Enticing people to buy electric vehicles does not fit comfortably into the core duties of state government. And yet it’s among the list of pet causes legislators will consider subsidizing with other people’s money. 

The latest effort comes in House Bill 1472. The bill, as amended, would confiscate $1.5 million that belongs to electric utility ratepayers in New Hampshire and give it to people who buy or lease electric vehicles. The money would come from Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) funds currently rebated to ratepayers. 

The bill would facilitate this wealth transfer by creating a program through which EV buyers could claim rebates of $2,000 per fully electric vehicle and $1,000 per plug-in hybrid vehicle. Eligible vehicle sticker prices would be capped at $50,000 for cars and $80,000 for trucks, SUVs or commercial vans. 

Rebates would be available to individuals making no more than $75,000 a year, heads of household making no more than $112,500, and married couples making no more than $150,00 a year. The median household income in New Hampshire, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, is $90,845. So HB 1472 would create a program through which moderate-and lower-income Granite Staters subsidize pricier-than-average car purchases for higher-income households. 

The idea behind this subsidy plan, as with most subsidies, is to use some people’s money to manipulate other people’s behavior. The beneficiary group in this case is middle-income car buyers. The victim group is everyone who uses electricity. To give middle-income car buyers up to $2,000 toward the purchase of a car that runs on electricity (mostly generated by nuclear fission or natural gas in New Hampshire), the scheme takes about $2 per year from the average residential electricity user. 

If timing is everything, then this bill is a party guest who arrives not three hours—but three years— late. The wealth transfer scheme comes amid a rapid decline in EV prices. 

Cox Automotive and Kelly Blue Book reported this month that EV prices fell 10.3% between January of 2023 and January of 2024. Prices for the Tesla Model Y, the best-selling EV in America, fell by 21% last year, from $63,000 to less than $50,000. 

EV prices are rapidly approaching price parity with conventional gas-powered vehicles. The price gap between EVs and conventional vehicles fell from 15% in 2022 to 8% in 2023 to just 4% at the start of 2024, according to industry news site CarEdge. At this rate, average EV prices could reach parity with conventional vehicle prices this year, which undermines any argument in favor of a subsidy. 

Federal subsidies and policies so distorted the EV market that automakers have built far more electric cars than consumers wanted. Though demand for EVs is rising, supply has risen far faster, leading manufacturers to slash prices to move excess inventory. Pushed to generate more EVs than consumers want at the moment, auto makers are losing billions of dollars on these government-favored vehicles. 

“Buyers looking to get a bargain on a new car might want to consider an electric vehicle,” The Wall Street Journal wrote in a news story on EV prices last November.

As a JD Power auto analyst explained to Newsweek in December: “Eventually manufacturers will achieve scale and profitability, but they are being pressured to accelerate the production of EVs at an unnatural rate due to various government initiatives.”

This is a cautionary tale about the unintended consequences of market manipulation. As lawmakers consider proposals to add a state subsidy for EVs, and subsidize other favored products or activities, it’s one worth heeding. 

In its annual report to the Public Utilities Commission last year, Burgess Biopower outlined its numerous efforts to provide financial security by diversifying its revenue base.

Burgess pursued other regional economic development projects to reduce and offset the costs of Burgess’ power, such as co-development of a number of suitable businesses including a greenhouse, a data center, and a cryptocurrency mining operation; location of an on-site energy generation system using landfill gas; working with the City of Berlin on a waste heat recovery and municipal snowmelt project; and development of ground-mounted solar resources.

The common denominator among all potential co-location partners is simple: no one is willing to put capital at risk to develop a project which relies on a power plant with an uncertain future.

The word choice in the last line is interesting. No company has a certain future. What Burgess lacked wasn’t certainty, but reasonable probability of success.

This is every company’s problem at the start. Burgess tried to solve it by playing politics. It isn’t entirely to blame. The State of New Hampshire encouraged it to do this. 

New Hampshire mandates that electricity providers buy a certain percentage of their power from “renewable resources.” This gave Burgess an opening. If it built a wood-fueled power plant, it could sell power at above-market rates to electricity producers compelled by the state to buy from companies that generated power from politically favored fuels. 

The problem with building a business model on what amounts to a government subsidy is that one’s survival depends on favorable treatment by politicians. That’s never a good place to be.

Burgess wound up with a worse deal than it had initially anticipated. After ratepayers had been forced to pay it $100 million above market rates for electricity, any future payments above the market price had to be refunded. It hit that cap years earlier than expected, thanks to technological advances that lowered the price of natural gas. It then exceeded the cap, necessitating repayments to ratepayers, which it could hardly afford. 

Its business model busted, it seemed only a matter of time until it found other sources of revenue or collapsed. Except, there was a third option. Convince legislators to pass a law forgiving its debt to ratepayers. Ongoing subsidies would be nice too. 

On Thursday, legislators failed to override Gov. Chris Sununu’s veto of House Bill 142, a last ditch political bailout for the unprofitable plant. If the company can’t figure out how to balance the books with money from people who pay it willingly, it looks like curtains. 

With so much trouble raising capital, maybe Burgess just needs a law requiring investors to fund it. Maybe, to keep the plant open, the Legislature could mandate that every retirement fund doing business in New Hampshire “invest” in the financially struggling plant. 

