Appraising the Candidates on Energy: Mandates Over Markets

PA gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett recently put out a policy paper on energy praising markets:  “a properly structured market place can effectively incentivize alternative energy investments – perhaps even more effectively than government mandates.” However many of his policy proposals are market interventions.

Corbett cites a lack of coordination between agencies and the need to obtain a consistent regulatory environment. But instead of consolidating or modernizing regulations, Corbett proposes a host of new commissions, like a Marcellus Shale work group.

Furthermore, Corbett’s plan states he will “encourage sound and cost effective renewable energy through alternative energy mandates,” which do neither. There some are bright spots, including his support for electric choice, opposition to a severance tax, and stance against increasing the alternative energy mandates. In summary Corbett plans to:

  • Create an Infrastructure Improvement Tax Credit Program.
  • Appoint a new Governor’s Energy Executive to consult with the PUC, DEP and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to coordinate inter agency development.
  • Implement an electric choice education campaign along with a consumer bill of rights.
  • Continue the biofuel blenders tax incentive (PA already mandates diesel fuel must contain 2% biofuel).
  • Set aside a portion of the permit fees and royalties paid by the natural gas industry to the commonwealth to support new and improved waste water recycling technologies in the state.
  • Expedite the permitting process for clean coal.
  • And implement various DEP programs including a new permit decision guarantee program.

Unlike Corbett, all four Democrat candidates support a natural gas severance tax. Joe Hoeffel has a laundry list of revenue recipients, including educational institutions, the Department of Environmental Protection, and the renewal of the growing greener program. This is interesting, since he also supports a moratorium on all new drilling. Like Corbett, Hoeffel supports market manipulations through alternative energy subsidies.

Like Corbett, Republican Sam Rohrer opposes a natural severance tax, but would allocate royalties from state land leases to – you guessed it – property tax relief. Rohrer is also the only candidate not calling for the state to subsidize alternative energy.

While Corbett’s support of alternative energy subsidies is subtle Democrat Dan Onorato ‘s energy policy centers on handouts, and specifically calls for increased Alternative Energy Portfolio standards. He also supports mandates on utility companies to conserve energy..

The energy platforms of Anthony Williams includes support for taxpayer subsidies of alternative fuels and more public input on environmental decisions. Williams supports a severance tax.

Finally Auditor General Wagner claims he too will implement numerous programs to spur energy innovation. Wagner names Growing Greener a top priority. And like all Democrat candidates, Wagner emphasizes the need additionally funding for the departments of Environmental Protection and Conservation & Natural Resources.

For more on energy policy from CF click here.