Clean Power

Published on May 14th, 2014 | by Guest Contributor


Koch Brothers Fruitlessly Spreading Misinformation On Renewable Energy

May 14th, 2014 by  

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.

Solar panels on a roof in Michigan

Renewable electricity standards continue to drive clean energy investments despite legislative attacks from fossil fuel special interests.
Photo credit: Flickr user snre

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history of bipartisan support among state legislators and governors, and no state, once it has enacted a RES, has ever repealed one.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

Transporting coal by rail

Fossil fuel interests, led by the Koch Brothers and the organizations they fund, are carrying on a campaign of disinformation to spread doubt about renewable energy and its potential to create a clean, sustainable energy future for America.

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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  • Mickey Askins

    The Koch brothers are subversives who fund subversive groups and agendas. Let me see where that is good for America, no where.

    • Banned by Bob

      Subversives? What does that mean? That they fund things and ideas you disagree with?

      • sault

        No, that they fund groups that deliberately LIE to the American Public about climate and environmental issues in order to increase their bottom line. They also plow hundreds of millions of dollars into our elections, drowning out the free speech of 99% of the population and making our democracy dysfunctional. Yes, they are subverting our democratic institutions.

        • Banned by Bob

          Lie is a strong word. Feel free to backup your assertions.

          Or you can just yell louder; your choice.

      • Mickey Askins

        Subversive:noun a person who adopts subversive principles or policies.

        • Banned by Bob

          I guess you didn’t learn in sixth grade that you don’t define a word using that same word.

          • Randall Mathews

            Well three months late, no point putting anything here for bob, but surely he’s a master at fundamentally missing the point. That’s legal training that’ll do that, moral training is more useful here.

  • Banned by Bob

    We should definitely take Journalist Negin’s opinions vs that of Nuclear Engineer’s Koch.

    Here’s another noted blowhard Harry Reid and his hypocrisy over using the Kochs as a punching bag.

    And we wonder why the quality of dialogue has deteriorated in this country.

    • Bob_Wallace

      So you defend the fossil fuel industry.

      Why am I not surprised?

      • Banned by Bob

        Actually, my point is that I am in favor of integrity of debate. Mindless name calling of principled entrepreneurs like Charles and David Koch doesn’t clear my bar, and it is typical of Negin’s hysterical approach.

        And to be clear, I’m happy to be associated with all American fuels, including fossil fuels. May the best energy sources win in the market. I know that you would rather change the point of my post, so let me leave no doubt on that point.

        • just_jim

          What principle do the Koch brothers have, except support whatever benefits the Koch brothers?

          And as for entrepreneurs, it’s a lot easier to be an “entrepreneur” if your daddy wills you the company.

          • Banned by Bob

            Plenty of principles, including a belief in the power of free markets and principled entrepreneurship. You could learn about them if you read Charles’ book, but it wouldn’t fit your talking points.

            They took over the company in 1968 and have generated returns significantly better than the S&P since then. Meanwhile, plenty of companies have come and gone since then. So much for your childish “daddy” comment. I’ll bet on their track record vs yours.

          • brian

            is it still a free market if the incredibly wealthy and privileged use their wealth and power to spread misinformation about the energy sector? I think not.

          • Banned by Bob

            Feel free to document said misinformation.

            Please note that advocates of Renewables often put forth the argument that Renewables have caused electricity prices to fall when most of the credit goes to much lower natural gas prices.

          • Matthew

            Hey banned, did you see the article that came out today on clean tech about Germany getting 75% of their energy from renewables a couple days ago? During that time frame the cost of electricity went down a great deal. Can you help me understand the coorelation there if it isn’t from renewables?

          • Banned by Bob

            The major driver for the fall in the cost of power in Europe and Germany specifically are 1) lower demand due to weak economic activity and 2) lower oil prices, which drive a lower Russian gas price as it is indexed to oil. It also depends where one measures from, as 2008 was the recent peak in oil pricing.

          • sault

            “…lower oil prices, which drive a lower Russian gas price as it is indexed to oil.”


          • Banned by Bob

            Gee, you posted an article about Euro gas prices that makes absolutely no mention of how Russian prices are set.

            I’ve worked with these contracts and know how they work.

            I think that I’ll believe me instead of you.

          • Peter Gray

            We don’t need to re-document that. They’ve already cataloged their lies on their Heartland Institute site. Instead of only reading the Kochs’ own version of reality, why not check out Merchants of Doubt as well. That’s thoroughly documented, and you can see the parallels with the tobacco industry, with which the fossil fuels industries now, finally and justly, share the lowest rungs of public respect.

