About the only thing that Idaho Rep. Jeff Thompson (R-30) got right in his guest opinion in the Idaho Statesman today is that climate change is causing temperatures to change and sea levels to rise. Other that that, his opinion is just that-an opinion. He says that Obama’s rhetoric is bad for Idaho. And he wants the state to join a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. But his lack of any facts is even worse for Idaho.
Without citing any evidence, Rep. Thompson claims that the Clean Power Plan will have a “ridiculously small” effect on climate change, will “cause electricity prices to soar in Idaho,” and is illegal. Each claim is demonstrably false or requires further analysis.
Cleaner Air Is Not Ridiculous
The Clean Power Plan establishes a national goal to reduce carbon pollution from the electricity sector 32% by 2030. Cutting pollution from the single largest source of climate change-causing sources by one-third is not small. What will be the exact impact of cleaning up our air? It is hard to say, but common sense says that cutting that pollution by one-third is neither ridiculous nor small.
Reducing carbon pollution by any amount matters for Idaho’s future. This summer saw statewide drought conditions and record-breaking heat, which combined meant limited water for agriculture, low river flows for fish and recreation, and widespread wildfires. Scientists across Idaho say the same thing: Carbon pollution is changing our atmosphere and placing families and business at risk. Idaho needs leadership, instead of rhetoric, to protect the we breathe and the water we drink.
We Can Afford to Have Clean Air
The Clean Power Plan sets a unique target for each state and compares this target with what would happen to emissions without the plan. If the Clean Power Plan did not exist and we went forward with business as usual, Idaho’s carbon emissions would be 766 pounds per megawatthour in 2020. Under the Clean Power Plan, Idaho’s target is actually higher, 832 pounds per megawatt hour in 2022 and ramping down to 771 by 2030. This means that Idaho could make no changes to the current course and still reduce emissions well below our target.
Rep. Thompson claims that electricity prices will increase 11% in Idaho, again without pointing to any evidence or analysis. When you look at the facts, you find that this claim is completely fabricated. Instead of fearmongering, Thompson should worry about what will increase prices, like building additional power lines and gas plants.
To further understand the impacts on electricity prices in Idaho, ICL worked with Idaho’s utilities (Avista, Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power) to ensure that they analyzed a range of scenarios in their integrated resource plans (IRPs) this summer. The conclusion in all three utility IRPs is that Idaho can easily meet our carbon limits with minimal costs to customers.
In fact, a few scenarios that comply with the Clean Power Plan will actually reduce the cost of electricity for Idahoans. A Synapse Energy economics report that shows bill savings by state concludes that Idahoans will save about $22 a month. Rep. Thompson should have asked Idaho’s electricity experts at our utilities and the Public Utilities Commission before claiming incorrectly that the cost of electricity will soar.
Cleaner Air Will Benefit Idaho
Idaho has a strong tradition of programs to help Idahoans use energy wisely, which is the cheapest way to clean up our electric system. By ignoring this history Rep. Thompson does a disservice to the hard work done by our utilities and regulators over the years to develop these programs. And we could leverage our existing energy efficiency programs to reduce carbon pollution even further.
Idaho doesn’t have coal within our borders, and the nascent gas fields in southwestern Idaho are insufficient, even if fully developed, to meet our energy needs. That’s one reason why Idaho imports almost half of our energy from neighboring states, costing Idahoans around $370 million each year. Investing that money in Idaho’s own clean energy resources is not only good for the air we breathe, but it will also grow our local economy by keeping energy dollars at home and putting Idahoans to work.
Idaho Deserves Leaders Who Deal in Facts
The Clean Power Plan sits on strong legal footing. Three Supreme Court rulings uphold the EPA’s authority to control carbon under the Clean Air Act, the most successful environmental law in our history. Instead of dealing with truth and facts, Rep. Thompson appears to be relying on rhetoric promoted by out-of-state polluters with questionable motives. Idaho deserves better.