Posts Tagged Mark Udall

Obamacare – When Lawlessness Under the Law Just Isn’t Enough

The Washington Post reports this morning that 10 Democratic Senators – including both Colorado Senators – have asked the Obama Administration to extend the open enrollment period for new insurance under Obamacare.  Their request stems from the well-publicized problems with the rollout of the insurance exchange websites, the primary mechanism for enrolling in Obamacare and purchasing new insurance, as required by the individual mandate.  The letter reads, in part:

Given the existing problems with and other state-run marketplace websites that depend on the federally-administered website, we urge you to consider extending open enrollment beyond the current end date of March 31, 2014.  Extending this period will give consumers critical time in which to become familiar with the website and choose a plan that is best for them. Individuals should not be penalized for lack of coverage if they are unable to purchase health insurance due to technical problems.

While this may sound like a good idea, it likely won’t work without a delay in the individual mandate (See Solution #7), and is almost certainly illegal under Section 1311 of the law:

The three-month open-enrollment period isn’t statutory; instead, the ACA directs the Secretary to establish an “initial open enrollment” period. Normally she’d have the discretion to tinker with that as necessary. But the statute also requires her to establish that initial period by “not later than July 1, 2012.” Well, she’s blown through that already — and the provision appears to preclude her from rethinking the determination now. For years after 2014, the statute’s quite clear that she’s got discretion to set annual enrollment periods. But that broad discretion exists only “for calendar years after the initial enrollment period.” That reinforces the suggestion that she can’t rethink the open-enrollment period now.

Apparently, a 2700-page law that’s generated 11000 pages of regulations, includes almost unlimited waiver capacity for the President’s friends, excludes all manner of people responsible for passing and implementing it, and even permits the executive to ignore whole sections of it, still didn’t provide enough flexibility after the election.  Now, Democratic Senators who are staring political mortality in the face are encouraging the HHS Secretary – and by extension, the President – to just ignore the law altogether to help get them out of this mess.

Either Senators Udall and Bennet knew this was illegal when they signed the letter, or they didn’t.  Either way, this amounts to an abdication of responsibility of elected representatives.

If they did know, they’re encouraging not merely this Administration’s habit of arbitrary rule and lawlessness within the law, but actual black-letter lawlessness.  If they didn’t know, it’s a testament to the dangers of voting on bills you couldn’t have read, much less understood, that hand over wholesale lawmaking authority to another branch of government.  The problem with the latter is that it becomes a habit, and little by little, and then all at once, you find yourself running for an office that doesn’t matter at all, while the real power has coalesced into a single executive and an unelected civil service.

How about this.  Since Senators Udall and Bennet don’t seem interested in governing, how about elect someone who is?

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Colorado’s Windy Senator

In our last post, we looked at Sen. Mark Udall’s claims that Colorado’s renewables mandate had been a “great success.” This time, let’s look at his claims that “…wind, now, competes with coal and some would argue is actually cheaper than coal.

The only way that someone could make that claim is if they ignored the subsidies that wind gets in comparison with anything we get electricity from today (that CBO report was issued just a few weeks ago at the behest of the very committee in which Udall serves and made his remarks):

The jobs that Bennet brags about include those from Vestas, which the company admits only exist because of those subsidies.

The proof, of course, is in the markets. The energy that could successfully compete with a power source that has its capital expenditures almost completely amortized – most coal plants were built decades ago – would seem to be a natural for investors. Unfortunately, well…

Proponents of wind energy will point to the various externalities associated with coal. Of course, wind has a few externalities of its own, like bird kills, higher local temperatures, and downwind crop & building damage.

Sorry, Mr. Udall.  Wind isn’t competitive with coal, and although the Obama administration seems hell-bent on driving up the cost of coal, they’ve got a way to go, notwithstanding all the damage they’ll do to your wallet in the process.  It’s not even close, and they still try to cheat.

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Colorado’s Diminished-Capacity Senator

Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources took up the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012, which would “require covered electricity retailers to supply a specified share of their electricity sales from qualifying clean energy resources.” The target would start at 24% in 2015, climbing to its final, and permanent level of 84% by 2035. Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) made the following comments:

“With that, let me just say that this bill would be a step in the right direction. I also want to emphasize that I still support, as I know do many of my colleagues, a renewable electricity standard nationally. We’ve had great success in the State of Colorado with the renewable electricity standard, and I would argue in fact, we felt less of the effect of this Great Recession because of our energy sector’s capacity to innovate, create jobs, and provide power that’s less and less expensive. We all know for example that wind, now, competes with coal and some would argue is actually cheaper than coal.”

There’s enough material to keep us occupied for a week – and it may – but we’ll start with the idea that Colorado’s Renewable Electricity Standard has been a “great success.”

It may have been a great success for Xcel and its shareholders, but for the ratepayers, it’s a slowly building vacuum, sucking more and more of their decidedly non-renewable dollars. In 2011, the RES was responsible for something like 4.5% of Coloradoans’ electricity bills, and number that is only going to grow over time, as the RES ramps up to its final 30% requirement in 2020:

According to the Public Service Company’s 2010 RES Compliance Plan, the ECA is projected to be $6.3 million this year, before it balloons to $141 million in 2012. It then increases exponentially to $738 million in 2020, or almost 23 percent of total retail electricity sales—none of which would count against the 2 percent retail rate impact.

Assuming 1.5 million ratepayers in Colorado (current figure is 1.3 million) in 2020, and the mandated 20 percent renewable standard, the ECA cost alone will average nearly $500 per year per ratepayer.

The ECA is the Electric Commodity Adjustment, and it’s the means by which Xcel gets around the 2% per year rate limit that is supposed to protect consumers from the fact that renewables are, contra, Sen. Udall, much more expensive than traditional sources of electricity. More about that in a succeeding post.

The Colorado plan, if extended to the country as a whole, will have the same deleterious effects on peoples businesses and homes. That link at the top of the page was to an Energy Information Agency study showing the effects of the proposed standard. Not only would the BCES cost dozens of gigawatts of capacity by 2035:

It would also raise the cost of electricity by about 18%:

If you look closely, you see that the EIA assumes that nuclear will take the place of coal’s baseline capacity, but in fact, the extremely large up-front capital expenditures may make that prohibitively expensive, in which case we’ll have no choice but to cover as much as we can with solar and wind. The result of that little dream scenario? We have more capacity, but the price is 20% higher, rather than 18%. The increase in supply still isn’t enough to make up for the extra cost of wind and solar as sources.

Coloradans have excellent reason to wonder why their senator thinks that paying more than neighboring states for their electricity constitutes a “great success,” and Americans should run like the wind from any effort to replicate the experiment nationally.

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