Why not? After all, it would “create jobs.”

If you can see the flaws in such a scheme, then it should be equally obvious why ratepayer subsidies were unjustified. Neither investors nor ratepayers should be forced against their will to support a politically preferred business. 

What about the benefits, though?

Burgess and its supporters claimed that paying more money for energy produced by burning wood made Granite Staters better off. But increasing numbers of academics who study such things conclude that biomass is not a net benefit for people or the planet.

A professor at Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health wrote last year that “air pollution from burning biomass can cause asthma exacerbations, hospitalizations for heart attack and respiratory disease, birth defects, neurodegenerative diseases and death, among many other health impacts.”

His research found that “burning biomass in buildings, industry, and power plants leads to more deaths than conventional coal-fired power plants.”

Britain’s left-wing Guardian newspaper reported in 2017 that the UK’s top climate researchers were turning against burning wood for power. 

“But burning wood to produce electricity is a relatively inefficient process. In generating exactly the same amount of electricity, wood will release four times as much carbon into the atmosphere as gas would do, and one and half times as much as coal. In addition, energy is used in harvesting and transport while vast stretches of land are needed to create the forests to supply generating stations with the wood they need.”

It’s conceivable that the scheme to subsidize Burgess not only cost ratepayers north of $200 million, but also caused health problems and lowered life expectancy among the hard-working folks of the North Country—the very people it was intended to help.

The alleged economic benefits we addressed here.

Wasting people’s money on a project that probably doesn’t bring the claimed benefits, and possibly causes harm instead, is a “green energy” story being told over and over again. And because it’s being told about projects that government compels people to fund, it’s causing substantial political backlash. 

Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford put it this way in a recent interview:

“Blue states say EVs are great and we need to adopt them as soon as possible for climate reasons. Some of the red states say this is just like the vaccine, and it’s being shoved down our throat by the government, and we don’t want it. I never thought I would see the day when our products were so heavily politicized, but they are.” 

Boy are they. Researchers at Berkeley published a paper this month in which they found “a strong and enduring correlation between political ideology and U.S. EV adoption. During our time period about half of all EVs went to the 10% most Democratic counties, and about one-third went to the top 5%. There is relatively little evidence that this correlation has decreased over time, and even some specifications that point to increasing correlation. The results suggests that it may be harder than previously believed to reach high levels of U.S. EV adoption.”

Politicizing the transition to alternative energy has produced, predictably, a big backlash. It’s turned what might have been a slowly growing consensus into a rapidly growing divide.

New Hampshire’s complicated scheme to compel people to fund a power plant they would not otherwise voluntarily support might have done more than waste hundreds of millions of dollars (and possibly worsen health outcomes in the North Country). It might also have delayed the transition to alternative energy by needlessly politicizing the issue. It’s a cautionary tale. 

How would you feel about being taxed to support a failing business in a city on the other side of the state?

If you’d be fine with that, well, good news!

Under the guise of promoting “renewable energy,” many Granite Staters are subsidizing a single business in Berlin. That subsidy could come to an end this year, depending on how the governor responds to a bill now on his desk.

The business in question is the Burgess Biopower plant, which is not actually a viable power plant. Rather, it’s a subsidized jobs program for the Northern New England timber industry, disguised as a power plant.

Burning wood is an inefficient and expensive way to generate electricity. Natural gas, more energy dense than wood, is a better fuel source, which is why natural gas accounts for 40% of U.S. electricity generation while biomass accounts for just 1.3%. (Nuclear is also better.)

Electric utilities generally don’t buy power generated from wood, and most people no longer heat with wood. What to do with low-grade wood products, then? Politicians had an idea. Rig the market to favor this inefficient fuel source (and others).

In New Hampshire, politicians years ago came up with a scheme to transfer cash from Granite State residents to politically favored energy interests, including the timber industry. The plan was to make utilities buy power from “renewable” sources, regardless of cost. The state would create an artificial market for “renewable” energy by compelling utilities to buy from a list of government-approved energy sources. Among them was biomass.

In 2006, Gov. John Lynch pushed for a law requiring 25% of the state’s energy to come from “renewable” sources by 2025. In 2007, the Legislature passed and Gov. Lynch enthusiastically signed a Renewable Portfolio Standard law requiring electricity providers to purchase power from “renewable” resources in increasing percentages through 2025, or purchase certificates representing renewable energy generated from an approved source.

This law prompted the state’s largest utility, Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH, now Eversource) to pursue a deal to buy electricity from qualifying sources, event at above-market rates. 

In 2011, PSNH petitioned the state’s Public Utilities Commission to approve a power purchase agreement the utility had signed with a company that promised to build a biomass power plant in Berlin. 

The first point in PSNH’s petition to the PUC was that the purchase agreement would help the utility satisfy the RPS mandates. 

“Pursuant to RSA Chapter 362-F, the Electric Renewable Portfolio Standard (“RPS”), PSNH must obtain and retire certificates (“RECs”) sufficient in number and class type to meet or exceed specified annual percentages of total megawatt-hours of electricity supplied by it to its Energy Service customers. To partially comply with this statutory requirement, PSNH has entered into a Power Purchase Agreement (“PPA”) with LLB regarding LLB’s proposed 70 MW (gross) biomass fueled generating station in Berlin, New Hampshire (the “Project”), to purchase the RECs produced by the Project, as well as the energy and capacity produced from the Project.”

