by Jon Sanders
Director of the Center for Food, Power, and Life, Research Editor | John Locke Foundation
The debate over renewable energy giveaways in North Carolina really boils down to a choice. Do legislators serve the interests of citizens of North Carolina, or do they serve the interests of a powerful industry group?
In my phrasing, it’s not much of a choice. I see it as a moral imperative.
What do policymakers choose when they can bestow concentrated big benefits on a single “winner” industry while dispersing the costs across the many? They tend to hear nearly exclusively from the winner industry; why?
I discussed this imbalance on pages 6–7 of my report on Carolina Cronyism. It takes principled leaders to resist public-choice cronyism.
Shorn of principle, the choice expands in a leader’s mind: People in this state may not have any choice over who sells them electricity, but we’re not charging them much to cover the renewable energy costs. And that mandate isn’t expanding by much, not at first. But it goes to support jobs in the industry. Jobs are good, right? You know that industry is right there in my district. Yes, everyone in my district is an electricity consumer, but that’s not what I’m talking about. These industry reps love me and support me. I can’t turn my back on them now.
A dozen moral compromises later, and the imperative seems to be supporting the industry that — despite years of promises to the contrary — still admittedly cannot stand on its own without loads of forced public support.
Yesterday, for example, The News & Observer wrote about a report of the “many factors [that] contribute to NC’s solar renaissance.”
It would surprise no one here familiar with solar’s business model built on public subsidies that the report’s top three factors (out of five) are government giveaways.
It even starts by citing that Pew Study which is a document of their dependence on government, with every page containing at least one government prop to the industry.
The choice remains
The choice is still, however, between choosing to serve the interests of citizens of North Carolina, or to serve the interests of a powerful industry group. What will our policymakers choose?