Tag Archives: HB 1414

Why Not Whale Oil?

One of my graduate students alerted me to something I really have to share.

Here’s the background.

As regular readers of this blog know, Indiana State Representative Soliday authored a bill that would prevent Indiana utilities from switching from coal to cleaner, cheaper energy– effectively blocking utilities in Indiana from closing any coal-fired power plant unless the closure has been mandated by the Trump administration – which would never happen, given the president’s repeated empty promises to “bring back coal.”

The only exception for closing a coal plant would be if utilities can “prove” to state utility commissioners that it would be in the public interest. That exception was included in the bill to let coal companies oppose closure of a coal plant by dragging the issue through the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission and the courts. That would cost utilities and ratepayers huge sums of money and further delay the transition to renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

Inside Climate News reports that if the bill passes, Indiana would become the third state to pass a law aimed at combating market forces that make renewables and natural gas cheaper than coal.

Soliday’s bill is opposed by all five of Indiana’s investor-owned utilities, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, consumer and environmental groups, the Indiana Conservative Alliance for Energy, and ratepayers across the state. Nevertheless, it passed the House and will now be taken up by the State Senate.

So much for background. Democratic State Representative Ryan Dvorak decided that if Indiana was going to prop up outdated, unsustainable energy sources, why stop with coal? So he offered an amendment–a perfect amendment:

Whereas whale oil provides bright, dependable light that is favored even by lighthouse keepers; and many American jobs have been lost in the decimation of the whale oil industry; a public utility may not sell electricity for the purpose of providing power to harsh, flickering, and toxic light bulbs, when natural and reliable whale oil would serve the purpose of lighting Hoosier homes and businesses.

Wouldn’t it be great if Dvorak’s amendment got a hearing?

Ken Cook, President of the Environmental Working Group, also weighed in, asking “How about legislation to replace every car in Indiana with a horse and buggy?”

As the Environmental Working Group has noted, Dvorak’s amendment and Cook’s suggestion make as much sense as the industry-backed scheme to bail out coal on the backs of Indiana residents. It wouldn’t just cost the utilities more money, it would force citizens to pay more for electricity, even when cheaper, cleaner renewable sources are available.

House Bill 1414, introduced by Republican State Rep. Ed Soliday, is “one of the dumbest policy proposals ever,” said Cook. “It would be a disaster for the environment, public health and Indiana’s economy.”

“Rep. Soliday and the other lawmakers supporting H.B. 1414 are turning Indiana into a laughingstock when it comes to energy policy,” said EWG Senior Energy Policy Advisor Grant Smith, an Indiana resident. “The number of states where wind and solar are rapidly becoming a dominant source of electricity is steadily climbing, even as mossback lawmakers in Indiana and a few other states are desperately – and futilely – trying to keep coal on life support.”

And then there’s the hypocrisy of those defenders of the free market, who clearly only defend the market until it threatens the bottom line of their donors and patrons…

Why not whale oil, indeed?



They Don’t Even Want To Hear It…

In the U.S. Senate, Republicans are repeating a line made infamous by Indiana’s own Earl Landgrebe during the Nixon Impeachment: My mind is made up. Don’t confuse me with the facts.

Landgrebe’s line also describes the current Indiana GOP, which has declined to hear any debate about a good government measure offered by Rep. Ed Delaney as an amendment to House Bill 1414. (Regular readers will recall my post on this effort to tell Indiana’s utilities that they won’t be permitted to go ahead with their plans to close down their inefficient, costly and carbon-producing coal plants unless the EPA has mandated the closure.)

After noting that what he termed HB 1414’s “coal bailout” would raise the cost of electricity for Hoosiers and worsen the air quality in the state, Delaney proposed an amendment that would make it a Level 6 felony for a coal interest or person who has a vested interest in coal to make a contribution to a political candidate or committee.

“I’ve grown concerned about the growing distrust Hoosiers have in our political system,” DeLaney added.

“If the state is going to subsidize an industry at the expense of taxpayers, lawmakers should not be allowed to take political contributions from that industry. Special interests shouldn’t be influencing such impactful legislation. The amendment I offered today would’ve held the coal industry to the same standards as casinos who can’t contribute to political campaigns. I am concerned to restore a greater sense of trust between Hoosiers and their legislators.”

The amendment was blocked from debate on the House floor by House Republicans.

At all levels of government, when Republicans have the power to do so, they block efforts to conduct the sorts of full and fair explorations that would be likely to  inform the public but would be politically detrimental to the GOP.

If the facts make them look bad, they simply refuse to allow discussion of those facts.

In the case of HB 1414, as I noted previously, the utilities oppose it, environmentalists oppose it, and consumers get screwed by it. Coal companies must therefore depend upon their friends in the legislature to ignore the facts and protect them–and no one is friendlier than a lawmaker who benefits from an industry’s generous campaign contributions.

Representative Delaney’s amendment would remove the impression that coal interests had “purchased” the “friendship” of state legislators. Surely, if the impression is incorrect or unfair, lawmakers would be delighted to publicly debate it and pass it.

In Washington, they’re following in Earl Landgrebe’s footsteps. Despite taking an oath to act as impartial jurors, they are prepared to exercise raw power to prevent testimony that would confirm the accuracy of what they already know, because that testimony would be further evidence that they value party and power more than country or integrity.

The Republican super-majority in Indiana has declined even to debate the propriety of a rule against legislative bribery, presumably because citizens who followed such a debate (few as they are likely to be in the absence of local journalism) would see them protecting their ability to raise money from industries they subsidize.

Talk about a quid pro quo…