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 Fall 2013

[GOT SCIENCE?]

A Victory for Clean Energy—and Facts

UCS deals a blow to the fossil fuel lobby.

By Dave Anderson

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group funded by powerful fossil fuel interests including ExxonMobil and the Koch brothers, has made a bad habit of giving these funders a role in drafting “model legislation” that state lawmakers then introduce in their local legislatures—without any mention of the corporations’ involvement. According to ALEC’s guiding principles on energy policy, “Global climate change is inevitable.” It is true that some global warming is now inevitable, thanks in part to climate contrarian groups like ALEC that have long opposed attempts to reduce carbon emissions.

This year ALEC rolled out the ironically named Electricity Freedom Act, which was aimed at repealing renewable electricity standards (RES)—state laws that require utilities to obtain a certain percentage of their electricity from clean energy sources such as the wind and sun. ALEC succeeded in getting its legislation introduced in about a dozen states, and in drawing attention from the Wall Street Journal, which ran a headline declaring, “States Cooling to Renewable Energy.” But ALEC ultimately failed to change the fact that no state, once it has passed an RES, has ever repealed one. What went wrong?

UCS members and other clean energy advocates flooded legislators’ offices with messages of support for their state’s RES, and a new UCS analysis of these highly effective policies (How Renewable Electricity Standards Deliver Economic Benefits) showed that utilities are meeting their renewable energy requirements at little or no cost to consumers. And when ALEC’s representatives spouted misleading claims about renewable energy, such as the ALEC-affiliated senator from Ohio who likened his state’s renewable energy standards to “Stalin’s five-year plan,” UCS set the record straight with facts: wind and solar energy have brought thousands of jobs to the Buckeye State. In Minnesota, not only did ALEC’s bill to repeal the state’s RES go nowhere, but lawmakers even voted to strengthen the RES by adding a new solar requirement.

ALEC wasted little time licking its wounds, instead gathering many of its corporate sponsors and member politicians in Chicago over the summer to celebrate its fortieth birthday and consider another round of anti-RES legislation (which, at press time, would again target Ohio). UCS is ready to prescribe a new dose of clean energy facts to inoculate against ALEC’s fossil fuel fiction.

Dave Anderson is an outreach coordinator in the UCS Climate and Energy Program.