Ronald Binz survived a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing last Tuesday, but the scrutiny of President Barack Obama’s pick to lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is far from over. Binz punished ratepayers with inefficient policies during his tenure as Colorado’s chief energy regulator, and would likely do the same on a national level if he becomes the next chairman of the federal commission.
President Obama campaigned on an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy last year, but it seems that Binz supports none of the above. Instead of responsibly weighing the costs and benefits of different sources of power, he has a track record of opposing whatever fuel he finds most politically convenient in his persistent attempts to cater to environmental groups.
In Colorado, Binz touted himself as an advocate for clean energy, but worked to shut down a nuclear power station that had the lowest emissions of any plant in the state. He also supported a radical anti-coal law that essentially forced all power plants in the state to abandon coal, allowing energy companies to turn bigger profits while raising prices for Colorado families.
Binz’s attacks on coal and nuclear power in Colorado raised the state’s electric prices by double the rate of inflation. Previously known as a bastion of low energy costs, Colorado is now the second most expensive state in the Interior West, and families pay more to heat their homes than families in any neighboring state. If given similar power at the federal level, it’s difficult to imagine Binz producing different results nationally.
The federal commission also faces critical decisions on whether to shift electricity costs to businesses and families in order to subsidize the White House’s wasteful and inefficient wind energy tax credits. Coloradans are already footing the bill for a similar wind mandate, which Binz claims is “saving money,” but studies find is likely to raise utility bills by 40 percent.
Furthermore, Binz threatens to stand in the way of responsible development of natural gas, which he supported as an alternative to coal in Colorado, but now calls “dead end” technology. This “dead end” is a clean, inexpensive, domestic source of power responsible for building one of the strongest state economies in the nation, and is currently the fastest-growing transportation fuel in the world.
The federal commission is tasked with finding a balance between energy harvesting and environmental safety, but Binz seems more inclined to shut production down than search for this common ground.
There should be vibrant debate over whether additional regulation on energy are needed to protect the environment, but this debate needs to be happening in Congress between our elected leaders, not in the back rooms of federal agencies among unaccountable bureaucrats. Unfortunately, the inclination of the Administration has been to pass regulations through executive power if Congress rejects them. Under Binz, the commission could become as active a bureaucracy as the EPA, which enacted cap-and-trade regulations without Congressional approval and is now poised to deal a crushing blow to American coal power and the workers that produce it.
The chairman of the commission needs to work with Congress to enforce laws, but Binz would work outside of Congress to make his own. If Binz is confirmed, he may slip into bureaucratic anonymity, but when electric bills double, we’ll remember his name.
TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.