I don’t know former PRC Commissioner Douglas Howe, but I have to admit that his column on New Mexico’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) from the Albuquerque Journal Saturday left me scratching my head. Howe (who was appointed by Gov. Martinez) opposes and voted against a recent proposal (passed and subsequently amended) to reduce the onerous nature of New Mexico’s standard. For the record, we at the Rio Grande Foundation support allowing New Mexicans to pay more to purchase renewable energy if they want to, but we oppose coercing utility consumers from doing so.
Back to Howe’s head-scratcher. In defending the RPS he discussed Texas which, like New Mexico has moderately-priced electricity,(see this chart for comparisons) and California, which has expensive electricity relative to most, but not all, other states. Fair enough, but then Howe gets crazy. He notes that both Texas and California have created more jobs than New Mexico despite equal and higher respective electricity costs. So what? There are literally thousands of factors at play. For starters, California went deeply into recession and is coming out of that recession. California is also not as reliant on Washington as we are and has a healthy tech sector despite what I believe are horrendous economic policies overall.
Texas, on the other hand, has no personal income tax, no corporate income tax, and is a right to work state. Perhaps these might also be factors in that state’s tremendous economic growth? Howe also fails to explain exactly how increasing the price of electricity (a significant cost for many businesses) will be good for job creation or economic growth in already-struggling New Mexico. (it hasn’t helped the Caribbean which suffers from much higher electricity costs despite rampant sun and an abject lack of fossil fuels)
He allude to “green jobs,” but perhaps he is unaware that study after study including those done by the liberal Brookings Institute and Reuters (not Heritage, Cato, or RGF) have found the so-called “green-economy” to be a failure.
We at the Rio Grande Foundation are on record as opposing the RPS (see link above). We think customers should be able to choose the source of electricity that suits them. If they want to set up their own utility or use wind/solar that is their choice, but other taxpayers shouldn’t subsidize them. And, while there are certainly externalities inherent in fossil fuels, they also exist for so-called “green” energy (a California solar project is in trouble due to expected wildlife deaths). It is nigh impossible to accurately measure and put an economic value on all of these externalities.
As a PRC commissioner Howe certainly had the right to use the coercive power of government to force us to use whatever source of energy he wants. I would just hope he’d be more upfront on the economics.
NOTE: This article was corrected to reflect that Howe is a former PRC commissioner and is no longer on the Commission.