ALEC, Norquist Move to Dismantle State Renewable Energy Standards
Why isn't the US further along in addressing climate change?
Look no further than ALEC, which is back in the news as it readies to dismantle Renewable Energy Standards (RES) - in place in 29 states and Washington DC - that require utilities to source a percentage of energy from renewables. The standards are a leading force pushing the renewable energy market forward in this country.
California leads the US, requiring 33% of electricity come from renewables by 2020, and Oregon requires 25% by 2025 for large utilities, for example.
ALEC, which writes and stewards "model" legislation on behalf of its corporate backers, may write model legislation for state lawmakers to repeal or weaken the mandates later this year, Todd Wynn, Director of ALEC's energy, environment and agriculture task force, told Bloomberg.
They may also develop an "energy freedom" index that ranks states based on regulation, market intervention and taxes.
Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform is coordinating with ALEC and encouraging members to speak out against RES because it sees the mandates as a hidden tax on consumers and a drag on state economies.
Republicans now control 24 states, making them "more conducive" to repealing RES, says Patrick Gleason of Americans for Tax Reform.
Last July, Bloomberg acquired tax documents showing that Koch Industries, Exxon Mobil and other energy companies paid membership fees to ALEC to get help write legislation repealing RES programs in states around country.
Peabody Energy, the largest private coal company in the world, is a major underwriter for ALEC and sits on its Private Enterprise Board, according to the Center for Media and Democracy.
Bills have been introduced to repeal or weaken RES mandates in Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Colorado, Montana and Washington State. None of the bills have passed.
ALEC has written legislation that would prevent a national RES, but since that's dead in the water they're turning to the states.
In Ohio, Republican State Senator Kris Jordan introduced a repeal bill saying the state can't afford to keep a"warm and fuzzy" law, which was passed in 2008 before the economic crisis.
Ohio's RES enjoys broad bipartisan support and has made renewable energy among the fastest growing industries there, says Brian Kaiser of the Ohio Environmental Council.
Other ALEC-crafted anti-climate change, anti-renewable energy and anti-environment laws include:
Other right-wing fossil fuel industry-back groups are working to derail Low Carbon Fuel Standards across the country.
Facts About Renewable Energy Standards
While these right-wing groups and fossil fuel companies claim that state RES lead to skyrocketing electricity prices, a recent Center for American Progress analysis shows that RES have no impact on price changes.
Grover Norquist wrote in a Politico op-ed: "Renewable energy standards, by design, are intended to drive up energy costs-requiring utilities to use more expensive and often less reliable sources of energy. Not surprisingly, such laws have hit ratepayers hard. States that have a binding [renewable energy standard] now have electricity costs that are 39 percent higher than states that don't have a binding standard."
Instead, studies show these policies lead to cleaner air, economic development, a more resilient electrical grid and greater resource diversity, which reduces risk to consumers by not relying on any one energy source.
Actually, states with RES report the costs of renewable energy are dropping. In its annual report on the impact of Michigan's RES, the Michigan Public Service Commission said wind energy was almost a third cheaper than buying electricity from a new coal plant. Utility Xcel got a similar deal in Colorado.
But the renewable energy industry should be prepared for a more aggressive campaign from organizations like ALEC and Americans for Tax Reform on the state level.
Read the American Progress report on the relationship between RES and electricity prices, and the beneficial impact of state RES: