Editorials

Illinois fast as lightning to exert power over energy markets

Exelon Corp.’s Clinton Power Station is one of two receiving a state bailout expected to save 7,800 jobs, but the cost of saving those jobs remains unclear.
Exelon Corp.’s Clinton Power Station is one of two receiving a state bailout expected to save 7,800 jobs, but the cost of saving those jobs remains unclear. AP

Illinois lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner didn’t agree on much, but the fall veto session did yield a rush job called the Future Energy Jobs Bill. Rauner immediately signed it into law.

You should care because it is likely to do something to your energy bill, or to your property taxes. Which one and how much is a matter of debate, and a matter that is unclear because not enough time was allowed to pass to determine whose analysis is correct.

This bill has gone through a bunch of revisions and amendments, but at its heart it is a bailout for two Exelon nuclear power plants in northern Illinois. The pair of nukes are responsible for 7,800 jobs and $1.8 billion in economic activity, but they can’t compete on the open market, so Exelon threatened to shutter them without a state hand-out.

This might cost you about 35 cents a month but save $4 billion as demand is reduced. It might cost much more as public buildings, including nearly 5,000 school buildings, get hit with higher rates and the state spends $4.3 billion on the bill’s many facets.

Regardless of whose economic voodoo you believe, you don’t get more money out than you put in. You don’t hand cash to Exelon unless you take money from some unwilling participant in the energy cycle.

There is a boost for solar and wind energy in the law. While the idea of having a diverse energy supply is worthy, should the marketplace or the government pick which source is best?

Competition is supposed to pick the best energy source at the time. If oil is cheap today, if natural gas is cheap tomorrow, if solar is cheap in a year, then that source wins at that time. Thus, consumers win.

When government picks the winners, you better hope they studied the issues and analyzed the short-term and long-term implications of rigging the market. The speed at which this became law does little to inspire confidence that Illinois picked wisely.

What the heck was the rush that made this a priority over a state budget?

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