Scientific American: North Carolina legislators make end-run on science and renewable energy

North Carolina continues to garner national attention for what appears to be a mix of ongoing anti-science actions of its legislators. The latest target: Despite evidence that a move to kill the state’s renewable-energy initiatives doesn’t have the votes (or the public sentiment), a Senate committee pushed it forward anyway — by dodging a formal vote. (The House version of the bill died in committee, 18-13, including key Republicans who supported current policy because of the jobs created across the state, but the Senate Finance committee chair called for a “voice” vote that had bill opponents calling it a “banana republic” action.)

Buncombe Sen. Martin Nesbitt is quoted in the Raleigh News&Observer report: “It looks very bad to the public,” Nesbitt said. “And it clearly appears to the public that the vote was called the wrong way.”

The debate centers on a six-year-old policy that supporters say creates jobs and supports renewable energy but critics say violates free-market principles and costs taxpayers too much (under the rules of the current policies, “The law allows power companies to pass on extra costs to customers. As a result, Duke Energy residential customers pay 22 cents a month and Progress Energy customers pay 42 cents a month for the renewables subsidies” — News&Observer).

Here are a few ways the recent actions have been reported, from the Scientific American to online news sites:

From “The Raw Story”

North Carolina Republicans push through anti-renewable energy bill in ‘banana republic’ vote:

“Democrats in North Carolina say they could have defeated a bill to repeal renewable energy subsidies on Wednesday if Republicans had not pushed it through committee without counting the votes.

The state Senate Finance Committee debated the bill to end the state’s 6-year-old renewable energy program for over 40 minutes before Republican chairman Bill Rabon called for a motion. … “North Carolina is not a banana republic,” Sen. Josh Stein (D) complained following the hearing. “That was no way to run a proceeding.”

Environmental advocates have suggested that Republicans based the bill on model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Republican state Rep. Mike Hager, who authored the bill, is an ALEC member.

Excerpts from Scientific American blogger (and North Carolinian) Scott Huler, in “Plugged In”

North Carolina? You remember: the state against science regarding sea level rise? The state with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources head who doubts climate change science and believes oil is a renewable resource? The state that tried to appoint a head of early childhood education who believed the Fukushima earthquake might have been caused by ultrasonic waves from North Korea? That North Carolina? …

The scientific method the Republican-run legislature is against now is … counting. Yep — in its desperate attempts to get rid of North Carolina’s renewable energy program, the legislature has given up the radical, liberal, lamestream, obviously subjective “science” of, um, actually counting votes. You see, when the votes were actually counted, the bill that would have removed the renewables program (and said that wind, among other things, was not renewable) died in the state house, failing to emerge from committee by an 18-13 vote.

Okay, hmm … you’re Republican legislator Mike Hager, you hate the renewables program, and your bill has just been defeated by an indisputable margin of five votes. What to do … what to do? Easy. You reintroduce the bill. And when it next comes up in committee, this time in the state senate? You have a voice vote — and have your finance committee chair, Republican Bill Rabon, refuse to count the actual votes. In a voice vote so close that both sides claim they would have won if the votes had been counted, Rabon declares that the bill has passed and runs off.

No, I wish I were, but I am not making this up. We have given up counting votes in North Carolina. The Reign of Error rules supreme here. …

From the Raleigh News&Observer’s John Murawski:

Over the objections of Democratic lawmakers, a Senate committee approved legislation Wednesday to end the state’s 6-year-old renewable energy program.

Opponents of the bill shouted “No!” when voting to show their frustration at Republican chairman Bill Rabon’s refusal to count votes with a show of hands. In what was clearly a razor-thin margin, both sides said they would have won if the votes had been counted.

“North Carolina is not a banana republic,” Democratic Sen. Josh Stein of Raleigh, one of the no votes, said after the meeting. “That was no way to run a proceeding.”

It was also evident that the Republicans are split on the legislation that would end a state policy of requiring electric utilities to buy green electricity from solar farms and other renewable generators. …

The ideological dispute is over North Carolina’s 2007 law requiring electric utilities to use solar power and other forms of renewable energy, up to 12.5 percent of total retail sales in 2021 and thereafter. …

Read more here:

About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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0 thoughts on “Scientific American: North Carolina legislators make end-run on science and renewable energy

  1. ironhead

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