TODAY’S STUDY: THE ATTACK ON NEW ENERGY
Clean Energy Under Siege; Following the Money Trail Behind the Attack on Renewable Energy
August 2012 (Sierra Club)
Wind energy has grown steadily in the past decade, doubling in size since 2009.In 2011, it accounted for roughly three percent of U.S.electricity production (EIA).During the first months of 2012, it topped four percent.Already, Iowa and South Dakota generate 20 percent of their electricity from wind power, and the wind industry is on track to produce 20 percent of America’s electricity by 2030.A boom in the production of photovoltaic solar cells has cut the price in half and also doubled solar energy’s contribution to power supply.While still a relatively small number of electric cars are on the road today, growth is brisk, and sales have surged 164 percent since June of 2011.
That level of growth and success has made renewable energy more of a force to be reckoned with in energy markets.It has also drawn competitive attacks from oil, coal, and gas interests.
With renewable energy seeing an 83 percent approval rating among all Americans — including 63 percent support from Republicans and 84 percent support from Independents — it seems counterintuitive that many politicians still oppose the development of clean energy.Yet the political spending power of the traditional energy industries is unrivaled.
Clean energy is under siege at the congressional level
• Political attacks continue to be waged through the Solyndra investigations.
• Hostile legislation such as the Pompeo bill (H.R.3308) continues to be introduced.
• Conservative think tanks publish “studies” attacking federal appliance efficiency standards.
• The Production Tax Credit (PTC) is stalled in Congress.
Clean energy is under siege at the state level
• Oil, coal, and gas industry power concentrated in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is targeting state Renewable Portfolio Standards.
• Well-funded fossil-fuel advocacy groups masquerade as think tanks.
• Self-anointed experts like John Droz Jr.are committed to bringing down clean energy.
• Local groups receive outside funding to pursue an anti-wind agenda.
Clean energy is under siege by some of the most powerful, free-spending entities in the nation
• According to the campaign finance tracking group Open Secrets, oil and gas was a “top-spending industry in 2011” in the policy arena, spending more than $146 million on lobbying costs.
• Campaign expenditures by Koch family entities Koch Industries and Oxbow Corporation place them in two of the top three campaign spending slots for 2011-2012.
• The oil and gas industries contributed to 387 — or 88 percent — of all members of the House of Representatives in the 2010 election cycle.The industry also contributed to 89 out of 100 senators.In both chambers of Congress combined, Republicans received 86 percent of all oil and gas donations.
• William Koch has bankrolled opposition to the Cape Wind offshore wind project for more than a decade.
• Exxon has contributed more than $600,000 since 1998 to the Manhattan Institute, and approximately $676,500 since 1998 to the Heartland Institute.
Attacks on clean energy present a great challenge.Clean energy industries and advocates must both rise to the challenge.We will win by providing the best solutions for America and the world.
It is a testament to the success and rapid growth of clean-energy resources that they are now regarded as enough of a threat to draw fire from some of the largest, most powerful corporations on the planet.But with this rising status, there comes a heightened degree of difficulty that the renewable and efficiency companies — as well as advocates for their products as an environmental solution — must both recognize and contend with.The Koch brothers, Exxon Mobil, Peabody Energy, and others are playing for keeps.They have unlimited resources and we have documented that they are committing them to undermining clean energy.We clearly face a dog-eat-dog environment and must respond with as much vigor and aggressiveness as those who would see wind, solar, geothermal, and other technologies fade into the sunset — a product of a brief period in American economic history when the competitive environment was a friendly place for clean energy.
Now is a critical time.Although more than a decade late, EPA is enforcing the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.Finally challenged to pay its freight in health and environmental costs, much of the coal industry’s aging infrastructure is unable to both clean up and field a competitive product.The slew of retiring coal plants creates market space in the electric sector that could be filled by both efficiency and renewable energy solutions.It is an open question whether clean energy or only slightly-less-bad fossil fuels step into that void.
Advocates and the industries need to step up and answer the questions raised by conservative anti-clean-energy advocates, and we must call out their untenable assumptions about the true nature of energy markets.They shouldn’t be able to hide behind libertarian fantasy when their true intent is winning competitive advantage and making more money.
Clean energy is truly under siege, but it retains its inherent advantage as the best set of solutions to help us face a warming world and its attendant challenges.The “Merchants of Doubt” strategy lost — on tobacco, on acid rain, on ozone depletion — and it will ultimately lose on climate disruption.We must drive forward with innovation and answers that give Americans what they have always wanted: energy that enables us to live modern lives, but which does not carry the destructive costs with which coal and oil use have saddled our planet.The Koch brothers appear to have no intention of delivering that.