The PUC approved the agreement, despite projections that it would cost ratepayers $125 million more than they would otherwise pay for power, and despite objections from the state’s Office of Consumer Advocate. 

Ratepayers’ above-market costs were supposed to have been capped at $100 million. In 2018, legislators passed and Gov. Chris Sununu signed a law that suspended the cap for three years. Ratepayer overpayments exceeded the $100 million cap in 2019. At the end of the suspension, Burgess was supposed to repay $58 million in overpayments. 

But in 2022 legislators again passed a bill granting a temporary reprieve. 

From the Burgess plant’s opening in 2014 through the end of 2021, the PUC-approved agreement cost New Hampshire ratepayers more than $150 million.

Now, with no end of ratepayer subsidies in sight, legislators have passed yet another bill to keep the gravy train running. 

This one, House Bill 142, forgives the more than $50 million in overpayments Burgess is supposed to repay, directs the Public Utility Commission to expedite any docket item related to the Burgess plant, and writes into law the presumption that any “relief provided to the Burgess Biopower plant by the restoration of the terms of the original PPA shall be deemed to be reasonable, legitimate, and in the public interest for the purposes of RSA 374:57, or any provision of law applicable to the approval of power purchase agreements.”

In other words, it stacks the deck at the PUC in favor of Burgess Biopower and against consumers. 

The terms of HB 142 would prove so costly that the Business and Industry Association and the Sierra Club both argued against its passage. The BIA has asked Gov. Sununu to veto the bill, citing the “significant additional expense on the energy bills of commercial and industrial ratepayers.”

Boosters of the plant claim that its subsidies are necessary because the plant supports 240 jobs, making it a “major economic catalyst” for the state.

In fact, the plant employs fewer than 30 people, or about as many as a large Dunkin’ Donuts franchise. There are two restaurants in Berlin that employ nearly as many people as the power plant, according to state employment data. 

The additional 210+ jobs the plant “supports” are jobs in the timber and related industries. For context, that’s about as many people as work at a large Walmart super center, or a Walmart plus a small business or two in the strip mall it inhabits. 

The Burgess Biopower plant is in no way a “major economic catalyst” for the state. It’s a large taxpayer in Berlin, but that makes it an important local business, not an important player in the state’s overall economy. 

The plant’s biggest economic contribution to the New Hampshire economy is to suck money from Eversource’s coverage area and redistribute it to an otherwise unprofitable power plant owned by a private equity firm, as well as to a few hundred people (at best) in the timber industry throughout Northern New England and Canada. (Only about half of the wood purchased by the plant is from New Hampshire.)

If HB 142 becomes law, more than $50 million ratepayers overpaid to subsidize this plant, and which are supposed to be returned to ratepayers, will be forgiven. 

New Hampshire has among the highest electricity rates in the United States. This discourages business investment in the Granite State, particularly in manufacturing. Lowering those costs would improve New Hampshire’s economic outlook. Forgiving ratepayer subsidies for a single small business in Berlin would do the opposite.  

The state shouldn’t subsidize private businesses. If legislators really believe it’s in the public interest for Granite Staters to be compelled to support a biomass plant, they could make the case for writing such a subsidy into the state budget. Doing it through an elaborate scheme that pushes electric utility rates higher is less transparent and more economically damaging.

Editor’s note: HB 142 would eliminate Burgess Biopower’s obligation to repay consumers for more than $50 million in overpayments made to the plant. An early version of this story indicated that the overpayments would continue indefinitely.

A federal government agency worked in the winter of 2019 to prevent New England from accessing adequate supplies of natural gas, emails recently obtained by the Cato Institute show. 

Government is supposed to work on behalf of citizens, not special interests. But the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD), a subdivision of the U.S. Department of Transportation, has been working in coordination with the U.S. shipbuilding industry to prevent New England from importing domestic natural gas when supplies run short in the winter. 

Why? To protect U.S. shipbuilders from foreign competition.

The Jones Act, a century-old federal law, requires that ships transporting goods between two U.S. ports use ships built in America, crewed by Americans and owned by American companies. That’s a problem for New England because no liquid natural gas tankers are in compliance with the Jones Act. 

With no LNG tankers capable of legally bringing natural gas from Texas or Pennsylvania to Boston, New England governors have spent years pressing for waivers from this protectionist law. After the extremely cold winter of 2017-18, that effort was redoubled. But it was crushed with the help of MARAD, a move that put the entire region at risk of blackouts during periods of peak demand.

Through years’ worth of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, Cato Institute researchers recently exposed how MARAD lobbied to block the importation of domestic natural gas into New England even when the region’s supply constraints put lives at risk.

Cato scholar Colin Grabow laid out the sordid, outrageous story, which we summarize with permission here.

