An effort to stomp out state renewable energy mandates across the country has roots in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). As reported by The Washington Post, the Heartland Institute wrote the bill, had it passed through ALEC, and is now targeting the 29 states and the District of Columbia, which have passed renewable energy requirements in some form.
Renewable energy not only produces cleaner energy, it grows the local job base and allows state's to diversify their supply and not be held hostage to the fossil fuel industry. Green energy jobs are a robust sector of the economy employing some 175,000 Americans. But some of ALEC's most powerful members are deeply rooted in the "drill, frack, burn" method of energy supply. ALEC is a corporate bill mill that puts corporate lobbyists and state legislators together behind closed doors to vote on cookie-cutter legislation that is then introduced in statehouses across the nation. ALEC's membership includes fossil fuel companies, utility companies, and energy trade groups in the United States including Chevron, BP, Peabody Energy, Duke Energy, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, and only a handful of green energy firms.
For the Heartland Institute, the corporate purse strings lead back to ALEC private sector board members Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries, whose massive holdings include oil refineries. All three are ALEC private sector members.
Heartland Goes to Bat For Fossil Fuels, Again and Again
The Electricity Freedom Act was approved by ALEC in July 2012 in its Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force and would repeal standards in states that require that utilities get a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable sources.
As CMD has reported, the Heartland Institute has been on an aggressive campaign to deny that fossil fuels pose a threat to our environment, economy and the lives of people around the world. It was publicly shamed and lost a sizable chunk of its funding when it paid for billboards comparing those concerned about climate change to "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski, serial killer Charles Manson, and Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. But that didn't deter Heartland.
Heartland's mission is not a solo one -- the group is funded by some of the nation's biggest polluters. Heartland received $736,500 from Exxon Mobil between 1998 and 2006, according to its spokesman, Jim Lakely, and $25,000 in 2011 from foundations affiliated with the oil billionaire Koch brothers. While The Washington Post reported Lakely saying that the Koch donation was "earmarked for our work on health care policy, not energy or environment policy," documents leaked from Heartland in February contain a "Climate Strategy" memo which notes the Koch donation under a subhead on "climate project fundraising." Heartland contests the veracity of the memo.
ALEC Cites Koch and ALEC-Linked Study to Back Claims on Renewables
To back the ALEC bill's claims that renewable energy is "a tax on consumers," ALEC points to an economic analysis co-published by Suffolk University's Beacon Hill Institute and the State Policy Network (SPN). But this analysis was hardly independent. Both groups have received donations from foundations funded by the Koch brothers. SPN was a "Chairman" level sponsor of ALEC's 2011 Annual Conference and ALEC is an Associate Member of SPN.
The one-two punch of an industry backed bill plus an industry backed study is a classic one. "You push the legislation to state legislators and then you fund reports to support the argument and convince state lawmakers," Gabe Elsner, co-director of the public watchdog group Checks and Balances Project told the Washington Post, "and all without any transparency or disclosure about the sources of this funding."
This piece has been updated to reflect that the Heartland Institute contests the veracity of the "Climate Strategy" memo.