Tag Archives: Rep. Soliday

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 Democratic State Representative Ryan Dvorak decided that if Indiana was going to prop up outdated, unsustainable energy sources, why stop with coal?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?