Don’t get suckered into joining the choir
Hitting the right notes, but singing the wrong song
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Jobs. Enlarging the tax base. Market access. Energy choice. Fair compensation. Options. Make money. These words and phrases represent ideas or concepts that are attractive to Republicans, conservatives, limited-government and free-market supporters, and even fiscally minded Democrats—which is exactly why they are being used to get buy-in from these groups for something that is 180 degrees from their core values. This approach, I believe, is part of an organized plan by the left to hoodwink the right.
If supporters of renewable energy, such as wind and solar, said it was heavily subsidized on both the state and federal level, had an artificial market created by government mandates, would help mitigate global warming, was the recipient of taxpayer dollars through Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill that funded projects like Solyndra, and was marred by cronyism, the right would run. Instead the wily tactics have won over a few Republicans with strong conservative résumés. Those sell-outs are working hard to bring their peers into the fold.
Let this be a warning. While they may be hitting the right notes, they are singing the wrong song.
I first became aware of this scheme back in July—then, I thought it was just an anomaly. The Georgia Tea Party Patriots, cofounded by Debbie Dooley, partnered with the Sierra Club in support of increased solar in the state. When I talked to her for a column I wrote addressing it, she told me it was all about choice. With a sneer, she called the utility company “a monopoly” and explained that solar would give them competition while consumers would get options. Recently Dooley found her way on to Fox News, where she touted the Green Tea Coalition and claimed to be battling “big energy.”
In addition to Dooley, the Green Tea Coalition’s launch featured three other organizers:
- Shane Owl-Greason—Co-founder of Georgia Solar Utilities, a solar energy company that will benefit from activities of the Coalition.
- David Blackman—Environmental activist since graduation from college. He said he was connected to the Citizen’s Climate Lobby—an organization founded after assistance from former vice-president Al Gore.
- Seth Gunning—Beyond Coal organizer for the Georgia Sierra Club. Another environmental activist since graduation from college.
But, Dooley is the one getting the news coverage because she’s from the right. The media loves that they have a convert, and she loves the attention.
So, the Georgia story was when I first became aware of this type of discordance. But it is not as unique as I first thought.
In Texas, the poser is Jeff Clark, who served as a member of the advance staff for the campaign of George W. Bush and was later appointed by Bush to co-chair the U.S. Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council. At an October 16 panel discussion on the future of wind power in Texas, hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation and attended primarily by small government proponents, Clark touted his Republican bona fides, as he argued that wind energy promoted economic activity. According to a report from my friend and mentor Robert Bradley, who was also a panelist, Clark made a case for wind power by “providing all the statistics of how his industry had rescued poor rural areas in the state by providing income to struggling farmers and enlarging the tax base.”
While most true conservatives are opposed to government subsidies, Clark intoned the two-wrongs-make-a-right view by citing that since all forms of energy have received or do receive government subsidies, wind should, too. However, as Bradley points out: “this begs the question of how much, and whether subsidies for one energy source are gravy and for another are meat-and-potatoes.”
Clark’s most unique appeal to the conservatives in the room came when he implied that God is on the side of wind power: “The Bible tells us to wisely use our resources and to conserve.”
The biggest shill yet can be found in Arizona in the form of former Republican Congressman Barry Goldwater Jr. An article from the left-leaning Mother Jones magazine says: “His support for solar comes from conservative free-market principles rooted in ‘creating choice for the American consumer.’” Goldwater, son of five-term Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, whose name is synonymous with conservatism in America, is chairman of the advocacy group: TUSK (short for Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed). Tusk’s logo is a red, white, blue elephant. (Note: the elephant is the symbol of the Republican Party. Coincidence? I don’t think so.)
Arizona’s specific battle is over net-metering—which the Mother Jones story on Goldwater describes as “a policy that allows homes and businesses with their own solar power systems to send excess energy they generate back to the grid and make money off it.” This sounds like an appealing capitalistic venture that free-market conservatives would support. And they would, if the owners of those solar panels bought them with their own hard-earned money and when they “make money off it,” the rate the panel owners received was a reasonable wholesale rate—not the current retail.
In fact, as even the New York Times acknowledges: the economics of rooftop solar “depend on government incentives or mandates.” But you won’t find that in Goldwater’s support of solar. Instead he’s trying to appeal to his fellow Republicans by talking about choice, competition, and making money—despite the fact that those who can afford the upfront costs of rooftop solar installation are doing so because of the state and federal taxpayer dollars that subsidize the purchase and installation. The entire rate-paying base must pick the grid (and other maintenance) costs for the growing percentage of solar users—as I’ve previously covered.
One story is an anomaly; two, a coincidence; three, a trend.
Why the push to deceive and convert those whose small government and fiscally conservative principles are in opposition to subsidies and cronyism found in green energy? Because the production tax credit for the wind energy industry ends on December 31, and like solar, it is dependent on the government largess. With D.C. focused on debt and spending, those subsidies—which barely received a one-year-extension as a part of last December’s fiscal cliff deal—are a likely place to cut. After the Republican’s embarrassing fumble on the Continuing Resolution and Debt Ceiling deals—they should be looking at cutting or they should be looking at switching parties.
In Arizona, the all-Republican Corporation Commission is considering changes in the net-metering policy that would remove the favored treatment solar users receive—with a decision expected in November. For solar to survive, rank-and-file Republicans must be won over to the solar-subsidy side. If that happens, the Commissioners might fear an election upset and, therefore, not change the policy that allows those with solar power systems to “make money off it.”
In Georgia, the vote has already taken place. The Georgia Public Service Commission—with Republican support—voted to add solar to Georgia’s electricity generation. The Georgia victory makes the Arizona fight to persuade Republicans imperative.
These are just three stories of which I am aware. If my postulation that there is an organized effort to convince conservatives to support subsidies is correct, there are likely—or will be—similar stories in other states.
If you hear a free-market sounding pitch for green energy that includes the words or phrases listed in the opening—beware! It is probably part of the left’s plan.
Borrowing from Bradley’s report on the future-of-wind-power panel, I’ve developed a series of simple questions Republicans, conservatives, limited-government and free-market supporters, and fiscally minded Democrats should ask themselves when considering appropriate energy policy:
- Should energy policy be based on government intervention or voluntary transactions between buyer and seller?
- Can an intellectual case be made—without climate alarmism—for renewables, such as solar and wind, knowing that we do not have the perceived 1970s’ energy shortage and the pollution of the 1970s has been cleaned up?
- In the worst economic crisis of most of our lifetimes, should we be subsidizing energy generation that is inefficient, ineffective, and uneconomical?
- Should we be using more-economical energy or less-economical energy?
- Should we support: a polluted tax code and government mandates favoring one energy resource over another? the use of taxpayer dollars subsidizing favored energy sources? the transfer of wealth from average citizens to supporters of President Obama, Harry Reid, and other high-ranking Democrats, through green-energy crony-corruption schemes such as Solyndra and the more than 50 other green-energy projects funded through the 2009 Obama stimulus bill that have already gone bankrupt or are circling the drain? and/or the limited-energy strategy of climate alarmists such as Al Gore and President Obama?
- When countries with the best human health and the most material wealth are those with the highest energy consumption, why does the Obama administration continue to push for reduced energy consumption, increased energy costs, and intermittent energy availability?
When a so-called conservative Republican talks green energy and sounds like he or she is hitting the right notes, be careful. It’s probably the wrong song. Don’t get suckered into joining the choir.