It's a common refrain among policy wonks trying to create an energy policy that deals with global warming: To cut energy demand, there has to be a new way that huge electricity producers can profit if their customers improve energy efficiency.
It's part of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's energy proposals. It's on the agenda of several states.
But is it fair?
In Wisconsin, where the idea is meeting one of its first tests, big users of electricity are saying, clearly, No. The equation is simple, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: If you the customer cuts your electricity demand, you the customer wants to save money.
"Papermakers objected to changing the way utilities earn their profit to reward energy efficiency," the Journal-Sentinel writes. "Energy-intensive industries such as NewPage Corp. that are already investing in energy efficiency want to see lower energy costs, not higher rates."
The goal is obviously good: Use less energy, and you pollute less, consume fewer natural resources and make any switch to new energy sources less jarring. But getting there, like many parts of this new industrial revolution we are embarking on, is rife with complications, winners and losers.
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