One ought never to turn one’s back on a threatened danger and try to run away from it. If you do that, you will double the danger. But if you meet it promptly and without flinching, you will reduce the danger by half.
— Sir Winston Churchill
The storm clouds of war are starting to gather over solar policy. We are seeing the early skirmishes going on already on both the national and state levels. But this is only the beginning — and as Winston Churchill admonished us, we can not run away because it will only embolden our enemies. We must join the battle without flinching and meet it before it gets out of hand. There were a few major skirmishes in the last couple of weeks that have me immensely concerned, which is why I take to my commentary today to — plead, beg, demand — that those of you who aren’t already involved in this fight get ready — because the battle for the future of your industry is in your hands.
I first felt the chill hand of war touch my shoulder when I read this report by Greentech Media discussing the latest funding bill for the Department of Energy will be cut 4% overall and a whopping 17% in the areas of renewable energy, including, of course, solar. The article states:
Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), who chairs the subcommittee, said in a statement that the cuts would be applied to “research and development which is closest to deployment.”
However, plenty of mature technologies received increased funding, including an extra $207 million for the Fossil Energy program and no cuts for nuclear energy. Yucca Mountain also received $25 million, despite the fact that Obama has closed the site.
Anyone who cares about the solar industry in general and solar policy in particular should see what the current House of Representatives are trying to do. They are trying to cut off the money that funds so much of the innovation in renewable energy. To paraphrase conservative hero Grover Norquist, they are trying to shrink the solar industry to the size where they can drown it in a bathtub. As an industry where breakthroughs are happening at a breathtaking pace, significant cuts to research could cripple the fastest growing industry in the United States during our recent recession. How in the world does this make any rational sense? It doesn’t — until you recognize who’s paying the bills for the representatives who support this bill.
But there’s an even more insidious front opening in this war that I want to bring to your attention.
Meet ALEC (the pleasant sounding, innocuous name for the American Legislative Exchange Council). Who are they? Think of them as the Legal Zoom of state-level legislation. Legislators come to ALEC with a subject they want to introduce legislation on, and ALEC will helpfully write it for them — and spread those laws across the rest of the country.
They’ve been in the news a lot lately for being behind an Arizona immigration law (currently mimicked in South Carolina and Alabama) and the Stand Your Ground law in Florida and 11 other states. But they now feel they’ve done enough in those areas — and now they’re turning their sights on the renewable energy industry.
From The Grist:
Two leading conservative political organizations say they are stepping up coordinated efforts to repeal state-level renewable energy targets.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) … says it may soon start crafting laws designed to kill or weaken state targets for renewable electricity, heating, and fuels.
Last July, Bloomberg News acquired tax documents showing that Koch Industries, Exxon Mobil, and other energy companies paid membership fees to ALEC in order to help write legislation repealing carbon pollution reduction programs in states around country.
ALEC has already attempted to write legislation preventing targets for renewable energy on the federal level. As nothing substantive has happened nationally, it seems ALEC is now preparing to take its corporate-influenced legislation to the 29 states that actually have targets in place.
Read the whole story here. It is actually worse those quotations I’ve given you would let on.
This article made my blood run cold. ALEC has been extraordinarily successful in getting laws passed around the country in the wake of the 2010 elections (known by some as the Tea Party elections), so they know how to do this effectively. With the number of state legislatures that are under the control of ALEC-friendly representatives and senators, it could spell doom for many of the renewable energy supports that have made the solar industry the fastest growing industry in the United States.
Thankfully, ALEC is making its plans clear, so we can prepare for this battle on a state-by-state basis — and believe me, this is going to be the mother of all battles. We can’t allow them to strike first.
You must hold your federal and state representatives accountable. Be evangelists for this industry everywhere you go — block parties, offices, churches. Wherever you have a chance to talk to people about the advantages of solar, do it. Urge your Facebook friends and Twitter followers to call their representatives to demand they stop this attempt to destroy your livelihood — and then after that, urge them to vote in November. Yes, it’s that important.
I’ve been called a partisan before, and it’s true. I’m a partisan for the best interests of the solar industry. I will always defend this industry when it is under attack, and this battle is just about to get more fierce. I will continue to fight the forces that would like to suck the life out of this industry by calling them out and asking all of you to help me hold them to account. We must do this — our livelihoods are at stake.
This is going to be a long war. Will you join me in this fight?