Aug 6, 2012
VLTP Special Report By Bob Sloan
Last Friday, the Sierra Club released a report on clean energy that was critical of the efforts of what has become known as the ALEC Koch led “Cabal.” One article on this provided a rundown of key points released in the report. These include:
- Growth in clean energy in has made it a threat, and therefore a target from “oil, coal, and gas interests.”
- Those interests have launched a coordinated and well-funded, multi-pronged assault at the federal level (e.g., Congressional attacks on the Production Tax Credits, harping on theSolyndra non-”scandal”), as well as in the states, by groups like the dirty-energy-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which “provide[s] state lawmakers with ‘model legislation’ that will carry out the goals of its corporate members.”
- Many of the self-appointed “experts” and anti-clean-energy groups “masquerade as think tanks,” (Heartland, Heritage, Mackinac and Manhattan Institute) maintaining a veneer of impartiality while being funded by oil and gas interests – people like the Koch brothers (ALEC member), etc.
- The oil and gas message is now focused on touting the benefits of fossil fuels – including a veritable fountain of cheap natural gas from hydrofracking – while constantly pushing out tired and inaccurate lines about clean energy being too expensive, unworkable because of intermittency, and the like.”
The report cites Exxon as contributing heavily to “think tanks” pumping out false science claims about renewable energy and our environment:
“Exxon (an ALEC member) has contributed more than $600,000 since 1998 to the Manhattan Institute, and approximately $676,500 since 1998 to the Heartland Institute…”
It also provides a primary reason why such contributions are helping oil and gas companies prevent clean energy efforts from taking hold – and just why our Congress seems so ineffective in legislating anything involving gas, oil and renewable energies:
“The oil and gas industries contributed to 387 — or 88 percent — of all members of the House of Representatives in the 2010 election cycle. The industry also contributed to 89 out of 100 senators. In both chambers of Congress combined, Republicans received 86 percent of all oil and gas donations.”
Seeing their name mentioned in this report on Friday, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) immediately released a response to the Sierra Club’s findings on Saturday. In their response, ALEC began by saying they support renewable energy as does many of their members…
“ALEC has state legislative members that are very supportive of the renewable energy industry. In addition, ALEC has private sector members that represent renewable energy technologies and even more private sector members that work with and supply products and services to the renewable industry as whole.”
However the next paragraph “explains” ALEC’s position on renewable energy…
“ALEC’s stance on renewable energy has been very clear. ALEC believes that free markets in energy produce more options, more energy, lower prices and less economic disruptions. Also, ALEC believes that mandates to transform the energy sector and use renewable energy sources place the government in the unfair position of choosing winners and losers, keeping alive industries that are dependent on special interest lobbying. ALEC opposes mandates and therefore opposes infighting among fuel sources. ALEC also believes that government programs designed to encourage and advance energy technologies should not reduce energy choices or supply. They should not limit the production of electricity, for example, to only politically preferable technologies.”
No denial of the involvement of the Koch brothers, or campaign contributions by them and ExxonMobil. No denial of their influences in our Congress or upon members of either house as Sierra claimed. Research over the past few years has shown that when it comes to “special interest lobbying” ALEC itself is the leader in that category.
Further down, ALEC went on to claim:
“Sloppy research, half-truths and fabrications are found throughout the Sierra Club report. The report shows the very partisan approach and, unfortunately careless, nature behind the Sierra Club’s publications. It is important to point out some the glaring errors regarding the references to ALEC and the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force within ALEC.”
These are similar claims ALEC has made regarding the very public exposure they have been receiving due to extensive research and fact checked disclosures that have been in the news over the past 18 months. In dozens of articles published by ALEC and think tanks mentioned in the Sierra Club report (and others) they have accused “leftists, Liberals and Progressives” of leading an uncalled for attack upon ALEC and the cabal. However, in each case the documentation, model bills, reports and articles published about them have been found to be accurate and well supported, resulting in 40 corporations, private foundations and more than 50 legislators to resign from ALEC. Led by the Center for Media and Democracy’s “ALEC Exposed” and the efforts of other national and activist organizations – including Occupy groups – researchers have published hundreds of informative and factual articles and reports to the public. In April of last year more than 800 pieces of until then hidden ALEC model “bills” were turned over by a whistleblower and publicized by CMD and the Nation Magazine.