The background: In early 2016 the United States began large‐ scale exports of LNG following the opening of an export facility in Sabine Pass, Louisiana. As export levels increased, observers began to point out the Jones Act’s role in preventing this LNG from reaching U.S. consumers. In March 2018, for example, the Texas Railroad Commissioner sent an open letter to Congress noting the Northeast’s importation of gas from Russia instead of Texas because of the Jones Act. In August of that year, a group of New England governors floated the possibility of Jones Act modifications to help meet regional energy needs while that December Massachusetts released a comprehensive energy plan that repeatedly cited the Jones Act as an obstacle to obtaining domestic LNG.

In 2019, as New England elected officials pressed Washington for a Jones Act waiver, a senior MARAD official began lobbying others in the U.S. government, including the secretaries of energy and transportation, to oppose a waiver. MARAD also tried to stop Massachusetts’ waiver request, in part by giving the state false information about the status of its waiver request and one from Puerto Rico. 

This is not speculation. Cato got the emails, which show MARAD officials collaborating with shipping industry leaders on messaging in the agency’s effort to block Jones Act Waivers for New England.

These emails come from January of 2019, just a year after New England came within two days of rolling blackouts because of a shortage of natural gas, according to ISO New England, the region’s power grid operator. The winter of 2017-18 was so cold that Massachusetts power generators burned through twice as much oil in two weeks as they did in all of 2016.

The CEO of ISO New England testified to the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in January of 2018 that New England’s access to natural gas was dangerously constrained.

“Bitter cold temperatures drove an increase in demand for natural gas, Gordon Van Welie said in his testimony. “However,  we’ve known for several years that when it gets cold New England does not have sufficient natural gas supply infrastructure to meet demand for both home heating and power generation. Constrained pipelines resulted in substantially higher natural gas prices which led to much older and less efficient oil- and coal-fired power plants running ‘in merit.'” 

It was no secret in Washington that New England was one long cold snap away from rolling blackouts. 

Yet MARAD officials, in coordination with U.S. shipbuilding interests, succeeded in squashing the region’s effort to get an exemption from the Jones Act. This amounted to a federal agency putting the financial interests of one industry ahead of the health and safety of an entire region of the country.

With ISO New England and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission again warning about the possibility of rolling blackouts if we experience another prolonged cold snap, there are renewed calls for a Jones Act waiver for New England. U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas has said he favors a waiver. (He said this on my radio show last week.)

Will New Englanders win this time? That depends not just on the political influence of shipbuilders and their unions, but on the influence of a federal agency that has aligned with them and against consumers. Needless to say, that’s not how government is supposed to work. It’s how government too often works under the corrupting influence of protectionist laws. 

The warning from New England’s electric grid operator, ISO New England, has become an annual refrain: Insufficient access to a dependable supply of fuel puts the entire region at risk of rolling blackouts this winter.

This year, there’s a new hint of urgency in the warnings, which have come from multiple sources.

“Without adequate gas, the region may not be able to meet the demand for home heating and electricity — and, when reliability suffers, the clean energy transition suffers,” ISO New England said in a statement last month.

That statement came ahead of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s New England Winter Gas-Electric Forum held in Vermont on September 14. 

“We’re going into this winter basically crossing our fingers and hoping,” FERC commissioner James Danly said there, according to The Boston Globe. 

Charles Dickerson, president of the Northeast Power Coordinating Council, said at the forum that moving to a greater reliance on renewable energy was a widely shared goal. But the transition from coal and gas to renewables was not technologically feasible immediately. Therefore, using gas as a bridge fuel remained necessary, he said. 

That, however, is a problem because of pipeline constraints.

“Because there’s a retirement of coal in the region, the technology that we’re most reliant upon, and that we’re going to have to be reliant upon, to make it plain, is a gas type technology, natural gas,” Dickerson said. “The problem in New England is in the winter time there’re only but so many gas pipes feeding natural gas into the New England area, and those gas pipes can be constrained.”

The Globe offered a similar summary of the situation New England faces each winter:

“The challenge is daunting, as New England has limited ways to bring in natural gas — pipeline, ship, truck, or barge. In addition to being the dominant fuel for home heating, natural gas is used to generate more than half of the electricity in New England. And in winter, when demand is high, gas goes to heating buildings first before generating electricity.”

This week, ISO New England’s warnings made news again.

“New England power producers are preparing for potential strain on the grid this winter as a surge in natural-gas demand abroad threatens to reduce supplies they need to generate electricity,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

As ISO New England explains the situation on its website:

“During the last few years, inadequate infrastructure to transport natural gas has at times affected the ability of natural-gas-fired plants to get the fuel they need to perform. This energy-security risk has become a pressing concern in New England, considering the major role natural-gas-fired generation plays in keeping the lights on and setting prices for wholesale electricity.”

The warnings have been consistent for years: New England wants to make wind and solar a larger portion of the energy mix (which it has been doing). But in the meantime, we remain at risk of rolling winter blackouts if spikes in energy demand exceed our dangerously tight supply of natural gas. 

It’s a simple point, made simply, year after year after year. 

And year after year after year, it is ignored. 

Activists tell us we don’t need new pipelines or liquid natural gas terminals because renewables can provide baseload power now. 

But they can’t. Not at scale. Not yet. 

The intermittent nature of wind and solar power requires it to be backed up by more reliable sources of power. That means we’ll still need natural gas or nuclear power to cover our energy needs. 

It also means wind and solar are more expensive than commonly assumed, as additional backup generation has to be built to cover the times when they aren’t producing enough power. 

