Originally published on Union of Concerned Scientists.
By Sam Gomberg
Despite relentless legislative attacks funded by the Koch Brothers and other fossil fuel special interest groups, state renewable electricity standards are holding their own and continue to drive investments in clean energy resources. And as long as legislators remain committed to well-informed policies that represent the will of the people instead of a few powerful special interests, renewable energy can continue to look forward to a bright future in the U.S.
Most Americans support emphasizing development of renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, over production of more fossil fuels, and that’s especially true among the younger generations who will guide our nation through much of the 21st Century. But a new study by researchers at Princeton University has the blogosphere and social media abuzz with concern that our nation is heading in a different direction. One where policy decisions are made not in the best interests of the people, but rather for the benefit of powerful industries and the special interest groups they fund.
It is no secret that fossil fuel interests, particularly the Koch Brothers and the advocacy groups they fund, have used misleading claims and bogus studies to try and discredit the overwhelming scientific consensus around climate change and roll back the policies that support the development of our nation’s vast wind and solar resources. But as the Washington Post reports, the Koch Brothers have “run into a surprising roadblock: the growing political clout of renewable energy…”
Science and facts are still winning in the debates over clean energy
A total of 29 states, plus the District of Columbia, currently have a renewable electricity standard (RES) that requires utilities to meet a percentage of their electricity demand with renewable energy. These policies have enjoyed a long history of bipartisan support among state legislators and governors, and no state, once it has enacted a RES, has ever repealed one.
The reason is quite simple. Ample evidence shows RES policies are an effective way to achieve the ramp up of renewable energy that Americans desire, and the real-world experience with meeting renewable electricity standards is proving how these policies are a good deal for consumers, and are affordably delivering real economic, environmental, and public health benefits.
The Union of Concerned Scientists works with a broad range of allies – business and industry, environmental and consumer advocates, and engaged citizens and experts to make sure decision makers have the facts to see through the disinformation campaigns led by the Koch Brothers and their cohorts and make well-informed decisions about the role of renewable energy in meeting energy demand. We were among the first to expose the Koch Brothers’ pending attack on RES policies in 2012 and to highlight the misleading claims, and often downright lies, spread by the fossil fuel lobby.
Campaigns of disinformation attracting attention and eroding the public’s trust
Fortunately, the media is also taking note. The New York Times just dubbed the Koch’s efforts to politicize renewable energy “deliberately misleading” in a recent editorial. Attack ads targeting Kansas’s 20 percent by 2020 RES aired by the Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity have been characterized by the local media as “nothing short of a lie,” “misleading,” and “laughable.” The Associated Press called out Americans for Prosperity for citing “misleading figures” in its failed bid to block Georgia’s new solar requirement. UCS has also joined reporters at the Washington Post and The Guardian in shedding light on the flawed and biased analyses of the Koch-funded Beacon Hill Institute, which has rolled out cut-and-paste reports attacking RES policies in nearly 20 states.
Meanwhile, the Koch Brothers’ misguided attacks on RES policies continue to erode the public’s trust in the fossil fuel industry. Oil companies sit just above Big Tobacco among the industries that Americans trust the least. It’s a rank earned by employing many of the same tactics and special interest groups that Big Tobacco used to mislead the public about the health impacts of smoking, only this time to manufacture doubt about climate change and renewable energy. And the Koch Brothers sit at the center of this web of disinformation.
Policymakers and citizens in states where RES policies have come under fire have chosen clean energy facts over the fossil fuel funded fiction. To date, not a single RES has been repealed. Unfortunately, the Koch Brothers and their army of lobbyists show no signs of letting up. But with legislators and the public focused on the facts and doing what’s best for this nation, we will achieve the affordable, reliable and sustainable energy future that we deserve.
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