On Thursday, July 24, Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power held a hearing entitled “Laboratories of Democracy: The Economic Impacts of State Energy Policies.” The hearing featured testimony from representatives of Energy and Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal), Manhattan Institute, and Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University, all of which have received funding from fossil fuel interests and primarily advocate for the continued use of fossil fuels over renewable energy.
Tom Tanton is the director of science and technology assessment at E&E Legal and the president of T2 & Associates, an energy and technology consulting firm whose clients have included the American Petroleum Institute (API).
Between 2003 and 2007, Tanton was the vice president and senior fellow of the Institute for Energy Research, a Texas-based think tank that has received $307,000 from Exxon Mobil and $175,000 from Koch Industries.
E&E Legal is a non-profit think tank (formerly the American Tradition Institute or ATI) that received $140,000 from Doug Lair of Lair Petroleum in 2010. E&E Legal has taken issue with the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, especially on the topic of anthropogenic climate change. E&E Legal’s predecessor, the American Tradition Institute, broke campaign finance laws in 2010 when it mailed fliers attacking legislative candidates. In 2012, The Guardian published a memo prepared by an E&E Legal fellow about a secret anti-wind meeting between local anti-clean energy groups and national fossil fuel-funded organizations seeking to organize widespread opposition against wind energy through a deceptive public relations campaign. Other members of E&E Legal’s Senior Leadership have ties to fossil fuel interests as well: David Schnare, a fossil fuel-funded pundit with connections to Heartland Institute, State Policy Network, and other front groups; and Chris Horner, a fossil fuel-funded climate denier who works at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an advocacy group with ties to tobacco disinformation campaigns.
Assemblymember Henry Perea’s (D-Fresno) Energy Bill Pushed by Fossil Fuel Interests Tied to American Legislative Exchange Council
In California, fossil fuel interest groups are sponsoring legislation that appears to mimic the approach of model legislation released by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in 2013.
California Assembly Bill 1763 (AB 1763) would require the California Energy Commission (CEC) to develop a state energy plan for 2030 and 2050 that “promotes economic growth, [and] ensures reliable, sustainable, and affordable energy…” That language is similar to ALEC’s model legislation, “The Energy Affordability and Reliability Act”, which calls on states to “evaluate the economic impact, reliability, and other objectives in decisions affecting electricity supplies” and “encourage affordable energy supplies…” While AB 1763 does not copy ALEC’s model policy verbatim, it is important to note that even ALEC recognizes that the model policies [.pdf] “will need to be slightly modified to specifically address [a] state’s needs.”
AB 1763 was initially sponsored by Californians for Affordable and Reliable Energy (CARE), a coalition that includes multiple fossil fuel interests. CARE members include the Western States Petroleum Association (who counts Chevron as a member), California Independent Oil Marketers Association, DeWitt Petroleum, GT Petroleum, the California Trucking Association, the California Business Roundtable, and others. But recently, Assemblymember Henry T. Perea’s (D-Fresno) staff reported that the California Business Roundtable (CBRT) is the sponsor of AB 1763. Both CARE and CBRT share several members, have strong connections to each other, and have some of the same member companies as ALEC. CBRT members include Chevron, Southern California Edison, PG&E, and Sempra Energy, which are members of ALEC, have access to ALEC’s model legislation, and can draw on the model legislation to develop language for bills they sponsor.
The fossil fuel-funded Americans for Prosperity spearheaded a letter published as a full page advertisement in Politico on June 9, 2014 that was signed by 117 organizations. The letter attacked wind energy and called on Congress to oppose the extension of the Wind Production Tax Credit. The Energy and Policy Institute examined the list of signatories and found the following:
- Sixty organizations are either funded by fossil fuel interests like the Koch Brothers, ExxonMobil, and the American Petroleum Institute, and/or have known ties to the Koch Brothers’ political network.
Thirty-six have been exposed as fossil fuel-funded front groups.
The additional 24 organizations have been known to operate within the Koch Brothers’ vast political network as allies of the State Policy Network, American Legislative Exchange Council, or other Koch-backed organizations, and may very likely be funded by fossil fuel interests.
- Forty-two of the organizations are local anti-wind groups, many of which have minimal public presence or are small collections of local anti-wind activists. Due to the lack of an online footprint, we were unable to determine the size or funding of many of these groups. However, some of the local anti-wind groups listed attended a meeting organized by a fossil fuel front group in Washington, D.C. in 2012.
