Regardless of who wins today's elections, conservative groups and their fossil fuel industry backers will keep working to crush the renewable energy industry. They will be greatly assisted, of course, if more Republicans win elections on the state and federal levels.
ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), the notorious right-wing group that develops model legislation, which legislators then introduce across the country, is launching an all-out effort to repeal state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) through model legislation, the "Electricity Freedom Act."
They plan to make repealing state RPSs a "high priority" for the coming year.
The bill is written and funded by an ALEC task force consisting of representatives from major oil, gas and power companies, including BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Koch, and Shell.
As most of you know, these standards - in place in 29 states and Wash DC - require utilities to source a certain percentage of their energy from renewables by a target date. The percentage varies depending on the state. The RPS is among the most important methods for increasing the share of renewable energy in the US.
ALEC says it opposes the concept of RPS because it is essentially a tax on consumers and mandates some energy sources over others.
The bill says that wind and solar power are expensive and unreliable, and that forcing utilities to use renewables threatens electric grid reliability and will increase the cost of doing business through rate increases or higher taxes.
"Forcing business, industry, and ratepayers to use renewable energy through a government mandate will increase the cost of doing business and push companies to do business with other states or nations, thereby decreasing American competitiveness," the bill states.
ALEC points to studies that claim electric rates will rise up to 37% by 2025 in Minnesota, for example, because of its RPS. Who conducted the study? ALEC's right-wing sister organization, American Tradition Institute. Earlier this year, a memo uncovered that group's planned national PR campaign to turn public opinion against renewable energy.
This line of logic is false.
Studies find that state RPSs have not significantly affected electricity rates between 2000-2010. Instead, 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 RPS report the costs of renewable energy are dropping. In its annual report on the impact of Michigan's RPS (which voters may raise today), 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.
ALEC's uses faulty assumptions. That "coal and natural gas prices will be very low and stable over time, and they don't count any environmental benefit to society from renewables," Richard Caperton from the Center for American Progress told Midwest Energy News.
Minnesota's largest utilities say they would add wind power regardless of the state's mandate, reports Midwest Energy News.
Although ALEC has lost a slew of corporate supporters this past year after they were finally exposed, 2000 state lawmakers remain members. Among the raft of right-wing legislation ALEC is responsible for are the voter suppression laws that have taken hold across the country this year.
ALEC anti-environmental agenda includes dismantling state Renewable Portfolio Standards, pressuring the EPA to designate palm oil as a renewable fuel, pushing for loopholes in disclosure of natural gas fracking chemicals, and killing regional climate cap-and-trade pacts, along with eliminating clean air and water regulations, and even trying to turn public lands over to corporations.
ALEC's goal is "to do one thing, and that's to maximize the profits of fossil fuel industry and eliminate renewables from competition. I don't see where the freedom is in that," warns Doug Klopp of Common Cause. Advocates of renewable energy should be worried.
Read ALEC Exposed: Warming Up to Climate Change
Read ALEC Exposed: A Nationwide Blueprint for the Rightwing Takeover
Visit ALECexposed.org to learn more and find ALEC-influenced bills in your state:
Read ALEC's Electricity Freedom Act: