Sarah Steffen
A stretch of coastline in the Philippine capital, Manila has received backlash from environmentalists. The heavily polluted Manila Bay area, which had been slated for cleanup, has become the site of a controversial 500-meter (1,600-foot) stretch of white sand beach.
Sand Makeup Crucial for Ecosystems<p>While UNEP/GRID-Geneva generally supports finding <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/not-enough-sand-for-construction-industry-despite-abundance/a-49342942" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">alternative sources of sand</a> so as not to disrupt ecosystems in rivers and oceans when extracting them, Vander Velpen stressed it was vital to use sand which closely matches the makeup of the native sand to protect beach fauna.</p><p>"If you change the core characteristics of the native sand, the original sand, you need to do an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to find out how it's going to impact the ecosystem and nearby ecosystems," he told DW.</p><p>But according to Torres, such an assessment was not done in Manila.</p>
Beautification Stunt Instead of Proper Cleanup?<p>Manila Bay's waters are heavily polluted by oil and trash from nearby residential areas and ports. A huge "No swimming" sign warns visitors to stay away from the ocean.</p><p>Philippines' <a href="https://denr.gov.ph/index.php/priority-programs/manila-bay-clean-up/25-priority-programs/1825-frequently-ask-questions-faqs-on-the-dolomite-and-the-beach-nourishment-project" target="_blank">Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)</a> has denied dolomite sand poses any risk to human health and the ecosystem.</p><p>However, scientists of the University of the Philippines have come forward disputing the DENR's claims. A <a href="https://biology.science.upd.edu.ph/index.php/ib-statement-regarding-dolomite-in-manila-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">statement by the Institute of Biology</a> said that using crushed dolomite did not address any of the rehabilitation phases and instead was "even more detrimental to the existing biodiversity as well as the communities in the area," pointing to the case of water birds. "The dumping of dolomite in Manila Bay has effectively covered part of the intertidal area used by the birds thereby reducing their habitat."</p><p>At peak migration season, Manila Bay is home to 90 aquatic bird species, including species of international conservation concern that are facing a very high extinction risk in the wild. </p><p>Authorities should focus on protecting and conserving biodiversity, the Institute of Biology added. "Rehabilitating mangroves is an example of a nature-based solution that is cheaper and more cost-effective than the dolomite dumping project," the scientists said.</p><p>Moreover, <a href="http://www.msi.upd.edu.ph/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the Marine Science Institute</a> has warned that prolonged inhalation of finer dust particles of dolomite could "cause chronic health effects," leading to discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath and coughing.</p><p>They also warned dolomite sand grains would erode during storms and be carried out to sea, essentially being washed away.</p>
Rehabilitation vs. Reclamation<p>Environmentalists say covering up the beach doesn't address the real issues of the bay. Torres and others believe the best way to clean up Manila Bay is not to add anything, but rather remove trash and pollution.</p><p>"There have been studies saying much of the waste comes from already collected waste — so these are open dump sites along the coast that get washed up because of the rain," Torres said.</p><p>She criticized the authorities for continuing to push reclamation projects she says are at odds with each other. These projects will affect large areas of mangrove forests, she said, and experts warn that this, in turn, exacerbates coastal erosion.</p><p>"If you've removed the areas that helped trap the sand, like mangrove forests, then the likelihood increases that you will have to nourish a beach. Same as building right up to the waterfront," said Vander Velpen of UNEP/GRID-Geneva.</p>
Plenty of Sand in the Sea?<p>The question of Manila's contentious white beach echoes larger questions about sand mining worldwide. <a href="https://unepgrid.ch/storage/app/media/documents/Sand_and_sustainability_UNEP_2019.pdf" target="_blank">Global sand consumption has tripled</a> over the past two decades, UNEP/GRID-Geneva has found. A huge chunk of it is now taken up by construction.</p><p>"Many operate on the assumption that natural sand is endless in its supply," said Vander Velpen.</p><p>Sand scarcity is a concern shared by Stefan Schimmels of <a href="https://www.fzk.uni-hannover.de/fzk_start.html?&L=1" target="_blank">Forschungszentrum Küste</a> who's done extensive research on shore nourishment to stop coastal erosion. And as climate change and rising sea levels are threatening coasts, demand for sand will grow even more.</p><p>A large study, the <a href="http://www.stencil-project.de/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/STENCIL_SWOT_Analyse_191026.pdf" target="_blank">Strategies and Tools for Environment-Friendly Shore Nourishments as Climate Change Impact Low-Regret Measures (STENCIL project)</a>, focused on the German island of Sylt, a popular vacation spot.</p><p>About 1 million cubic meter of sand per year is used to maintain the coastal area of Sylt, STENCIL project head Schimmels said. That's about 100 million 10-liter buckets of sand.</p><p>When sand was extracted off the coast of Sylt, underwater craters were formed. "You can still detect these craters even decades later," Schimmels told DW.</p><p>"Also when you add a couple of meters sand onto the beach — you essentially bury all things that do creep and fly," he said. "How quickly will they recover?" Schimmels said more research was needed as there was still too little known about long-term effects on the environment. </p>
Criticism Piling Up<p>As for Manila's artificial white sand, it looks like some might have already been blown away by a recent storm. DENR claims it wasn't washed away, but said that grayish sand, stones and other material had simply piled up over the dolomite sand. People in Manila have tweeted photos showing how the storm has ravaged the beach. </p>
<div id="adc0b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="98f9390db6bb81cb421aaf0bb9d9a6fb"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1318816633280851969" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Exactly one month after giving excited netizen a glimpse of Manila Bay white sands, look what happened now after ju… https://t.co/X0Z9i0bPB0</div> — M*A*S*H (@M*A*S*H)<a href="https://twitter.com/Magtira_Matibay/statuses/1318816633280851969">1603265362.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Authorities have been called tone-deaf for spending around 389 million pesos ($8 million) on a beach nourishment project in the middle of a raging pandemic.</p><p>An image of cake iced with the words "It really hurts - that's [worth] 389 million pesos?" has since gone viral.</p>
<div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4387aad52ea316e4db7330052318ca2f"><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/theweekendpatisserie/posts/144564207350008"></div></div><p>"It's just a waste of precious resources," Torres said. </p><p>The environmental activist now also worries that she might be labeled a terrorist for speaking out under the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/philippine-anti-terrorism-law-triggers-fear-of-massive-rights-abuses/a-53732140" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Philippines' controversial new anti-terrorism law</a>. She says she could be arrested for inciting fear when talking about environmental dangers.</p>
- 8 World Cities That Could Be Underwater as Oceans Rise - EcoWatch ›
- Endangered Migratory Birds on Collision Course with New Airport ... ›
- How Is Climate Change Affecting the Philippines? - EcoWatch ›
A pair of studies released Monday confirmed not only the presence of water and ice on the moon, but that it is more abundant than scientists previously thought. Those twin discoveries boost the prospect of a sustainable lunar base that could harvest the moon's resources to help sustain itself, according to the BBC.
- Scientists Find Rust on the Moon 'Puzzling' - EcoWatch ›
- Historic NASA/SpaceX Mission Could Pave the Way for Space ... ›
- NASA Study of Increasingly Dire Global Water Shortages Finds ›
- Groundbreaking NASA Announcement: Evidence of Liquid Water on ... ›