Paul Chesser, an anti-clean energy advocate who works for multiple fossil fuel-funded front groups, recently criticized technology companies for their investments in renewable energy. Chesser claims that the companies are still dependent on fossil fuels. But, companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon have invested millions of dollars to build new clean energy installations that will help transition the grid to provide more renewable energy. The reality is clear: these big technology companies recognize that clean energy sources are affordable, reliable, and make great business investments, in addition to producing environmental and public health benefits.
In his criticism, Chesser cites Amazon’s recent commitment to purchase wind energy from an installation under construction by Iberdrola Renewables in North Carolina. According to TechCrunch, Amazon estimated the facility would generate 670,000 megawatt hours annually, part of an expansion that will produce about 1.3 million megawatt hours annually for the company (enough power for about 122,000 homes). However, instead of recognizing the effort by tech companies to produce enough power to meet the demand of their data facilities, Chesser cites the fossil fuel-funded Institute for Energy Research to lambast these companies for “misleading claims.”
The biography of Paul Chesser, the author, includes a long list of fossil fuel-backed front groups in which he’s currently involved, which may explain his blatant anti-renewable energy stance. He is a “special correspondent” for the Heartland Institute. The Heartland Institute is a fossil fuel-funded front group with over $800,000 in contributions from fossil fuel interests that has routinely attacked clean energy policies and the science behind climate change. Chester is also the director of “Climate Strategies Watch,” which is organized by the John Locke Foundation (JLF). JLF is the primary State Policy Network member in North Carolina, and has received funding from the Kochs. Chesser is a “senior fellow” for the Commonwealth Foundation, a member of the State Policy Network in Pennsylvania that has received funding from the Kochs and dark money groups affiliated with the Koch political network. He previously ran the American Tradition Institute, now called E&E Legal Institute, that has harassed climate scientists and whose Senior Legal Fellow, Chris Horner, was recently exposed for receiving payments from Alpha Natural Resources, a now bankrupt coal company. And lastly, Chesser contributes to the fossil fuel-funded news websites, American Spectator and JLF's Carolina Journal.
At a recent Cato Institute event titled, “Preparing for Paris: What to Expect from the U.N.’s 2015 Climate Change Conference,” climate skeptic Roy Spencer raised eyebrows when he said that environmentalists should be investigated under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) because of the energy policies they push.
Thomas Wysmuller, owner of Colderside.com, questioned the panelists about the recent revelation that ExxonMobil incorporated climate research into its operations while publicly casting doubt on that very same science. After Judith Curry and Ryan Maue provided answers, Spencer made his statement:
Wysmuller: Quick question. There has been recent activity in Congress calling for RICO investigations. I know Roger Pielke Jr. has decided he is going to try and sidestep this. Has it affected your vision of your jobs? And if you could explain how and maybe not at all.
Spencer: I’d like to see calls for RICO investigations for people on the other side of this. People who have been pushing for energy policies that we know will kill people and they know that and yet they have hidden that information from the public and from politicians for the purposes of advancing an agenda. So, you know, I think they better be careful of what they try to accomplish because I think we could go the other direction in spades.
Spencer did not elaborate further on his allegations or novel legal theory.
The Los Angeles Times, Columbia University’s Energy and Environmental Reporting Project, and InsideClimate News all recently published investigations showing Exxon spent millions of dollars on climate change research in the 1970s and 1980s. The oil corporation then funded organizations that disputed the mainstream science on climate change or emphasized “uncertainty” in the context of opposing policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
Americans For Prosperity Leads Fossil Fuel Front Group Push for Crude Oil Exports, Anti-Renewables Lobbying
The fossil fuel-funded Americans for Prosperity wrote a coalition letter yesterday to Congress signed by 21 organizations calling for the elimination of the oil export ban and advocating against tax credits for solar or wind energy production.
As we have highlighted in past research, elected officials and the public should make note that while these groups claim to be “free market” think tanks and non-profits, in reality, they are operating as front groups for the Koch Brothers and other fossil fuel interests with a financial interest in eliminating the crude oil export ban and stoping the growth of renewable energy like wind and solar.
The Energy and Policy Institute examined the list of signatories and found the following:
- 19 of the 21 organizations signing the letter have either funding from fossil fuel interests like the Koch brothers or ExxonMobil or have ties to the Koch political network.
- 18 of the 21 organizations have known financial ties to fossil fuel interests.
- 15 of the 21 organizations are directly tied to or serve essential roles in the Koch political network.
