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article imageOp-Ed: ALEC and the Koch brothers fight solar energy with surcharges

By Justin King     Apr 21, 2014 in Politics
Citizens across the U.S. are attempting to break free of the fossil fuel industry and do what state and federal governments are unwilling to do by installing solar panels. They now face a backlash from politicians and the energy companies they back.
Oklahoma’s House passed a bill last week that would allow those who generate their own energy to be charged by electric companies. The bill received almost no debate, and analysts expect Governor Mary Fallin to sign the bill into law. Incidentally, Fallin has taken in over $26,000 from the energy and natural resource sector in campaign contributions. The amount of the surcharge that was authorized by the bill has not yet been determined. Arizona companies were seeking a $50 surcharge recently.
The stated reason to levy a penalty on those who are generating their own electricity is a convoluted argument involving the solar panel owners using the infrastructure of the electricity companies. This is true, solar panel owners do use the infrastructure. The key part that is left out of that reasoning is that solar panel owners use it to deliver excess solar energy to the grid so the company can sell it to other consumers. So the use of the infrastructure benefits the electric company. This energy is generated during peak use daytime hours when demand is highest. Solar panel owners, in essence, sell electricity back to the company through a policy known as net metering.
Solar panels are becoming hot items in a tech savvy black market that is active around the world.
Solar panels are becoming hot items in a tech savvy black market that is active around the world.
Wikipedia--Creative Commons
Expressing an idea that could be extended to all levels of the current US government, Milton Friedman once said
If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there'd be a shortage of sand.
In a statement about Oklahoma’s bill, Distributed Wind Energy Association president Mike Bergey said
The truly ironic thing is that net metering, a standard policy in 42 states, saves utility administration costs and, because so little small wind and solar capacity is installed in Oklahoma, implementing SB 1456 through the Corporation Commission would cost ratepayers and taxpayers $5 for every $1 that it could theoretically save the utility.
Once again taxpayers end up paying extra to give big business a break as the government helps enforce a monopoly. The fight against net metering is led by environmentalists’ worst nightmares. The deep pockets of the infamous Koch brothers have backed several attacks on the policy, and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is at the forefront of the fight against net metering.
Solar panels at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.
Solar panels at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.
U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nadine Y. Barclay
In what should come as no surprise, ALEC awarded Fallin with their highest honor, the Thomas Jefferson freedom award. The award is reportedly
given annually to a current or former public official who has established an exemplary record of advancing the fundamental Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism and individual liberty as a nationally recognized leader.
In light of the Fallin’s expected actions, the synopsis of the award seems almost sarcastic. She is advancing free markets by helping to protect the monopoly of the energy companies and the fossil fuel suppliers backing them. An amazing champion of limited government would certainly authorize a company to charge a person for not using their product. She is definitely going to protect the individual liberty of people by making sure they are penalized for what they do on their own land.
Of course, one couldn’t expect much less from the recipient of an award given by an organization describes as
a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills.
Cash in $100 bills.
Cash in $100 bills.
Photo by Philip Taylor (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Energy companies, and the fossil fuel magnates that back them, have had their sights set on discouraging rooftop solar panels since at least last year, when an industry study referred to the devices as “the largest near-term threat” to the current business model.
Big energy supporters have even gone as far as taking people to court and attempting to force them to hook their homes up to the electrical grid. After a woman in Florida discussed her lifestyle of living off the grid, she was visited by a government officer who attempted to evict her because she wasn’t using state-sanctioned electric and water utilities.
There are examples from America’s history where people were forced to pay for services they never used in order to stop harassment by armed thugs intent on exerting control over a geographic area. It was called “protection money,” and was collected by the various organized crime families. But even in Joe Bonanno’s wildest dreams he certainly never imagined that the day would come when governors and lawmakers would act as the front man to help an organization muscle a woman out of her home for not paying tribute.
The only ray of sunshine in the battle over solar energy is that in 2013, a rooftop solar energy system was installed every four minutes. The endless money that backs up the fossil fuel lobby in government offices around the country can do little to stem the tide of Americans that are realizing if they want clean and cheap energy, they will have to provide it themselves.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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