H. Sterling Burnett: Voters Reject Storm of Climate Alarmist Policies in Midterm Elections

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In the 2018 midterm elections, voters in several states cast ballots in favor of energy and natural gas development.

For instance, in Alaska, voters rejected an initiative that would have placed new restrictions on dam building, mining, and oil and gas development near salmon habitats in the state. The initiative was opposed by the natural resource industry, Alaska Native corporations, and unions, among other groups.

Similarly, Colorado voters rejected an initiative to dramatically restrict new oil and gas development on private and state lands. Initiative 97 would have required all new oil and gas wells to be at least 2,500 feet from permanent structures, up from the current 500 feet from homes or other occupied dwellings and 1,000 feet from schools. Colorado residents made a smart decision: the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission issued a report revealing the expanded distance requirement would cause up to 147,800 lost jobs, a $147.6 billion reduction in personal income, and a $9 billion loss in state and local tax revenue by 2030.

In Arizona, voters rejected out-of-state billionaire, carpet-bagger Tom Steyer’s attempt to export California’s energy policies to the Grand Canyon State. The initiative would have required 50 percent of Arizona’s electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2030. The Energy Information Administration estimated Arizona families would have paid an additional $2,100 for electricity if the initiative had passed. Fortunately, Arizona voters apparently recognized the renewable sources required by the initiative would be expensive and unreliable.

Furthermore, Washington State voters showed some common sense when they opposed a tax on carbon dioxide. If approved, Initiative 1631 would have made the Evergreen State the first in the nation to impose a tax on carbon dioxide emissions. The initiative proposed a $15 per metric ton tax on commercial, industrial, and transportation-related carbon dioxide emissions. Even worse, the tax would have increased $2 per ton each year until the state reduced carbon dioxide emissions 50 percent below 1990 levels. Every credible analysis showed the tax would have caused multiple negative economic consequences, most significantly a major loss of jobs as companies fled the state or closed due to lower cost competition from companies out of state.

Washington state voters considered and rejected a similar carbon dioxide tax initiative in the 2016 election too. Yet, like a vampire in a bad horror movie, anti-fossil-fuel zealots resurrected the bloodsucking carbon dioxide tax. Voters once again drove a stake through the initiative’s heart. Let’s hope it sticks this time.

Although voters in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, and Washington made smart choices about energy policies at the voting booth, voters in the Silver State were not so wise.

While nationwide, the purported blue wave was, in many ways, more of a ripple than the Tsunami, the blue wave did crest in Nevada where democrats largely swept the major races for public office.

The high democratic turnout is likely responsible for the fact Nevada voters approved a Steyer-backed 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 mandate despite the economic consequences the mandate would cause. The referendum, in the form of a constitutional amendment, will force utilities to ensure 50 percent of the electric power they provide comes from renewable sources by 2030. Voters approved Question 6 even though their electric bills have risen by 11 percent over the past five years, due in part to the state’s existing renewable energy mandate. Furthermore, a 2013 study by the Nevada Policy Research Institute revealed producing 25 percent of Nevada’s electric power from renewable sources would likely raise power prices by an additional 11 percent, while costing the state more than 3,000 jobs. The recently approved 50-percent renewable energy mandate will wreak even more economic havoc upon in the Silver State.

The good news is Nevadans have an opportunity to correct their mistake. Under a unique state law, any constitutional amendment, including the new renewable energy mandate, must pass in two consecutive elections to be ratified. This means voters must also approve the referendum in the next election. In other words, voters have time to regain their energy sanity before the 2020 vote on Steyer’s “50 by 30” amendment.

Contrary to popular predictions, the 2018 midterm elections were not a resounding victory for climate change zealots. Rather, the elections were, for the most part, a rebuke to climate alarmists’ destructive policies. Most Americans understand the climate isn’t killing them, but lack of access to reliable, affordable energy could.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. (hburnett@heartland.org) is a senior fellow on energy and the environment at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

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