Dim Bulbs vs. Economic Diversification in Nevada

Light BulbIt’s (sort of, kind of, maybe) official — Nevada has moved out of the Recession Line.  So sayeth the state’s chief economist.  Although, it’s not as if we can take a victory lap, wave the Battle Born flag, and ignore the problems around us.   The chief economist sees “national financial policy” issues (read: Cliffs & Hostages) and spiking gasoline prices as potential wet blankets at the recovery party.  Things are “looking good?”

“It became evident that we can’t rely on construction, leisure and hospitality to lead the way, and we’ve become more active in the economic development arena,” Anderson said. “We’re not seeing megaresorts popping out of the ground, yet more businesses are being attracted to come here. Nevada is well positioned to take advantage of the clean energy movement, wind and our geothermal resources in the north.”  [LVSun]

Yes, we are in a good position to take advantage of the clean energy movement, if there are any items of abundance in the Great Basin it’s wind, sun, and bubbling hot springs… However, that position may not improve much if the TeaParty/Republican led House of Representatives remains stuck in the 19th century, the following from June 16, 2012:

Republicans in the House of Representatives quietly passed 13 provisions last week that would choke off Energy Department financing for existing clean energy and efficiency programs.

The House adopted the amendments on June 6 as part of its 2013 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill. The proposed cuts reflect a broader trend. As the Tea Party reshapes the GOP, opposition to policies that reduce climate-changing gases and stoke the clean energy economy is soaring.

More than half of the targeted DOE programs were started under Pres. George W. Bush, while some go back decades. They range from wind technology supports to mandates for zero-carbon buildings, LED light bulbs and electric golf carts (and, of course, the controversial program behind the Solyndra loan).

Overall, the House energy bill would give $32.1 billion to energy and water programs, a cut of about $1 billion from Obama’s budget request. It would also shift more dollars to fossil-fuel programs. Research and development of “clean” coal, oil and natural gas technologies, for instance, would get a 60 percent boost from last year’s level to $554 million.

The House passed H.R. 5853, the Energy and Water Development Act with the following amendments, as issued by GOP leadership: (original pdf)

Cravaack (R-MN) #1 – The amendment would prohibit funding to require DoE grant recipients to upgrade their light bulbs to meet certain efficiency standards. This requirement is an inappropriate over-reach that puts an undue cost and regulatory burden on grant recipients. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

Harris (R-MD) – The amendment prohibits funding for a DoE renewable energy and energy efficiency international program. The underlying bill already reduces the account by 60%, and the amendment would go further to ensure the elimination of wasteful or unnecessary overseas activities. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

Burgess (R-TX) – The amendment prohibits funds from being used to implement or enforce energy efficiency standards regarding incandescent light bulbs and other incandescent light sources. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

Stearns (R-FL) – The amendment prohibits funding for DoE to forgo certain U.S. rights in a loan guarantee agreement. This was one of the actions taken by DoE prior to the Solyndra bankruptcy, and it reduces the ability of the government to recoup taxpayer dollars. The amendment was adopted on a vote of 348-60.

Jordan (R-OH) – The amendment prohibits the use of funds to issue or administer new loan guarantees for renewable energy systems, electric power transmission systems, or leading edge biofuel projects. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

Landry (R-LA) #2 – The amendment prohibits funding for a national media campaign on green technology. This activity is not part of the core mission of the agency. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

Schweikert (R-AZ) – The amendment prohibits funding for DoE to implement or enforce regulations on shower heads or water-closets. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

Fortenberry (R-NE) #2 – The amendment prohibits funding to implement or enforce a new DoE regulation that would impose energy efficiency standards on certain battery chargers. The regulation could place costly and unnecessary burdens on businesses, potentially costing American jobs and increasing prices for consumers. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

Flores (R-TX) – The amendment prohibits funds to enforce the ban on the use of certain fuels by federal agencies. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

Flake (R-AZ) #3 – The amendment prohibits DoE from using funds for the Wind Powering America Initiative. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.  (emphasis added)

The cat came out of the bag as the GOP House leadership explains to us that regulations promoting alternative energy use, energy conservation, and energy standards are “costly and unnecessary burdens on businesses, potentially costing American jobs and increasing prices for consumers.”   Note the grammatical but meaningful disconnect in the phrasing — “are costly (for business)” but “potentially costing … jobs.”  This is the classic Republican line — any nod toward improving energy efficiency standards or regulating energy conservation might cost some business some amount in the short term, and therefore must have a deleterious effect on hiring.   For some reason known but to themselves, the GOP seems obsessed by light bulbs, exemplary of the short term focus of Republican energy policy.

Dim Bulbs

Me’thinks the market has spoken.  Between 2001 and 2003 the number of CFL bulbs increased from 1.8 billion world wide to 3.5 billion.  There’s more:

“Reliable global data on CFL use since 2003 do not exist, but sales growth in individual countries strongly indicates that total usage continues to increase at a fast pace. Between 2000 and 2004, for example, estimated sales in the United States grew 343 percent-from 21 million to 93 million-and by 2007 they reached 397 million.  CFL sales in Western Europe grew 34 percent between 2000 and 2004, from 173 million to 232 million units, and in Eastern Europe they rose 143 percent, from 23 million to 56 million units.”  [WWatch]

One can only wonder WHY, if the sale of an item increased by 343% in four years, the Republicans haven’t caught on to the fact that consumers have decided that energy efficient bulbs are better home management decisions, and aren’t going to squawk too loudly if their government also decides that the old inefficient incandescent bulbs are the buggy whips of the 21st century.  The logic is about as perilous as advising citizens that they should revert to the use of chamber pots, thus enhancing the pottery and ceramic industry,  instead of those new-fangled WC’s that flush.   This “logic” also seems to have inspired now-Senator Flake’s notion that we don’t need to invest in the Wind Powering America Initiative — although Nevada, with a surfeit of blowing breezes, could definitely benefit from such a program.

So, while the chief economist for the state of Nevada hopes that clean energy investment and technology will augment the economic development of the state, the Republican members of Congress remain incandescent dim bulbs in that department.  We could use more economic diversification — but there isn’t much illumination coming from the House of Representatives.

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