ND Legislature “propping up” private energy to remain viable in carbon-conscious export markets

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ND House discusses legislation to keep private energy viable in carbon conscious export markets; critics say they're wagering tax payer dollars without guarantee of a return on investment

North Dakotans know there is growing demand to cut C02 emissions and produce cleaner energy in order to combat climate change. Not only is there growing political and social pressure, but it’s also a matter of the marketplace.

This week the Legislature is discussing a series of bills aimed at providing the state’s private energy sector with the means to continue producing energy while also developing new technology that will cut down on CO2 emissions.

Critics of the legislation say it’s not the job of the government to bail out private energy, and furthermore, taxpayers are shouldering the burden without a guarantee of a return on investment.

Last week on Inside North Dakota Politics, KX spoke with Representative Glenn Bosh about House Bill 1452 which would establish a Clean Sustainable Energy Authority.

“The marketplace, the federal government are expecting us to provide clean energy. They are demanding it, and so for our energy producers to be viable they have got to be able to produce clean energy,” explained Bosch.

$40 million dollars would be allocated for a fund that would make available dollars for grants, loans, and taking matching federal funds becoming available under the Biden Administration.

“The most important part of establishing the Clean Sustainable Energy Authority is establishing a framework. A framework by where our state can work with our energy producers. We know that there is emerging technologies that are coming to market and it’s important for our state to be leading when these technologies are put in place,” said Bosch.

North Dakota Watchdog Network Managing Director Dustin Gawyrlow is all in favor of the getting government out of the free-market, but he says he’s not in favor of the government using taxpayer dollars to subsidize private energy.

“The idea of having government in there as a mechanism to support the coal industry, to me that’s socialism. We’re propping up and bailing out an industry using government spending to do it and we don’t have a guarantee at the back-end that it’s going to work,” said Gawyrlow.

Gawrlow says the markets that North Dakota energy is sold to, such as Minnesota and Illinois, have enforced stricter carbon emissions regulations making it harder for our state’s energy sector to sell to them, particularly coal-fired electricity. In these states, there is growing social and political pressure to completely cut-out coal-fired electricity consumption.

Gawrlow says with the series of legislation the state aims to provide financial assistance to energy companies to develop technology that reduces carbon emissions, thereby meeting those state’s regulations, theoretically reopening those markets. Gawyrlow says the issue is there is no guarantee that those states will want North Dakota’s energy, even with reduced carbon emissions.

“Even if the state subsidizes these industries, and bails them out, who are we going to sell the power to? If there’s no market for it now and if the market is diminishing going forward because of the bad policies that other states have implemented. Where is it going to go?”

However, Representative Bosch reminds that the dollars are not structured to any particular energy source. He says it’s an “all of the above energy” approach to fund technologies that aim to make sustainable energy such as coal cleaner and renewable energy such as wind more sustainable.”

In questioning the sustainability of wind energy, it is important to note that KX News reported back in mid-February that wind power was not the reason for four million Texans losing power during the historic winter event. Dan Woodfin, a senior director for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, told Bloomberg frozen instruments at natural gas, coal, and nuclear facilities and limited supplies of natural gas were the main reason for widespread energy shortages.

Another energy sector bill being discussed in the House this week is HB 1412 regarding the allocation of the coal conversion facilities privilege tax and the lignite research tax; to provide an effective date; and to provide an expiration date.

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