Like so many people of his generation, Eric DeGesero — the head of the Fuel Merchants Association of New Jersey — got his first lessons in politics on Saturday mornings.
“I grew up in the ’70s, watching cartoons on Saturday mornings,” he said. “And sandwiched between ‘Scooby-Doo’ and ‘Super Friends’ was ‘Schoolhouse Rock.’ I watched, ‘I’m just a bill on Capitol Hill’ thousands of times.”
The basic lesson, of course, is that all laws start in the legislative body.
DeGesero said he was reminded of that last week, when Gov. Phil Murphy announced a plan for all cars to be sold in New Jersey after 2035 to be electric vehicles. It’s a plan that obviously would crush the Fuel Merchants.
“I’m knee-deep in trying to discern legal authority to ban internal combustion engines,” he joked when we caught up with him last week.
“I’m looking up to see where the DEP or the BPU can issue a regulation on that, because he made it very clear that they were. So, I need to see where the legal authority the Legislature has delegated for them to do that. And they may or may not have.”
DeGesero, a vocal critic of the governor’s Energy Master Plan and electrification mandates, found plenty to like about the governor’s speech.
But he kept going back to “Schoolhouse Rock.” For better or for worse.
“The state of New Jersey could prohibit whatever the Legislature authorizes to be prohibited,” he said. “The legislature can ban fossil fuels tomorrow if they wish. That wouldn’t be good for me, but it would be legitimate, because the Legislature voted on it. The Legislature does lots of things every day I disagree with that. That’s called life.
“The governor can’t simply decree what he wants. We don’t have somebody that is a monarch. There’s a process.”
It’s a process that has been followed on other recent energy issues.
“The original wind program was done under (Gov. Chris) Christie, and everything they’ve done since then — wind manufacturing, EV rebates, nuclear certificates, the Clean Energy Act, solar overhaul and solar power — were in laws that were passed that the governor signed.”
DeGesero isn’t against all of the governor’s proposals. He just wants to work with the governor — and the Legislature — on the best paths to get to a clean energy future.
And as much as he can recite the catchy, “I’m just a bill on Capitol Hill” Saturday morning song, DeGesero knows ideas face additional obstacles that weren’t included in the cartoon.
In this case: Working with unions.
“The building trades are already out saying the only way that Murphy’s goals are going to be achieved is by us buying more out-of-state renewable, which is all built with non-union labor,” DeGesero said.
Good luck with that.
Then there’s this: All of the rebates and federal government subsidies won’t be enough to offset costs, not by a long shot, DeGesero said.
There’s a belief that up to $14,000 in subsidies could be available. But, DeGesero said, only a limited number of people will qualify for that much. And, while no one truly knows the cost of the process of electrifying a house, some have estimated it to be $35,000. Anyone who has had any type of work done in New Jersey knows that may be wishful thinking, too.
DeGesero said there are ways to come up with a financing mechanism.
All of them, however, start in the Legislature.
Anyone who spent a lot of Saturday mornings watching cartoons could tell you that.