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Green Tea or Kool-Aid? - By Joel Aaron

August 08, 2013 J

Local Patch editorial writer David Staples covered the birth of a “Green Tea Coalition” in Georgia last week. In the article, he mentions Americans For Prosperity’s (AFP) position on the recent solar energy mandate in Georgia, saying “I also look forward to Americans for Prosperity (which we disagreed with during the recent IRP process-i.e. the solar issue before the Public Service Commission in GA) joining us in this effort as they too have been touting their support of free markets and competition. If any form of technology isn’t economically viable and feasible, then it will surely fail in the free market sans subsidy, right?”

AFP activists continue to be on the 7 year forefront in the energy freedom fight since our early days, sounding off against the economic warfare schemes wrought by global warming alarmists. These efforts include our nationwide Hot Air Tour and CAP Conferences to correct the misinformation at climate conferences around the globe. We continue to support ending all energy subsidies, tax credits, et cetera, for any and every form of energy production. This has been our position since our inception.

Recently, some new players to the field have entered the so-called conservative fray with some misguided support for the solar energy mandate foisted on Georgia by our own Public Service Commission (PSC). AFP stands against Staples’ position and that of the Green Tea Coalition/Tea Party Patriots leadership in Georgia/Sierra Club because the recent vote of the PSC accomplished the exact opposite of this coalition’s stated goals. It used government force to create a brand new 550 megawatt solar energy mandate on a private corporation. That’s more of what we already have. It’s not free market. It’s crony capitalism on behalf of a new player, the solar industry in Georgia. Supporters of this mandate can repeat that it is not until they are blue in the face and it does not change the reality, just the perception, perhaps, of some who are not following the issue closely.

Talk continues about another energy related issue–what to do with the Georgia Territorial Electric Service Act of 1972. The argument for full repeal essentially says that the Act itself means the State is carving out regional monopolies and the free market solution is to blow it up and start over. It’s important to note that this is an entirely separate issue than what was addressed in the recent PSC vote which did nothing to address the issue of energy monopolies. To treat the vote as one and the same is to confuse the issue and, unfortunately, supporters of the recent vote have confused the two issues (and still are, I might add).

The Territorial Electric Service Act needs modification to allow individuals the energy freedom to choose their own energy producer, the same as corporations now have through voluntary agreements that are routinely approved by the PSC. A wholesale repeal of the Act, however, would not be the right solution. It would infringe existing private property rights for the sake of a so-called “monopoly” that is very loosely defined when you factor in the extremely competitive free market buying and selling of energy capacity that goes on regularly between the major energy distributors (like Georgia Power). These distributors own portions of the electricity grid. They have regular interplay with a myriad of energy producers that exist and service the energy needs of Georgia companies. The simple fact is, a repeal of the Act would infringe upon the territorial rights to the distribution grids that these private sector companies laid using private capital years ago. Wholesale energy producers already sell energy in a competitive environment here in Georgia.

As Jim Clarkson of RSM Energy recently pointed out in a column, years ago, the electricity distributors voluntarily developed a system of joint use for the high voltage transmission system. Each of the users of the Integrated Transmission System, “ITS,” contributed the components of the high voltage system they already owned. Now the members pay jointly for expansion and use of the ITS. Because they own this infrastructure, it is not available to others without their consent. This is private property and must be respected as such.”

A wholesale repeal of the Territorial Electric Service Act would blow this relationship up and violate private property rights, also a major component and driving force behind economic freedom. That being said, I reiterate, the Act should be modified to provide a free market solution where individual consumers will finally have the freedom to buy their energy on the open market.

There are many reasons why the private sector players that testified in the recent PSC hearings would not admit that it was a mandate and there are many reasons why the players pushing for it would call it “free market”. $17 billion dollars in solar subsidies since 2008 is just one. The cost has not come down. The subsidies have gone up. The PSC vote simply positioned Georgia to be the newest kid on the block on the receiving end of one more taxpayer-subsidized boondoggle. An honest coalition encouraging true energy freedom should be consistent with their position on key issues like this.

Joel Aaron is Communications Director and Grassroots Coordinator for Americans For Prosperity-GA.

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