As we know, the billionaire Koch brothers and their fossil fuel allies have been waging relentless war against clean energy for years now. Yet, as this fascinating article in National Journal explains, while the Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has seen some successes at the national level in fighting clean energy, they are larging striking out in the states. Why is this the case? A few key points from the National Journal article answer that question.
- ...in statehouses nationwide—even those where Republicans are running the show—the GOP lacks the lockstep march on energy policy that is coming to define the national party. Certainly, a powerful faction working to undo the green-energy laws has swept through states over the past decade, but as in Kansas, their repeal efforts have repeatedly failed."
- "Over the past two years, at least 40 bills aimed at weakening or repealing clean-energy mandates have been introduced in legislatures across the country, according to Colorado State University's Center for the New Energy Economy. But not a single state has done away with its renewable-energy standard. Ohio came the closest when the GOP-controlled Legislature voted to freeze a mandate in May; but everywhere else, repeal bills have either been voted down or have died without getting a vote."
- And Democrats are not to blame. Repeal is being thwarted by business-focused Republicans who are sticking up for the standards because they believe they create jobs. In Kansas and North Carolina, conservative lawmakers have voted against repeal—while Republicans in Minnesota and Nevada actually cast votes to strengthen clean-energy mandates last year."
- "Why hasn't AFP had greater success in the states?...state legislators—by definition—are more local in their focus, and that puts them face-to-face with renewable-energy projects in their districts. In many parts of the country, red states included, wind and solar energy are already big business. They're not ExxonMobil or Koch Industries big, but they have lobbying muscle and business interests of their own, and that's enough to make state lawmakers think twice before going against them, even if that means standing against AFP."
- "Viewed as a slice of the nation's economy, renewable energy's share remains small...But in the state legislative districts where it's produced, renewable energy is a big enough player to wield considerable clout."
- "[AFP] isn't throwing in the towel. The Koch empire, fresh from spending $100 million on the 2014 congressional midterm elections to help deliver the Senate into the hands of Republicans eager to unwind climate rules, is now pledging another run at the states' renewable-energy standards."
- "... despite more than two years of efforts led by AFP, both the mandates and the candidates who back them are safe. What worked in Washington has not worked in the states—even those in which AFP has had great success in other policy arenas."
In sum, the National Journal article demonstrates that no matter how much money fossil fuel interests spend to attack clean energy, it's difficult for them to win those battles due to wind and solar's strong, bipartisan support across America. Of course, that doesn't mean the fossil fuel folks are going to give up, which means that cleantech must stay on top of this situation. Still, the bad news for the Koch brothers and their allies is that, with the clean energy industry growing by leaps and bounds, the political clout these industries wield will continue to grow as well. And the bottom line is that, even in "red states" like Kansas, politicians of all political stripes can clearly see which way the wind is blowing.