Last week, Cleveland.com reported that one of the reasons an Ohio lawmaker supports a bill that would give hundreds of millions of dollars to two nuclear power plants is because it also cuts subsidies that help working class communities pay for energy-efficiency upgrades. Because that, apparently, is a good thing.
“We are already paying for food, heating assistance, cell phones, child support” and other apparently frivolous luxuries, Rep Nino Vitale (R-Urbana) wrote in an email to another lawmaker, but we shouldn’t because “a little hunger in the belly or being a little cold on some really cold days is a good incentive. ”
Yes, according to Vitale, without that hunger or suffering, “what incentive is there for me to ever change and cover my own expenses?”
The Ohio bill, introduced by two Republicans, creates a new clean air program as an alternative to the state’s existing renewable portfolio standard. But, according to Cleveland.com’s reporting, “at least half” of the $300 million per year the bill would raise from a surcharge on electricity bills “is expected to go toward two northern Ohio nuclear power plants, Davis-Besse and Perry, that owner FirstEnergy Solutions plans to soon close unless it can get subsidies.”
If passed, that money will come just in time for FirstEnergy. The company has been aggressively seeking ways to save itself from bankruptcy, including through a now-hopefully-dead federal bailout for coal and nuclear power plants. As InsideClimate News reported in March, FirstEnergy appears to have shifted to a state-based approach, as it poured money into Ohio to try and save its two nuclear plants in the state.
And that’s not the only place where it’s focused. The Energy and Policy Institute recently dug through FirstEnergy’s bankruptcy documents and found that the company also spent millions on lobbying and public relations in Pennsylvania. Of the nearly $36 million that First Energy owes lobbyists Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, over a million is for lobbying work to find “a policy solution… that would enable the continued operation” of its nuclear plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
One wonders why First Energy spent millions of dollars on public relations and lobbying to save its dying nuclear plants when it could have been profiting off of existing subsidies for renewables instead of trying to fight them.
And, of course, there’s the question of why Rep Vitale thinks families should be cold and hungry, but FirstEnergy shouldn’t.
After all, “what incentive is there for [FirstEnergy] to to ever change” and survive in the free market where renewables are winning on price, if they don’t have “a little hunger in the belly?”
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