“Achieving baseload configurations—at least within the constraints that currently define baseload energy—burdens renewable power with a major ‘scale-up’ problem, i.e. the need to overbuild generation capacity to store electricity in sufficient quantity to serve year-round load demand,” a University of North Carolina study found. “The extent of this overbuilding is noteworthy, producing capital costs 6-10X those of the reference natural gas plant for serving the same demand.”

Environmental activists and some politicians say that New England’s high energy prices are caused by our over reliance on natural gas. But our reliance on gas is not the cause of high prices. The shortage of gas is. We could generate 100% of our energy with gas and still have low prices as long as we had a ready, steady supply of gas. 

But we don’t have that. 

Reducing the region’s reliance on gas (and oil) — through conservation efforts and the expansion of other sources of power — are worthwhile goals. 

But the bottom line is that we will rely on natural gas for a long time, and until we find a way to increase the available supply, we will remain at risk of rolling blackouts. 

By Jonathan Helton

Will New England have enough fuel this winter?

The region’s six governors have their doubts, and in July they wrote U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to ask for relief from a 1920 shipping law that has limited the region’s supply of fuel, particularly oil and natural gas.

The governors asked the Biden administration to “explore the conditions under which it might be appropriate to suspend the Jones Act for the delivery of LNG [liquid natural gas] for a portion or all of the winter of 2022-2023.”

They flagged the 102-year-old Jones Act because it requires that goods shipped between U.S. ports be carried on ships that are U.S. flagged, U.S. built, and mostly owned and crewed by Americans.

Since New England uses natural gas to meet nearly half of its electricity needs, this old law puts the region in a precarious position.

A shortage of natural gas pipeline capacity makes it challenging for New England to get enough fuel during periods of peak demand, such as the coldest days of winter and the hottest days of summer.

Importing domestic natural gas by tanker ship offers a possible solution. But the Jones Act gets in the way. Its requirement that New England energy companies hire domestic ships to transport fuel between American ports actually prevents New England from shipping fuel from Texas or Pennsylvania to Boston.


There aren’t any American LNG tankers, despite America being the world’s largest LNG exporter, with major export terminals on the Gulf Coast.

No LNG tankers have been built in the U.S. since 1980. This is largely because U.S. shipyards do not construct competitively priced ships. In 2015, the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimated it would cost up to three times the world market price to buy an LNG tanker from a U.S. shipyard, assuming one could be built at all.

In general, most of New England’s LNG arrives via pipeline. Pipeline capacity, however, cannot be added quickly.

As New Hampshire Consumer Advocate Donald Kries wrote in August: “The interstate pipeline network does not have enough capacity to supply the region with all of the natural gas it needs to heat all the homes and businesses reliant on that fuel while supplying all of the [natural] gas generators that would need to fire up in an extended cold snap.”

The Jones Act leaves foreign imports as the best alternative. Unfortunately, imports from abroad often run counter to U.S. foreign policy. Before the war in Ukraine, for example, New England and Puerto Rico bought LNG from Russia on occasion. Similarly, Hawaii imported as much as a third of all its oil from Russia, mainly because the Jones Act made it too expensive to buy U.S. oil. But President Joe Biden’s ban on Russian fuel imports put an end to that.

Energy Secretary Granholm met with the New England governors on Sept. 15 to talk about their Jones Act waiver request, but according to Reuters, the outcome wasn’t great.

“In the event that there is an issue where additional supplies of heating fuels are needed, we would work with the states as appropriate to see what tools are needed,” a U.S. Department of Energy official told the news service.

Such obfuscation is unfortunate because a Jones Act waiver would be a win for everyone. New England residents could have a reliable supply of fuel, and probably would save on electricity costs, which already are extraordinarily high.

A Jones Act waiver also would unlock a new market for Gulf Coast LNG exports. And U.S. maritime interests should have no reason to complain, since there aren’t any LNG tankers that comply with the Jones Act anyway.

Beyond a waiver, Congress could reform the Jones Act in more substantial ways. The law has failed in its mission to ensure a healthy maritime industry in the name of national security, and an update is long overdue.

Today, only four U.S. shipyards build large oceangoing commercial ships, and only 93 such ships are Jones Act-compliant — down from 257 in 1980. Since 2020, those shipyards have produced only two large, oceangoing vessels, with one other large cargo ship set to be completed later this year — and it is not an LNG tanker.

Perhaps the best initial reform would be to repeal the law’s U.S.-built requirement, even if only for LNG tankers. This would put more LNG tankers into service for the American people, make it easier for U.S. carriers to expand their fleets and markets, provide more jobs for U.S. mariners, and help keep New England warm during the coming winter.

Everyone would win.

If we maintain the status quo, the odds of New Englanders running short of fuel this winter remain elevated. Why court such a disaster when a solution is as easy as reforming a single bad shipping regulation?

Jonathan Helton is a research associate at the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.


Energy shortages in California and Europe have prompted a revival of interest in Nuclear power. And who gets the credit? Environmental activists, naturally. 

Why even environmental activists are supporting nuclear power today,” National Public Radio gushed last week. 

The few environmentalists highlighted in the story deserve credit for taking such an unpopular position within the movement. NPR even acknowledges their pariah status.