Twenty-one of the 117 organizations have no public presence or a sparse online footprint.
The organization “Lee County Informed” is a group of 10 families fighting a local wind farm, but has minimal public presence and no online footprint.
“Save our Skies Ohio” has been unincorporated in the state of Ohio, according to business records.
Americans for Prosperity claims that 117 organizations signed the letter. However, there are only 116 organizations listed, and the list includes entities that are hardly organizations.
The Weyrich Lunch is not an organization, but a weekly gathering of elite conservatives that happens every Wednesday in Washington. The gathering is affiliated with Grover Norquist’s Wednesday morning meetings (of fossil fuel-funded Americans for Tax Reform).
Less Government is a front group managed by consultant Seton Motley, but it has no website at its URL, lessgovernment.org and no public presence except for Seton Motley’s work as a pundit.
Ohioan for Affordable Electricity has no online footprint, and is actually just one anti-wind activist, Tom Stacy. Stacy apparently runs “Save Western Ohio,” but the organization’s website is a collection of old or dead links.
See our full analysis of each organization.
Guest post by Sarah Taylor from Cleveland, Ohio. Cross-posted from Windustrious.org.
There is a growing sense among the public that life on our planet is being threatened by our careless misuse of its resources.
The most obvious evidence of this misuse is climate change. Unexpected dramatic weather patterns are now being experienced everywhere. Along with rising sea levels, due to the melting of polar ice, these patterns have led to increased flooding of coastal communities. Perhaps more insidious is the growing desertification of large continental areas. This is accompanied by a rapid reduction in fresh water supply, essential for food production, in neighboring agricultural regions.
Specifically, it is the burning of fossil fuels, with the accompanying release of carbon dioxide, that is to blame. Those fuels powered up the industrial revolution, but their time has come and gone.
We can replant swaths of landscape to absorb some of the carbon dioxide that humans continue to produce, but our overwhelming need is to transition rapidly to carbon-free sources of energy. Our planet is fortunately blessed with just such non-polluting energy resources - the sun and the wind - which can, with relatively small investments, provide us with unlimited supplies of power into the indefinite future.
There is just one thing that might get in the way - namely the financial interest of those with a stake in our outdated sources of energy. These tycoons may be few in number, but they are huge in influence (i.e. money!). They know that wind and solar power installations can be rapidly built, can threaten the profitability of coal, oil and gas, and can subsequently lead to their mines and wells being closed down. They therefore feel a need to create and sow widespread doubt amongst the public, about the effectiveness of the new sources of energy. This goal is being accomplished, extraordinarily successfully, through the exploitation of a completely unexpected resource - human sympathy.
So how did they achieve this?
Following his overwhelming election victory, Narendra Modi made some first comments on what he plans to do. One of the boldest statements was his promise to provide one light bulb in every one of India’s roughly 80 million un-electrified homes by 2019, using the power of solar energy. Is that realistic?
- India already has experience with rural solar lighting to build on. But the experience also demonstrates the challenges.
- The ecosystem[i] to support off-grid solar lighting energy in the country will have to be strengthened for the success of this mega-initiative
- Off-grid lighting providers and LED manufacturers will likely be showered with subsidies to meet this target. However, in the past, subsidies have often been ineffective or even counter productive.
This may be it. For the nearly 400 million people living in the country without access to electricity, there may actually be a light at the end of what has been a long tunnel. However, the task will not be easy and successive governments have tried their hand through various schemes and yojanas to fulfill the promise of electricity for all.
In the 1970’s my own grandfather paid to have the electricity poles extended a little further to reach our house in a village in the middle of the sand dunes in western Rajasthan. Unfortunately he never lived to see the day when the grid actually carried electricity to our home. That happened just a few years back. Electrification remains elusive for many families in the area, many of whom have turned to solar home lighting systems to meet their basic needs.
With this latest promise by the incoming government, the market opportunity (see my previous blog) for decentralized solar lighting technologies in the country has become very real. If indeed solar LED lighting is to be brought to every un-electrified home, then we must look to what types of companies and models can make this proposal a reality and sustain it. To make the case, I examine the case of a (unnamed) pioneering company that began deploying LED-based solar lighting systems in the country back in 2005.