Regular CleanTechnica readers tend to think alike on many important topics. The world is getting warmer. Unless humans figure out ways to drastically reduce or eliminate carbon dioxide emissions, life as we know it on Earth will come to an end not in a million years, not in 10,000 years, but in a few centuries, maybe less. Renewable energy is critical to keeping the world habitable.
We tend to accept all of the above as true, so it comes as a shock to find there are lots of people who think what we believe is unadulterated Grade A codswallop. I came across two articles recently — one from the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the other from New American — that savage renewable energy as something only fools and communists are in favor of. Each suggests any right-thinking US citizen can see right through the web of lies and deceit that surrounds the topic of renewable energy. Here’s a sampling of what they have to say.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation View
TPPI says it has studied renewable energy and come to some conclusions. “The research exposed serious problems. We found that the current process for granting tax abatements in Texas hides negotiations from public view, that attempts at California-style policies were costly and ineffective, and that the Texas wind power story wasn’t one of markets and innovations, but of government favoritism, special deals benefiting big corporations, and hidden costs.”
TPPF sent staffer Bill Peacock and several other people out on the road to speak to local people in Texas about renewable energy and got an earful. In Comanche, Texas, residents “had their way of life upended when negotiations behind closed doors at the county courthouse led to a tax abatement for a wind farm. Residents didn’t know about the deal until trucks carrying cement and giant blades started traveling down their quiet country roads.
“Their experiences showed the human cost of subsidizing wind energy, from lost sleep and anxiety to lack of faith in their governing institutions — often unconsidered by pro-subsidy activists. They felt ostracized by local officials — their own neighbors — and corporate representatives who seemed to have a greater voice in their communities than they did.”
So who is TPPF? Perhaps the oft repeated code phrases in their diatribe will give you a clue. “We, at the Foundation, firmly believe that governments shouldn’t pick winners and losers (emphasis added) and certainly shouldn’t do so at the expense of reliable power (emphasis added).
Yup, you’re right. Charles and David Koch, the evil minions behind the Heritage Foundation, the Heartland Institute, and dozens of other pressure groups, are the primary supporters of the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Which means you, the taxpayers, are helping fund their disinformation campaign.
SourceWatch references a November 2013 report by Progress Texas and the Center for Media and Democracy which found over the past few years TPPF “has received at least $3,314,591 from the billionaire Koch brothers or the organizations they support.”
The New American View
The New American website has this tagline in its logo: “That freedom shall not perish.” Recognize those words? They are a twist on the last phrase of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: “That government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Freedom is big deal with
conservative reactionary strategists who prefer arguments that can fit easily on bumper stickers: Freedom isn’t free. The Freedom Caucus. Freedom fries.
It’s hard to say you are against freedom. Just wrap yourself up in the American flag, prattle on about “freedom” and hope people don’t look behind the message to discover who is delivering it.
The city of Georgetown, Texas has been a renewable energy leader and is on a mission to become one of the first US cities to be powered entirely by electricity from wind and solar. Unlike most cities, it owns and operates its own utility company. Tired of being whipsawed by fluctuating prices for natural gas to run is generating station, it began exploring more stable options in 2014. It found that wind and solar operators were willing to lock in energy prices for 20 to 25 years. The best natural gas suppliers would offer was a 7-year price guarantee.
So Georgetown agreed to long term deals with several wind and solar companies. It also has led the way toward generating its own solar energy by emulating a program pioneered by Burlington, Vermont that pays local residents to lease space on their rooftops for the installation of solar panels.
New American reports that lower prices for natural gas in 2018 mean Georgetown residents have paid $6.8 million more for their “green” electricity than they would have if the local generating plant was still in operation. How does it know that? Bill Peacock from TPPF told them.
“The city claims that this is just one of the challenges with doing business in an energy market and could have happened with any contract they had,” Peacock said. “That’s not the case, because what they did was bought more electricity than they could use almost any day of the year…. They knew they would have to buy this and sell it, and that’s not the way most people work. It’s more evidence that they are wanting to portray themselves as a green city rather than doing something for their consumers.”
