It will do nil to actually change world climate, he argues

OLYMPIA — The Washington Senate on Friday, March 1, passed a measure that would dramatically drive up electric bills while doing nothing to change world climate, says state Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale, 42nd District).

The bill, SB 5116, requires Washington electric utilities to obtain 100 percent of their power from carbon-free sources by 2045, disregarding cost, feasibility and reduced reliability of the electric grid, he said.

Washington already is a world clean-energy leader, observes Ericksen, ranking Republican on the Environment, Energy and Technology Committee. About 75 percent of its power comes from zero-emission sources, largely hydroelectric, behind only Vermont and Idaho. Most states and industrialized nations are at less than 40 percent. Further reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will be much more difficult and expensive in Washington than elsewhere because the state has already done the things that are most cost-effective, Ericksen says. Impact will be particularly harsh on working families and those on low and fixed incomes, who already struggle with winter heating bills.

“Instead of beating up on the people of Washington state, driving up electric bills and driving jobs out of Washington, we ought to be celebrating the fact that we are already clean,” Ericksen said. “We should do everything we can to preserve that low-cost clean-energy advantage. This won’t make a whit of difference to world climate, and all we’re really doing is satisfying political promises and fulfilling shallow bumper-sticker slogans.”

While coal is on the decline, the state would have trouble eliminating natural gas, Ericksen said. No replacement technology offers the same reliability, he said, putting the state at risk of brownouts due to lower baseload capacity.

Ericksen is offering a counterproposal, the Reliable Environmental Achievable Leadership (REAL) Energy Act, which would mandate Washington utilities to generate 80 percent of their power from non-emitting sources by 2030.  “We ought to set goals we can achieve,” he said. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has documented that nothing in SB 5116, or any combination of legislation in this state, will in any way impact global climate, Ericksen says.

“We can’t pass a law in Washington state that will change snowpack in the Cascades, stop wildfires, affect ocean acidification or sea levels, or improve the lives of polar bears. We emit so little carbon in the first place that any reductions we make here will be more than offset by increases in other nations. We ought to be exporting our technologies to other states and nations and encouraging them to duplicate the success we already have achieved, not punishing our own citizens with higher electric bills.”

The Senate bill passed 28-19 and was in hearing in a House committee on Tuesday, March 5.