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Ohio's Energy Future Is Bright Unless FirstEnergy Gets Its Way

Energy

Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) has been trumpeting recommendations of a legislative committee to put Ohio’s clean-energy laws permanently on ice.

Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) has been trumpeting recommendations of a legislative committee to put Ohio’s clean-energy laws permanently on ice.

Freezing Ohio's clean-energy standards would be bad news for Ohio’s economy, jobs, electric consumers and the environment. But the Energy Mandates Study Committee appears ready to do just that. The legislature created the committee when it voted in 2014 to temporarily freeze Ohio’s clean-energy standards and become the first state in the nation to do so. The committee is now recommending the freeze be made permanent.

Why would the state legislature want to permanently freeze the standards? Good question. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a very inspiring answer.

FirstEnergy, Ohio’s largest electric monopoly, takes issue with Ohio’s clean-energy laws and has been fighting them for years. Ohio requires the state’s biggest electric monopoly to invest in its competition and jumpstart a more competitive market for energy services. Why would they want to do that? Well, they don’t, obviously.

FirstEnergy has dominated Northern Ohio’s energy market for decades and been paid handsomely for it. Advances in technology, however, now enable us to break down the electric monopoly. We are at the cusp of a technological revolution in the way we do energy, just like the way cell phones changed telecommunications.

The time has come for investing in the next generation of energy and more competitive energy markets. But big energy won’t give up market domination and monopoly profits willingly. Hence, a mandate on Ohio’s monopolies is necessary and beneficial.

Renewable energy is a manufactured science. Since the sun and wind are an unlimited resource, the more we invest in the technology to capture it, the cheaper and more efficient it will get. The future of energy, unfettered by special interests, portends solar on every rooftop. Imagine all the roofing jobs created to install solar on rooftops all across Ohio.

Energy efficiency already makes economic sense. However, there are numerous market barriers standing in the way of wise energy choices. For instance, neither renters nor landlords have any incentive to make rental properties more efficient since the renter pays the energy bills while the landlord owns the property.

In fact, the market for electricity is itself heinously inefficient. For every three lumps of coal, you only get one out. Only a market dominated by monopolies could withstand this level of inefficiency.

Investments in combined heat and power technology can more than double the efficiency with which we make electricity, while putting people to work in good-paying jobs and reducing the high level of emissions emitted by the electric power sector. Targeted investments in this technology can also make our manufacturing sector leaner, greener and more globally competitive.

Ohio’s clean-energy laws have also driven increasing investments in low-income home weatherization, permanently lowering utility bills for struggling households while putting people to work insulating their homes.

The future of energy is bright for Ohio, unless FirstEnergy and its legislative partner in crime, Sen. Bill Seitz, get their way.

I hope we don’t let that happen.

Amanda Woodrum is a Policy Matters Ohio energy and sustainability researcher.

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

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"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

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At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.