The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is holding their spring task force summit today in Savannah, Georgia. A peek inside the day’s agenda makes it crystal clear that despite a rash of high profile membership defections—including most recently oil giant BP—and mounting pressure to stop misrepresenting climate science and undermining clean energy policies, deceit and disinformation is still the currency in which ALEC trades.
A wolf in sheep’s clothing
Take, for example, model legislation that members of ALEC’s Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force are considering for endorsement. Entitled, “Act Providing Incentives for Carbon Reduction Investments,” this proposed policy might make you think that ALEC is changing its tune with respect to climate denial. However, closer examination reveals that this bill is yet another thinly veiled attempt to weaken the state-level renewable electricity standards (RES).
State RES policies have been a driving force behind the remarkable growth that wind, solar, and other renewable energy resources have experienced in the last decade. State experience shows that the RES is cost effective and delivers significant economic and environmental benefits. And for years, ALEC has been trying to discredit renewable energy and roll back RES policies.
In its latest attempt, ALEC is seeking to expand the eligibility criteria for complying with state RES policies to include non-renewable energy technologies such as natural gas, investments in electric vehicle infrastructure, carbon sequestration, and energy storage. To be sure, some of these technologies deserve thoughtful consideration of policies to truly foster their development. However, that is not what is going on here.
By simply cramming these technologies into existing RES policies, all that is achieved is, at best, a zero sum game in which no additional carbon emission reductions are achieved. At its worst, where natural gas deployment displaces renewable energy development, carbon emissions increase along with the consumer and environmental risks of over-reliance on natural gas.
Perhaps even more damning in revealing ALEC’s true intent here is the provision in their model legislation that would cap investments at one percent of a utility’s annual revenue requirement. Most state RES policies already have sensible protections in place to keep compliance costs from unduly harming consumers. But this kind of one-sided provision (e.g., accounting for just the costs and not the benefits in its assessment) would be one of the most restrictive nationwide, and would do nothing more than stifle investments in renewable energy technologies.
If at first you don’t succeed…
ALEC and their fossil-fuel funded allies have a very long history of failure in their attempts to roll back renewable energy and climate policy. Despite its recent hollow ‘victory’ in repealing the Kansas RES—the state’s 20 percent by 2020 RES has already been achieved and Kansas is now a national leader in wind development—far more often than not, ALEC’s efforts have come up short.
This hasn’t stopped ALEC in the past, and very clearly isn’t going to deter them now. Fortunately, though, in most states policy makers and citizens are choosing clean energy facts over the fossil fuel fiction that ALEC and their allies are selling. So long as that continues, ALEC’s “Act Providing Incentives for Carbon Reduction Investments” will end up where it belongs—in the trash heap of deceptive policy ideas—and the nation will continue its march toward a clean energy future.