(Updated) Climate news: Koch-connected heavyweights have solar industry in their sights

One prong in the carbon kings’ pushback to protect their future profits is to deny climate change even exists, or to deny it’s man-made, or to assert that it’s inevitable anyway.

But another prong is much more direct — to destroy the competitor, renewable energy, as an industry, in much the same way as GM destroyed the electric car as a purchasable product in the second half of the 20th century.

Thus we find your usual suspects — David and Charles Koch, Americans for (David Koch’s) Prosperity, and ALEC — trying to take down the last best hope for humans (not an exaggeration) so they can be even richer before kicking their personal can. Sons and daughters, fend for yourselves; maybe you can buy your way into Sweden, should it not freeze over.

Evan Halper, writing at the LA Times, has the sorrowful news (my emphasis and paragraphing):

Conservative heavyweights have solar industry in their sights

The political attack ad that ran recently in Arizona had some familiar hallmarks of the genre, including a greedy villain who hogged sweets for himself and made children cry.

But the bad guy, in this case, wasn’t a fat-cat lobbyist or someone’s political opponent. He was a solar-energy consumer. Solar, once almost universally regarded as a virtuous, if perhaps over-hyped, energy alternative, has now grown big enough to have enemies.

Let’s pause here. Job one for the carbon lords is to remove the veneer of “known good” or “known virtuous” from renewable energy, to tar and taint it in your minds. To do that, they have to take the discussion away from climate change and chaos and into safer mental waters — into the land of non-interference in the imagined “free market”; of “fair play” for all participants in the energy game; of “not picking winners” (unless it’s them).

What’s missing, of course, is any consideration that society as a whole has a compelling interest in … well, getting totally off of carbon to keep the planet livable. So they’re attacking laws and regulations that make solar (and other renewables) economically attractive, or even viable. Mr. Halper again:

US sunlight vs. Germany, map by NRE.

US sunlight vs. Germany, map by NRE.
Click to enlarge.

The Koch brothers, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and some of the nation’s largest power companies have backed efforts in recent months to roll back state policies that favor green energy. The conservative luminaries have pushed campaigns in Kansas, North Carolina and Arizona, with the battle rapidly spreading to other states. …

At the nub of the dispute are two policies found in dozens of states. One requires utilities to get a certain share of power from renewable sources. The other, known as net metering, guarantees homeowners or businesses with solar panels on their roofs the right to sell any excess electricity back into the power grid at attractive rates.

Net metering forms the linchpin of the solar-energy business model. Without it, firms say, solar power would be prohibitively expensive. … The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a membership group for conservative state lawmakers, recently drafted model legislation that targeted net metering. The group also helped launch efforts by conservative lawmakers in more than half a dozen states to repeal green energy mandates. …

“State governments are starting to wake up,” Christine Harbin Hanson, a spokeswoman for Americans for [David Koch’s] Prosperity, the advocacy group backed by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, said in an email. The organization has led the effort to overturn the mandate in Kansas, which requires that 20% of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources.

I’ll leave you to read what the over-moneyed whiners have to say against “net metering,” and what the solar industry says to counter the complaint. It’s small potatoes, but it’s a wedge issue that, again, totally ignores the fact that they plan to sink the planet as human-habitable for a few extra fists full of dollars.

After detailing the corrupt way that AF(DK)P — American’s for (David Koch’s) Prosperity — is dropping millions in anonymously collected money into campaigns to kill solar with added mandated fees, we get to the nub of another problem, this one squarely on Eric Holder and Barack Obama.

The problem? They won’t enforce the law when it comes to requiring 501(c)4 non-political groups to be … well, non-political. Any law that goes ignored under bipartisan administrations has been repealed, in the same way the First and Fourth Amendments have been repealed. And yes, this really is Obama’s fault too. Overturning Bush II’s destruction of the law was all it would have taken to fix things. Confirming Bush II’s destruction of the law had just the same effect, only opposite.

The Times again, on how that law has been repealed:

“Politically oriented nonprofits are a fact of life today and provide a vehicle for individuals and organizations with a common point of view to express themselves,” company officials said in a statement in response to questions about their campaign.

Get that? Have become “a fact of life” we’ll just have to deal with. Like paramilitaries, however “illegal,” are “a fact of life” in some other countries, or systematically stolen elections, or Supreme Court coups of the electoral process, or corrupt deals for crooked presidents to step down in exchange for pardons.

The wave of the solar future — a battle over death-by-utility-fee

The battles are underway now (read the piece for details) and once more big carbon is buying your future. Is there enough critical mass for an effective revolt? There’s wasn’t in 2000. I do suspect though that critical mass is what it will take to turn the corner.

In the meantime, please support all efforts to increase renewables in your state, and at effective prices. Ignore the “free market” propaganda. If we don’t get off of carbon, we better consider finding another planet to inhabit. As the article shows, it’s a war in the trenches at the moment. And people like David “Let them eat Carbon” Koch has a lot of artillery to shell us with. We need to be fighting back hard until the day the cavalry — in the form of serious public engagement — arrives.

UPDATE: Rachel Maddow covered this as well. Watch the video below starting at 6:36.

(Sorry about not encoding a start time for the player. In their wisdom, the gods at the Christie network have eliminated that option for now.)


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Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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