|Organization||State||Fossil Fuel Funding?||Koch Network?||Description|
|60 Plus Association||DC||Yes||Yes||Funding from Center to Protect Patient Rights, a Koch funding passthrough; also funded by Freedom Partners, the Koch Brothers' secret bank; also received funding from Koch-network's TC4 Trust|
|American Commitment||DC||Yes||Yes||Koch-funded group, almost entirely funded by Koch passthroughs Freedom Partners, Center to Protect Patient Rights|
|American Energy Alliance||DC||Yes||Yes||Funded by ExxonMobil, Koch Brothers and Freedom Partners; President is former Koch lobbyist|
|Americans for Prosperity||DC||Yes||Yes||Founded and funded by Koch Brothers|
|Americans for Tax Reform||DC||Yes||Yes||Funded by American Petroleum Institute and Koch Brothers; member of State Policy Network|
|Competitive Enterprise Institute||DC||Yes||Yes||Funding from ExxonMobil and Koch Brothers; Member of State Policy Network|
|Energy Makes America Great, Inc.||DC||Yes||Yes||Funded by New Mexico Oil and Gas Association; part of Citizens' Alliance for Responsible Energy|
|Freedom Works||DC||Yes||Yes||Funded by DonorsTrust; Break up of Citizens for Sound Economy (funded by the Koch Brothers) created FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity (funded by the Koch Brothers)|
|Less Government||DC||Front group managed by consultant Seyton Motley; no website exists at lessgovernment.org, the organization's listed web URL|
|R Street Institute||DC||Yes||Connected to Koch political network, was part of Heartland Institute|
|Taxpayers Protection Alliance||DC||Yes||
Connections to Koch-funded Americans for Job Security and Alliance for America's Future
|Tea Party Nation||DC||Yes||For profit company founded by Judson Phillips, organized first Tea Party convention|
|Frontiers of Freedom||VA||Yes||Yes||Funding from Koch Brothers and ExxonMobil; funded by tobacco industry|
|American Encore||AZ||Yes||Yes||Koch-funded pass-through involved in attacks on solar in Arizona; funneled money from utility Arizona Public Service to front groups.|
|National Taxpayers Union||DC||Yes||Yes||Koch and Tobacco funding; part of the State Policy Network|
|National Black Chamber of Commerce||DC||Yes||Yes||Fossil fuel funding, Koch funding|
|Institute for Liberty||Yes||Connected to Koch political network|
|Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce||VA||Yes||Yes||Koch-funded, served as "de facto bank" in the Koch political network|
|Center for Individual Freedom||VA||Tobacco industry funding|
|Americans for Competitive Enterprise||DC||Yes||Yes||Founded by three staff members of Competitive Enterprise Institute, which has received fossil fuel funding|
|American Council for Capital Formation||DC||Yes||Koch-funded|
The Ohio Energy Mandates Study Committee has until the end of the month to issue a report on the state’s frozen energy efficiency and renewable energy requirements. The report, due to the Ohio House and Senate, was mandated by legislation signed into law by Governor John Kasich in June 2014. Legislators will then have until the end of the year to decide what policy to implement; but if they do nothing, the efficiency and renewable standards will unfreeze.
American Legislative Exchange Council-member Senator Bill Seitz recently said, “We’re not prepared to continue our march up State Mandate Mountain in the face of this federal overreach which will be unfolding over the next three years.” Sen. Seitz also said that voluntary incentives could be one of the recommendations from the committee.
The Energy & Policy Institute filed public record requests with several of the committee members, including Sen. Seitz, to understand what lobbying firms, utility industry representatives, and front groups have been working to influence the committee. But, it’s important to review how the situation unfolded especially in light of public records from 2014 that have never been published.
Timeline of events show the repeated effort by Ohio ALEC members to end the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency law:
2012: The Heartland Institute joined with the American Legislative Exchange Council to write model legislation aimed at repealing renewable energy standards across the country. ALEC’s board of directors adopted the Electricity Freedom Act in October.
2012: Sen. Jordan introduced SB 221 to repeal the renewable energy and efficiency standard.
2013: Sen. Jordan introduced SB 34 that again would have completely repealed the requirements. The bill never made it out of committee.
March 2013: Sen. Seitz made headlines when he said the state standards remind him of “Joseph Stalin’s five-year plan.” Months later, Sen. Seitz introduced substitute SB 58, which would limit how much utilities can spend on energy efficiency programs while eliminating the requirements for in-state renewable energy targets.
December 2013: Sen. Seitz canceled a possible committee vote. When asked if he’d scrap the bill, Seitz said, “We’ve just begun to fight.”
February 2014: Sen. Seitz reintroduced SB 58 and insisted that Advanced Energy Economy made inaccurate economic projections about the state’s requirements during hearings in 2013. Sen. Seitz pointed to Jonathan Lesser, president of Continental Economics, Inc., and his report’s conclusions that the law imposes high costs on consumers with negligible benefits. The Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business-Ohio and Industrial Energy Users-Ohio funded the report.
March 2014: Senator Troy Balderson introduced SB 310, and then Seitz cosponsored the legislation. Two months later, the Ohio legislature passed SB 310 that froze the state’s renewable energy and efficiency requirements for two years. Gov. Kasich, former ALEC member who received more than $200,000 in campaign contributions from utility, coal, and oil and gas companies over the last two election cycles, signed the legislation in June.
According to an internal ALEC tracking document obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy, 31 bills relating to the ALEC Electricity Freedom Act were introduced in 2014, with ALEC scoring its first success in Ohio as it voted to freeze its state mandate.
We will continue to track the Ohio Energy Mandates Study Committee as the process continues this fall.
The fossil fuel-funded American Energy Alliance wrote a coalition letter signed by 20 organizations to Congress claiming widespread support for “The PTC Elimination Act” which would cut subsidies for wind energy production. The letter uses misinformation to claim that wind energy is bad for the economy and is more expensive than traditional fossil fuel energy production. Wind energy power purchase agreements continue to break records as the cost of clean energy has plummeted over the past few years. The price of wind is down more than 50% since 2009 and contracted ind prices hit an all-time low in 2014 of ~2.35 cents per kWh.
- 18 of the signatories signed a similar letter written by the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity in June 2014 (counting Independent Women’s Forum & Voice as one affiliated organization).
- 14 have ties to fossil fuel funders and 18 have ties to the Koch Brothers’ political network with some organizations receiving funding directly from the Kochs and others receiving funding from the "dark money ATM" Donors Trust/Donors Capital Fund or other front groups like the "Center to Protect Patients Rights”.