Monday, June 25, 2007

A big energy battle coming to a vote in PA

A keystone measure in Governor Ed Rendell's Energy Independence Strategy is HB 1201, which would mandate greater use of alternative energy sources, require the installation of advance electricity meters in homes to encourage conservation during peak-load periods, and create an $850M bond fund.

Money from this, so-called "Energy Independence Fund" would:

- pay rebates to consumers who replace inefficient electrical appliances

- provide grants and loans for the expansion of alternative energy companies, and

- provide development and equipment costs to attract new alternative energy investments

The environmental organization, PennFUTURE, supports the legislation. The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry opposes.

They don't differ over the environmental benefits of Rendell's program. This time it's strictly economics.

PennFUTURE's President and CEO John Hanger, in testimony before a state House committee, warns that Pennsylvania "will lose billions of dollars of investment and tens of thousands of jobs unless House Bill 1201 is passed." He notes that neighboring New Jersey and New York "are making substantial investments" to attract developers of developing technologies like wind power and bio-diesel.

Leskey Smith, who is director of communications for the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, argues in yesterday's Patriot-News that "borrowing close to $1 billion to be repaid over the next three decades is not the answer" and questions the need to "subsidize companies that already have been guaranteed a market."

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