Barrasso: Irresponsible Democrats pushing for U.S. to follow California's failed energy model

Democrats are trying to impose California‘s unreliable energy policies on the rest of the country. Americans are responding, “Don’t turn America into California!”

It’s good advice. The failures of California’s approach are a warning, not a model.

California’s consumers know their state’s model means rolling blackouts and some of the highest prices in the nation.

House Democrats just passed a complete makeover of our nation’s electricity system. Hidden inside their multi-trillion-dollar budget are new mandates, incentives and penalties on electricity providers that would make our electricity grid look more like California’s.

This so-called “Clean Electricity Payment Program” (CEPP) marks the arrival of Democrats’ climate agenda.

With an initial price tag of hundreds of billions of dollars, it would drive out the traditional fuels generating about 60 percent of our electricity. It would replace reliable energy with weather-dependent forms of energy like solar and wind. The radical changes to reach an 80-percent “clean” electricity standard call for an unrealistic completion date of 2030.

The CEPP is a carrot and stick system. Substantial taxpayer funds would be paid to companies that increase their annual share of clean energy by at least 4 percentage points. That sounds reasonable, yet it would require about a 10-percent increase in clean energy generation nationwide in the first year alone. For a state like West Virginia, that could actually require a 65-percent increase in renewable energy.

The complicated formula for “clean” energy is defined as emitting not more than 0.1 tons of CO2-equivalent per megawatt-hour of electricity generated. That’s a technical way of saying “no fossil fuels.”

Companies that cannot meet the government’s target — and many won’t — will be hit with fines. Democrats claim that consumers will not pay more. Yet, these fines will be passed on to consumers through high electricity bills.

California’s high electricity rates are no model to imitate. In 2020, consumers spent about $391 billion on electricity. The same amount of electricity at California’s average rate would cost $665 billion.

Beyond spiking energy bills, reliability will suffer. In extreme weather — polar vortex winters and summer heat waves — heating and cooling systems may lack the energy needed to run. In California, it got so bad this summer that to prevent blackouts, the state had to add five oil and gas power generators.

The Democrats’ plan will hurt jobs too. As the government pushes businesses away from traditional energy, we’ll lose thousands of well-paid, skilled, often union jobs in traditional energy sectors. A federal oil and gas leasing ban, for example, could kill up to a million jobs. That’s a body blow to my home state of Wyoming.

The CEPP will undermine our nation’s competitiveness. The United States pays the third-lowest price for electricity among developed country competitors. Government mandates will throw away this price advantage.

All told, this severely undermines our energy security. We’ll be more dependent on China. China accounts for 80 percent of solar panel production. They control around 60 percent of the rare earth minerals used for many forms of renewable energy or electric car batteries. We should not be killing jobs at home, only to then send business to a strategic opponent.

The Democrat leadership in the House of Representatives is intent on passing this disastrous energy policy soon. Its fate will be decided in the Senate.

Not all Democrats in the Senate are convinced. They should consider carefully what’s at stake. America needs an all-of-the-above energy strategy to succeed. We need to use all our resources.

Energy security is national security. These government mandates would weaken our domestic energy sector and make us reliant on our foreign adversaries like Russia, Venezuela and China.

Energy security is also vital to working families in Wyoming and around the country paying their bills each month. When we have enough energy that we can export, prices fall. It’s basic supply and demand.

Let’s not cut out forms of energy that are affordable and reliable. Let’s not allow the government to pick winners and losers. And let’s not hike costs on families already facing the twin threats of inflation and Democrat tax hikes.

Congress should pull the plug on the Democrats’ electricity takeover. Folks in Wyoming won’t miss it. We’ve seen the failures of California. We shouldn’t replicate those failures on a national scale. Don’t turn our country into California.

Senator John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming, is the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.