The story by New American packs in any number of dog whistle words and phrases designed to make a gun totin’, red meat eatin’ Texan’s blood boil. Here is the lead paragraph from its story. “Georgetown, Texas, a city featured in Al Gore’s 2017 science fiction film An Inconvenient Sequel because of its commitment to “green” energy, is now facing a serious financial shortfall due to those policies. Gore, a carbon-credit entrepreneur and failed presidential candidate, copiously praised the city, saying, “I think Georgetown is already a trailblazer.”
It then attacks Mayor Dale Ross, claiming all this green energy palaver is just a campaign stunt. “It’s also an attention-grabber for Ross. At a town hall hosted by socialist Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), which also included incoming socialist Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ross doubled down on his claim that “green” energy not only saves the planet but saves money as well.”
“We’re at a tipping point right now,” Ross said. “Coal cannot compete with wind and solar on cost. I think we have a duty and obligation to leave the world better than we found it. We can do that. You just have to have bold, visionary leaders who we can elect — with ya’ll’s help.”
The writer notes, “The line received a deafening roar from the environmentalist crowd. But while the mayor receives adulation from Al Gore and environmentalists worldwide, the taxpayers of the city are on the hook for an additional $7 million in energy costs because of short-sighted, attention-grabbing ‘green’ policies.”
So who is behind New American? Google wasn’t much help with that question, but its website does have one tab for what it calls the Freedom Index which it describes as follows: “The Freedom Index: A Congressional Scorecard Based on the U.S. Constitution rates congressmen based on their adherence to constitutional principles of limited government, fiscal responsibility, national sovereignty, and a traditional foreign policy of avoiding foreign entanglements.” Putting aside the bad grammar, the list includes all the tried and true catch phrases the Koch Brothers have been pushing for the past 50 years. Coincidence? Draw your own conclusions.
A Comment On Comments
Comments on that article are revealing. Here’s a few from a fellow known as Long. “Wind farms and solar — both need to have backup systems driven by fossil fuels. I hope to see that profit in my ExxonMobil quarterly statements! Idiots have fallen for The Great Global Warming Con, also known as The New Lie by the Old Communists.”
Long then goes on to demonstrate his lack of erudition with this statement: “And of course you can’t build wind farms in Narragansett Bay, where it might block The Kennedys’ view. Typical limousine liberals… vermin all!” (Note: Narragansett Bay is a long way from Cape Cod.) His advice? “Frack, baby, frack.” Another equally thoughtful comment comes from Charles, who says, “the greenies are just commies in disquis.”
Divide and conquer. The Koch Brothers and their minions have done a marvelous job of crafting a message that appeals to our innate prejudices. Renewable energy advocates are bent on stealing our freedom while they line their pockets with government grants. A bunch of wobbly kneed treehuggers swilling chablis around the fondue pot, that’s all we are. It’s surprising so few people recognize that democracy itself is a form of socialism.
In truth, the “government favoritism, special deals benefiting big corporations, and hidden costs,” the TPPF complains about are all on the part of fossil fuel interests. They have done a brilliant job of hiding their own evil deeds by wrapping themselves in the flag, screaming about liberty, and accusing the opposition of doing the same things they do themselves.
What we often overlook is how the fossil fuel industry has declared war on sanity to protect itself from competition. Under the guise of deploring government handouts, it gorges itself on special treatment from legislators and regulators to secure an unfair advantage at every opportunity. It is little more than a criminal conspiracy that has raised corruption to such a high art that it now virtually owns the entire United States government as well as several state governments.
Fortunately the economic imperatives of renewable energy are demolishing the bottom line for fossil fuel companies but we much never forget there are powerful forces who would happily destroy the very Earth that sustains us for the sake of profits. Only when the current capitalist model is revamped to include social costs will there truly be a level playing field for all sectors of the energy market.