NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Legislating "Green Power" Won't Necessarily Make It So

April 4, 2002

So far, 14 states have required utilities to develop future renewable-energy production "portfolios" -- ranging from 1.1 percent of power production in Arizona to 30 percent in Maine. Some utilities in other states have volunteered to produce part of their power from "green" sources in order to placate environmentalists.

But utilities are finding that meeting renewable-energy goals is no easy task.

  • Renewable energy derived from sources including the sun, wind and vegetation currently supply just 1.7 percent of the nation's power.
  • Some environmentally-friendly renewable energy sources are expensive to tap, others are technologically unproven, and still others draw opposition from environmentalists themselves -- who find certain "green" power sources nearly as problematic as burning fossil fuels.
  • For example, Arundo Donax, a fast-growing, bamboo-like plant native to the Mediterranean region, might be used as a fuel source for power generation -- were it not for objections from environmentalists who deem it "an invasive species."
  • In Massachusetts, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound is attacking a project that would build a complex of 170 windmills offshore, claiming it would interfere with local fishing and "a place of pristine relaxation."

Last month, the U.S. Senate put a renewable-energy standard in its energy bill. If approved by the House, it would require most U.S. utilities to generate 10 percent of their power from "green" sources by 2020. But technological reality is going to have to catch up to legislative dreams. One Florida utility found solar panels were not an easy answer -- their cost is 10 times higher than the costs of burning oil or coal.

Source: John J. Fialka, "Florida Utility Finds It's Not Easy Even Trying to Be Green," Wall Street Journal, April 4, 2002.


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