“We felt like we were on an island all by ourselves,” Mothers for Nuclear activist Kristin Zaitz said. “We had people wishing that we would die, wishing we would get cancer…making weird videos about us that made me feel like, am I unsafe, is my family unsafe?”

This aired on NPR, which is progress. Also progress: NPR accurately reported nuclear power’s superior record on safety and pollution:

“In terms of deaths from accidents or pollution, nuclear is far safer than coal or natural gas – the largest sources of electricity in the U.S.

“Diablo Canyon got a boost last year when researchers from MIT and Stanford said keeping the plant open until 2035 would cut carbon emissions from California’s power sector by more than 10% and save $2.6 billion in electricity costs.”

This is welcome, yet these assessments of nuclear power’s safety and environmental record aren’t exactly news. 

You might not know that, though, if you listened to most environmental activists, who’ve spent decades wrongly portraying nuclear power as more dangerous and worse for the environment than other options. 

Environmental activists were the ones who pushed for Germany to close its perfectly good nuclear power plants, making the country more reliant on Russian oil and gas. 

They pushed for California to close the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, without which California probably would be suffering blackouts right now.

They pushed for the closure of Vermont Yankee, which resulted in increased carbon emissions in New England.

And they worked tirelessly to close Maine Yankee, Connecticut Yankee, Yankee Rowe, Indian Point and other nuclear power plants in the Northeast and throughout the United States.

To the delight of environmental activists, the Northeast has lost more than a handful of nuclear plants in recent years, mostly because it became uneconomical to continue running them (something environmentalists tried hard to ensure).

  • From 1972-1996, the Maine Yankee nuclear power plant was the largest power generator in the state. But environmental activists opposed it from the start an harassed it with an ongoing series of ballot initiative and bills to shut it down. It closed for cost reasons. 
  • From 1972-2014, the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant generated power in Vernon, Vt. Environmentalists worked the entire time to get it closed, and they succeeded even though the plant had been operating safely and had just had its license renewed through 2032. The plant’s closure resulted in an increase in New England carbon emissions as nuclear power was replaced with natural gas. 
  • From 1960-1992, the Yankee Rowe plant operated in Rowe, Mass. It was protested by environmental activists. Its owners shut it down rather than pay for federally mandated testing that was demanded by activists.
  • From 1972-2019, the Pilgrim nuclear power plant operated in Plymouth, Mass. Activists pressed for its closure all along, and the plant owner ultimately shut it down for economic reasons in 2019. Its power generation was replaced by natural gas. Afterwards, predictably, New England carbon emissions increased. 
  • From 1968-1996, the Connecticut Yankee nuclear power plant provided low-carbon power to Connecticut. Environmentalist sought its closure. This plant was cited for safety violations, though the Nuclear Energy Institute says the site of the decommissioned plant is safe enough to turn into farmland. It was closed for cost reasons.
  • From 1962-2021, the Indian Point nuclear power plant generated power in Buchanan, N.Y. Environmental activists challenged the plant’s continued operation, and the State of New York threw up numerous legal obstacles to the plant’s license renewal, making renewal too costly for the owner to pursue. New York carbon emissions increased after Indian Point’s closure, of course. 
  • And then there’s New Hampshire’s Seabrook Station, which was supposed to open in 1974. Environmental activists successfully delayed its opening until 1990. Since it was first proposed in the 1970s, it has been protested continuously by anti-nuclear activists, who still want to shut it down. They successfully prevented the plant’s second reactor from being built. By delaying and shrinking the plant, activists managed to increase New England carbon emissions and prolong the use of oil and coal in New Hampshire.

State subsidies for renewables, which artificially suppress wholesale energy market prices, coupled inexpensive natural gas helped make nuclear power plants less economically viable.

Environmental activists gleefully contributed to nuclear power’s negative economic and regulatory environment by misleading the public and elected officials about nuclear power’s safety and environmental record, pushing to tilt the playing field in favor of renewables, and harassing plant owners with lawsuits and protests. 

It’s nice to see the small group of pro-nuclear environmental activists get credit for being right when the rest of the green movement has been shamefully, dangerously wrong about nuclear power from the start. 

But that’s only a small part of the story. The bigger story is how the environmental movement put itself on the wrong end of one of the biggest fights of its existence and wound up hurting the environment as a result.

And all the while, they sought to delegitimize the activists, policy wonks, industry experts, academics and researchers who told the truth. That’s the story that needs to be told. 

Government energy plans too often focus on replacing consumers’ choices with those of government planners, regardless of the impact on consumers. New Hampshire’s 10 Year Energy Strategy goes in the other direction. It puts consumers first. 

The new strategy is little changed from the 2018 version. Its top priorities are shrunk from 11 to 10, with “cost-effective energy policies” the primary goal, followed by securing “a reliable, and resilient energy system.”

The difference really is more of emphasis. The new version articulates a clearer free-market vision for state energy policy. 

The strategy rejects government mandates and subsidies except in limited, temporary circumstances. Instead, it articulates a strong rationale for creating an open and competitive energy marketplace in which competition generates technological advances while driving down prices.

It’s an unapologetically pro-market, pro-consumer plan. 

