‘Why Not Whale Oil?’

‘Why Not Whale Oil?’

Scheme To Bail Out Coal in Indiana Mocked in Legislature

WASHINGTON – The coal industry is pushing a bill in the Indiana legislature to make it harder for utilities to close dirty, money-losing coal plants. But if the state’s going to prop up outdated, unsustainable energy sources, why stop there? So Democratic State Rep. Ryan Dvorak offered an 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.

“How about legislation to replace every car in Indiana with a horse and buggy?” asked EWG President Ken Cook, his tongue as firmly in cheek as Dvorak’s.

All kidding aside, Cook’s jape makes as much sense as the industry-backed scheme to bail out coal on the backs of Indiana residents. It would force them, as well as utilities wisely abandoning coal, 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.”

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.

It would effectively block utilities in Indiana from closing any coal-fired power plant unless the closure is 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.

“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.”

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The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.