The grim fight for renewable energy standards, in the voting booth and behind closed doors

Nov 5, 2012 Posted by

Grist

By Philip Bump

 

Last week, we somewhat pessimistically suggested that President Clinton’s advocacy for Michigan’s renewable energy ballot measure wouldn’t be enough to get it across the finish line. And, sure enough, a new poll from Public Policy Polling suggests that Prop 3, which would require 25 percent of electricity be renewable by 2025, is going to lose, 31 percent to 62 percent. PPP broke the data down by party:

 


Public Policy Polling

 

To which we say: oy.

The likely defeat of Michigan’s bolstered renewable energy standard (RES) is bad for renewable energy, but at least it’s being looked in the eye while it’s killed. In other states, renewable standards are getting knifed in the back, thanks in large part to the ongoing, ceaseless efforts of ALEC, the charming conservative policy organization that brought us “Stand Your Ground” laws.

Back in April, we shared how ALEC (American League of Evil Corporations, or something like that) hopes to reverse course on renewable energy standards. Today, Midwest Energy News has an update.

ALEC officially adopted its stance against renewable electricity standards at an Oct. 18 meeting of state legislator members. Renewable standards require utilities to generate a certain percentage of power from renewable sources, usually phased in over several years.

The legislation ALEC is encouraging members introduce is called the Electricity Freedom Act [PDF]. The organization provided a copy of the model legislation to Midwest Energy News.

The bill says that wind and solar power are expensive and unreliable, and that forcing utilities to use renewables threatens electric grid reliability and will increase the cost of doing business through rate increases or higher taxes.

“What renewable energy mandates do is force electric utilities, and thus ratepayers, to integrate only a politically preferred choice of electricity generation, thus limiting choices,” Todd Wynn, ALEC’s energy, environment and agriculture task force director, said in an interview.

The proposal was written by an ALEC task force funded and comprised of representatives from major oil, gas and power companies, including BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Koch, and Shell.

Consider that quote. “[F]orce electric utilities, and thus ratepayers, to integrate only a politically preferred choice of electricity generation, thus limiting choices.” Yes, requiring that utilities include wind and solar in the mix of generation limits choice. Blocking an RES so that utilities only generate power from fossil fuels keeps us from having “only a politically preferred choice of electricity generation.” Beggars belief.

 


 

The way ALEC hopes to advance the legislation relies on its organizational structure. It counts over 2,000 legislative members, frequently conservative state legislators who are encouraged to use ALEC’s proposed legislation to draft their own bills. Often, the bills are introduced verbatim. This plays to ALEC’s strength: keeping its anti-renewable (and anti-everything-else-that-is-good-and-proper) agenda moving slowly through the often-opaque systems of state politics.

Tomorrow, Michigan voters will likely reject a stronger RES, thanks to a fairly sketchy campaign from opponents. But at least it will happen in the bright sunlight.

ALEC hates sunlight. Obviously.

We welcome your comments!