Noting the state’s extremely high energy costs, the strategy makes addressing those costs “a critical goal for New Hampshire.”

“Expensive energy–or pursuing policies that raise the cost of energy–directly and negatively impacts New Hampshire families and businesses and the quality of life in our state. As such, the primary goal of this Strategy is to pursue cost-effective energy policies which is even more important in this time of record energy prices and high inflation.”

The strategy rejects the idea that politicians should manipulate energy markets to benefit technologies they prefer.   

“Policy makers should not enact any new mandates that place additional burdens on ratepayers or taxpayers,” it states.

The state and consumers would be made worse off if politicians tried to second-guess the market, it goes on to explain.

“While some states may attempt to drive innovation through mandates and subsidization, New Hampshire will never win a battle of subsidies,” the strategy asserts. “Instead, our state should enable creativity and entrepreneurial endeavors by refraining from picking winners and losers among energy technologies. New Hampshire can foster a sustainable and dynamic energy economy by ensuring a favorable regulatory environment for new technologies to flourish, not a regulatory and statutory environment based on favoritism.”

Consistent with that philosophy, the strategy removes an item from the previous plan’s top goals. Gone is the goal to:

“Maximize the economic lifespan of existing resources while integrating new entrants on a levelized basis.”

That old goal is inconsistent with the new plan’s vision that “a status quo that uses preferential policy to allow incumbents—of any technology type—to freeze out competition should be unacceptable.”

The strategy’s top ten priorities are:

1. Prioritize cost-effective energy policies.

2. Ensure a secure, reliable, and resilient energy system.

3. Adopt all-resource energy strategies and minimize government barriers to innovation. 

4. Achieve cost-effective energy savings.

5. Achieve environmental protection that is cost-effective and enables economic growth. 

6. Government intervention in energy markets should be limited, justifiable, and technology-neutral.

7. Support a robust, market-selection of cost-effective energy resources.

8. Generate in-state economic activity without reliance on permanent subsidization of energy.

9. Protect New Hampshire’s interests in regional energy matters.

10. Ensure that appropriate energy infrastructure is able to be sited while incorporating input and guidance from stakeholders.

The additional, more forceful emphasis on market competition is a welcome addition to this version of the state’s energy strategy. But as with the previous version, the question is how much influence it will have with legislators. 

These policy frameworks can help to guide administrations, but legislators tend to do what they want. If constituents demand subsidies for the timber industry, the timber industry will probably get subsidies. Still, it’s encouraging to see the state make so strong a statement in favor of markets, competition, and consumer choice.  

High energy prices are a major concern of voters, so naturally the political party that controls Congress and the White House has offered a set of serious policy proposals to lower prices as quickly as possible. 

Hey, we can dream, can’t we?

In reality, voters are being sold a container ship full of malarky about energy prices.

On June 15th, President Biden bizarrely blamed both Vladimir Putin and oil refiners for high gas prices and urged refiners to increase production. It was bizarre because the claims had been debunked just days before by the federal government’s own Energy Information Administration. 

The EIA published an analysis on June 10th, five days before Biden’s letter to oil refiners, that dated the surge in oil and gas prices to 2020, not to the war in Ukraine that started four months ago. And the analysis estimated that refinery capacity would hover between 94% and 96% all summer. 

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has proposed doubling the taxes of any oil company that manages to enjoy profits of 10% or more. 

That’s slightly lower than the average profit margin of all industrial sectors in the S&P 500, and just 1.7 percentage points higher than the average for the energy sector, Yahoo Finance columnist Rick Newman reported in April. 

The tech, pharmaceutical, real estate and financial sectors all posted average profit margins last year of more than double the level Sen. Wyden has set for triggering oil company punishments. 

In New Hampshire, Democratic politicians are blaming the Legislature and the governor for high energy prices, claiming that Republicans failed to pass a slate of renewable energy bills to reduce the state’s reliance on fossil fuels. 

But they haven’t cited a single bill that would have lowered gas, oil or electricity prices this summer. 

A story about supposed “legislative inaction” on clean energy published in the New Hampshire Bulletin listed eight bills that were supposed to help deliver us from our current reliance on fossil fuels. Five of the featured bills have passed, which is not something customarily associated with “inaction.”

Not one of the five would have had any effect on current energy prices. One actually delays the reduction of Eversource electricity rates for a year and keeps the ratepayer-subsidized Burgess Biomass plant open. The plant buys wood pulp at above-market rates and has already cost Eversource ratepayers an extra $150 million for electricity.

The three other cited bills were to buy electric buses and electric state vehicles, and to accept federal money for electric vehicle infrastructure. They would have had zero effect on prices this summer.

Voters are being asked to believe that our “reliance on fossil fuels” has caused the recent energy price increases, and therefore anything that begins to shift the energy mix away from fossil fuels will help lower prices.

That is nonsense. The price increases have all been caused by a shortage in the supply of fuels relative to demand. 

Simply put, demand for energy surged in 2020 as the economy roared back to life earlier than expected, and supply has remained far short of demand ever since. 

What about renewables? In New England, gas comprises 53% of the energy mix, and nuclear another 27%, according to regional grid operator ISO New England. Renewables are up to 12%.

