Despite overwhelming public support for clean energy and climate action, there is a coordinated state-by-state effort underway to undermine the renewable energy industry.
Led by the usual false cries for a "level playing field", and under the pretense of saving rate payers money, corporate-backed political movers are chipping away at renewable energy standards, all-the-while ignoring the massive direct and indirect subsidies enjoyed by the fossil fuel lobby.
Who's behind it all? I have a feeling you might be able to guess.
NC politicians attack bipartisan renewables legislation
In my own state of North Carolina, General Assembly members have introduced the absurdly named "“Affordable and Reliable Energy Act”, a bill which will repeal the state's Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, despite it having been originally enacted with bipartisan support and the vocal approval of the state's main energy producers. Environmental activist and entrepreneur Tim Toben, whom I interviewed back in 2007 and who I consider to be a good friend, has a blistering take down of the absurdity of these moves:
A statewide public opinion survey taken at the end of January found 83 percent of the state’s registered voters agreed that state leaders and elected officials should seek more alternative and renewable energy sources. Seventy percent said the state having a policy that encourages greater use of renewable energy and energy efficiency is a good idea.
Sure, our conventional ways of producing electric power are needed and will continue for the foreseeable future to be dominant. But it would be foolhardy to crush North Carolina’s growing and important clean energy industry. So, if our General Assembly is true to its rhetoric about enhancing our economic climate, encouraging entrepreneurs and creating jobs, the misnamed “Affordable and Reliable Energy Act” will get forgotten in its committee maze.
Oil-backed lobby groups acting in the shadows
But if the public is so overwhelmingly in support of clean energy innovation, where in the world is such opposition coming from? As with efforts to use oil money to undermine science education, it appears the fingerprints of the secretive ALEC—the American Legislative Exchange Council—are all over this particular effort too. In fact the Institute for Southern Studies has a detailed profile of the ALEC- and fossil fuel industry connected politicians who are spearheading this effort.
Most interesting is the questionable role of Duke Energy, which may be saying one thing publicly, and quite another in private:
Duke Energy is on the record as supporting North Carolina's REPS law, but at the same time it's a paying member of ALEC (despite calls to resign) and helped finance the group's conference held last spring in the company's hometown of Charlotte, N.C. That's where the Electricity Freedom Act -- ALEC's model bill to repeal REPS -- was drafted by the Heartland Institute, a prominent climate science denial group that's received significant funding from fossil fuel interests including the Kochs and Exxon Mobil, another major funder of climate disinformation.
The playing field has never been level
Now, lest anyone be fooled by the free market rhetoric of a level playing field, let's get one thing straight—the playing field has been tipped for so long in favor of the fossil fuel monopolies that it is absurd to suggest that clean energy is getting more than its fair share. Whether we're talking direct subsidies and tax breaks for fossil fuels, or the indirect subsidy of a failure to put a price on carbon and leaving us all to shoulder the bill, the advantages run deep. Even the Federal Aid Highway Act was an indirect subsidy for an automobile-centric and oil driven economic paradigm that remains with us to this present day.
ALEC's nation-wide anti-renewables drive
As the Environmental Defense Fund documents, North Carolina is far from an isolated case. ALEC and the Heartland Institute are attacking renewable energy standards across 29 states, all the while draping their corporate bullying tactics with the age-old disguise of astroturf fiscal conservatism.
It's a move that should be met with considerable outrage, especially by true fiscal conservatives. The government has been picking a winner for years in this fight.
It's time the public had a say.