Confronted with a grassy bump in a playing field, a normal person would simply level it out to match the rest of the turf. But when government is put in charge — and egged-on by lobbies — the more common solution is bring in truck-load after truck-load of soil to raise the entire field to match the bump. For the latest and most cussedly frustrating example of the phenomenon, Ron Bailey brings us this report on energy subsidies in New York State:
Unable to compete with heavily subsidized wind and solar power or electricity generated using cheap natural gas, the operators of four upstate New York nuclear reactors were planning to shut them down. Closing the plants would be a significant setback for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ambitious plan to reduce the state’s carbon dioxide emissions from the electric power sector. Currently the state gets 32 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, 19 percent from hydropower, 3 percent from wind, and 0.1 percent from solar. Burning natural gas currently generates about 41 percent of the state’s electricity with the remainder from coal and oil.
In order to forestall these nuclear shut-downs, state regulators decided this week to subsidize nuclear power plants at a rate of $500 million per year. The deal was announced by the state’s Public Service Commission when it adopted a plan to mandate that 50 percent of the state’s electricity be produced using renewable energy by 2030. Under the new Clean Energy Standards, each nuclear plant will be allocated zero emissions credits, which utilities must purchase when buying power from them. It is estimated that the credits will sell for about $17.48 per megawatt-hour of electricity. That money will go to the bottom lines of the plant’s owners, Entergy and Exelon. Now everybody’s a subsidized rent-seeker.
There’s no shortage of reasons to take offense at this story — political, economic, technical, ecological, etc. — but it’s the moral one that kills me: That, upon seeing someone else unjustly given preferential treatment, our answer increasingly isn’t to ask for the injustice to stop, but to demand our own cut of the spoils.