State subsidies for wind and solar power would have made no noticeable dent in the region’s reliance on fossil fuels for two primary reasons.

  1. Even if we could build renewable generation capacity on a massive scale in just a few years, wind and solar still rely on wind and sunshine. They aren’t yet capable of replacing gas or nuclear as a reliable source of baseload power.
  2. Renewable energy is not inherently cheaper or more reliable than natural gas. It’s become more competitive, and soon it might become a significantly cheaper source of energy. And if that happens, it won’t need subsidies or government “investments,” because the market will respond on its own.

What could have made a difference? Fewer government interventions to direct investments to satisfy the interests of politicians rather than consumers. 

When the government intervened to block pipelines, prohibit fracking, subsidize U.S. shipbuilders, divert resources to more costly “green” energy, and decommission functional, nuclear power plants, consumers suffered. 

“Under wholesale markets, private companies have carried the risks of uneconomic investments, not utilities and their customers, ISO New England concluded. “Consumers have benefited from this least-cost resource mix created through competitive markets.” 

A competitive market focuses on providing energy at the lowest cost. It will do this absent government interventions, just as markets for food, clothing, power tools and doughnuts do.

Government interventions that prevented investors from pursuing lower costs, and instead attempted to steer money to higher-cost alternatives, made energy markets less efficient, raised costs, and crimped supplies.

Repeal of the protectionist Jones Act alone would drop gas prices by 10 cents a gallon, according to a JP Morgan analysis.

To assert that the solution for high energy prices is more government interventions to further hamstring oil and gas companies would be like saying that the solution for the Boston Celtics’ scoring woes is to put more Golden State Warriors on the court. 

The answer is not more government manipulation of the market. The answer is to lift restrictions that interfere with the market’s natural pursuit of a “least-cost resource mix.” 

If the Burgess Biopower plant in Berlin closes, New Hampshire electricity customers will save money. The state’s shrinking timber industry (and the City of Berlin) will lose money. 

The Legislature is again faced with the prospect of choosing sides. And again a proposed bill would side with the timber industry, not ratepayers. 

It’s a long and complicated story. Let us explain. No, that is too much. Let us sum up. 

The plant burns wood pulp, largely but not entirely from New Hampshire. Eversource buys power from the plant at above-market rates mandated by the state. 

These higher payments are not to support “green energy.” The plant is just a conduit for funneling money to the timber industry. It exists to create a market for New Hampshire wood pulp. It’s a jobs program, not an environmental program.

But it’s a jobs program funded by a mandatory rate increase on Eversource customers. That’s highly regressive and economically harmful. Low-income families pay more for electricity, as do employers.

To reassure the public that this wealth transfer scheme wouldn’t get too out of hand, the state capped total above-market customer payments to the plant at $100 million. Whenever the customer overpayments pass the $100 million mark, the plant has to reduce its prices so that ratepayers recover the difference within the next 12 months.

Thanks to falling natural gas prices, the cap was hit several years ago. So the Legislature intervened again and suspended the cap for three years. That suspension ends this November, at which point the plant will have to lower its rates to let customers recoup the last three years’ worth of overpayments.

Uh oh.

Eversource estimates the three year total to be $58.8 million by the end of November. If the plant must repay that within 12 months, it will have to close, its officials have testified.

The state has a few options. 

It could amend the agreement to let the plant repay the money over a longer period of time. This might not save the plant in the long run, but it could buy time (assuming the plant can afford to rebate the money at all). 

It could directly subsidize the plant with payments from the General Fund. 

It could let the plant close. That would save ratepayers an estimated $2.50 to $3 a month, according to the Department of Energy. Large customers (employers) would save much more.

Or it could pass a law to basically forgive the $58.8 million in customer overpayments. That’s what Burgess Biopower says Senate Bill 271 would do. 

The bill might do more, though. It states that “any and all legislative relief provided to the Burgess BioPower plant shall be deemed to be reasonable, legitimate, and in the public interest….”


Through the end of 2021, Eversource customers have already paid more than $150 million in above-market rates for electricity generated by the Burgess Biopower plant. The plant cost a reported $275 million to build. But ratepayers don’t own 54% of a power plant. They just threw their money away. Well, the state threw it away on their behalf.

It’s likely that by the end of the 20-year contract, the overpayments will total more than the plant cost to build. And that doesn’t include the above-market payments for Renewable Energy Credits that are mandated by the agreement.

Burgess representatives say the plant supports 240 industry jobs. If we accept that number for argument’s sake, ratepayers have already spent more than $640,000 per “job saved,” with years left in the contract. 

This is a huge transfer of wealth from Eversource customers to a few hundred people (at most) in an industry that is economically declining but politically well-connected.

Burgess Biopower officials say the plant won’t need any more handouts if the $58.8 million in overpayments is forgiven. But the contract that forces customers to pay above-market rates continues. That’s a handout. 

The state’s scheme to subsidize the plant will continue to cost ratepayers more than $20 million a year through the life of the 20-year contract, according to the Department of Energy. The plant began operations in 2014.

And when all of these subsidies are done, what will the ratepayers have to show for it? Probably nothing. If these above-market payments were actually “investments,” they would have purchased shares in the plant’s parent company. Then, at least the ratepayers might have gotten something in return.