            Believing that oligopolists are principled and in favor of free markets just because they say so is a lot like believing Fox News because of its “fair and balanced” slogan, or believing some ancient book is the Word of God, because, hey! it says so right inside. But apparently you’re on board with all three, so no contrary evidence is likely to get through.

          • Banned by Bob

            Just for grins, why don’t you take apart the most egregious “lies” for our benefit. It will be good practice.

            Or you can just call them lies.

          • Peter Gray
          • Banned by Bob

            Hard hitting journalism from the HuffPo. Using paid actors in an ad.

            Some pretty powerful and convincing arguments you have there.

            It’s ok to just admit that you don’t like capitalists like the Kochs.

          • Peter Gray

            You cherry-pick and distort 2 out of a half-dozen items, ignoring the Koch-funded distortions and lies about renewables, and their sleazy, dishonest ad campaign. Typical young-earth creationist reasoning.

            It’s okay to admit you don’t like the scientific method.

          • just_jim

            You have misspelled ‘Crony Capitalism’ as ‘free markets’.

            As for principled entrepreneurship, I’ll grant them the ‘principle’ that anything that helps them is good, and anything that helps others is bad, otherwise, not so much.

            At the same time they are fighting against solar, they have not only accepted, but lobbied for a ‘black liquor’ tax credit, a credit that was meant to promote renewable energy use by the transportation sector, but was perverted by lobbyists to give tax credits to fixed energy sources partial fueled by fossil fuel.

            As for their track record vs mine, their track record is successfully lobbying the government for special privilege to benefit themselves at the expense of the general public. I’ll admit that I don’t have that track record.

          • Banned by Bob

            They didn’t lobby for the Black Liquor credit, which is another fault (“oops, unintended consequence”) of poorly written environmental laws. But they did take the credit as it was legally made available to them.

            GE and ADM are your crony capitalists who lobby to protect their businesses. You’re looking in the wrong place, pal. But your arguments do fit with Harry Reid’s talking points, so you have that going for you.

          • sault

            The market isn’t “free” if you exclude hundreds of billions of dollars in the external costs of fossil fuels due to pollution and climate change. The Kochs are merely lying to the public to confuse them about the true amount of these costs so they can keep selling a grossly artificially cheap product and keep the competition from cleaner alternatives down. Free market my foot!

    • sault

      Two wrongs don’t make a right. It’s a sad state of affairs that the Democrats have to rely on progressive billionaires donating money to keep from completely being steamrolled by the likes of the Koch Brothers, Donors Trust, etc. Both sides do it, but you have to admit that the conservatives do it way more with shadowy / anonymous political spending, Super PACs, Astroturf groups, and the propaganda arm of the Republican Party posing as a news network (a.k.a. Rupert Murdoch’s Fox “News”). It is no coincidence that the 5 conservatives on the Supreme Court have basically paved the way for this gutting of our campaign finance laws to take place either.

      • Banned by Bob

        Dude, you’re on a roll. Extra points for throwing Fox News in. But you did miss the chance for a George Bush reference.

  • Ross

    Al Gore will be happy to see the cost of disinformation about the effects of burning fossil fuels increasing.

  • JamesWimberley

    Has anybody done an international comparison of trust in oil companies? My intuition is that this would generally be more positive outside the US, as the companies usually keep a low public profile on climate change and lobby discreetly in the corridors of power. The noisy denialist activism of the Kochs, and of the front men (formerly?) funded by Exxon-Mobil, is building a citizen backlash in the USA. The fossil industries are losing their “social license to operate” in the USA much faster than anyone could have predicted five years ago. It’s strong meat when newspapers call out campaign claims as lies.

    • Shiggity

      It’s amazing how fast things happen. Coal went from being our #1 power source to practically obsolete in 10 years.

      • jeffhre

        Though it doesn’t now employ nearly as many as it has been perceived to, it is still our number 3 power source.

        • Bob_Wallace

          I just mined those numbers a couple hours ago –

          The National Solar Jobs Census 2013 found that the U.S. solar industry employed 142,698 Americans as of November 2013.

          The US wind industry employees 50,500 people.

          The average number of employees in U.S. coal mines decreased 1.9 percent to 89,838 employees.

          And that’s with about 40% of our electricity coming from coal and only 5% or so coming from wind and solar. Replace coal with wind and solar and for every coal job lost and about 16 jobs are created in the wind and solar industries.

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