“Sloppy research, half-truths and fabrications” are what ALEC and the Koch-led cabal operate upon, not the Sierra Club, SourceWatch, CMD, Occupy or other organizations making the actions and activities of ALEC public. Examples of this are seen in the Sierra report:
“In May, ALEC invited a Who’s Who of anti-clean energy advocates to a meeting in Charlotte to plot strategy. The Heartland Institute was there, even after its internal documents had been exposed and the damage of its self-inflicted wound with the Unabomber billboard had been done. The field general for the Koch brothers, Americans for Prosperity, was there. The first-string squad for the anti-clean energy team was suited up and on the field….
In response to this claim, ALEC did not bother to deny it – just “falsely” claiming it was false – then saying:
Fact Check: This is demonstrably false. The American Legislative Exchange Council has three conferences a year for its members to discuss pressing public policy issues affecting the states. One of these three conferences is our Spring Task Force Summit which was held in Charlotte, NC on May 11-12. Our private sector members who attended this conference consist of a wide variety of industries including renewable energy companies. Our agenda for the meeting covered many topics that are of interest to our state legislators from agriculture policy, smart grid deployment and what causes gas prices to streamlining permits for solar installations.”
Did they deny the Heartland Institute was there? That Americans For Prosperity was there? That the agenda did not include anti-clean energy advocates? No, they just attempted to water it down by claiming they discussed many topics of interest to their legislative and private sector members.
The report identified Todd Wynn as ALEC’s staffer (actual title is Director) of their Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force and gave a history of Wynn’s past affiliations:
“…The staffer behind ALEC’s energy task force is Todd Wynn. Wynn’s resume is a journeyman’s travelogue through the world of ultra-conservative advocacy. Wynn’s opposition to wind energy is well documented from his time with the Cascade Policy Institute….While with Cascade, Wynn wrote reports with titles like, “The Dirty Secret Behind Clean Jobs” and “Renewable Energy Failure: Why Government Mandates Don’t Work and What They Will Do to Our Economy.” Before that, he worked for another “free market think tank,” the American Tradition Institute (ATI).”
“Fact Check: Mr. Wynn has never been on the staff at the American Tradition Institute. He like many of the other fellows of ATI serves in an unpaid advisory capacity to the ATI staff”
No denial about; Wynn’s control of the ALEC Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force, didn’t deny his previous position with Cascade Policy Institute, the reports written by Wynn or his previous affiliation with the ATI. No, their response was limited to “…Wynn has never been on the staff” of ATI, instead he’s just an “unpaid fellow” that served in the capacity of advisor to ATI staff. Possibly Wynn was then “underpaid” for his valuable anti-renewable energy work while at ATI.
As with nearly every press release, claim, false denial or other response to the articles and reports critical of ALEC, the organization once again responded with several paragraphs of double talk and unsupported denials. Whereas the Sierra Club report is well documented with 94 end notes supporting their claims. ALEC’s response had…0 facts, no foot or end notes or links to where a reader could find where their claims or denials were substantiated.
Conclusion: the Sierra Club has accurately identified the problem, the players involved with ALEC, the agenda of this cabal and how many of our Congressional officials are helping them to enrich the oil and gas companies and maintain their stranglehold on consumers’s dollars at the pump and our tax dollars paid out in needless and expensive government subsidies.
The foregoing helps us understand why it has been so difficult to separate the oil and gas companies from ALEC. They cherish the power and influence they are able to wield upon state and federal lawmakers through their membership in ALEC. They aren’t as worried about their “brand” as Kraft, Coke and Pepsi were when they quit ALEC. When it comes to the oil companies, we are so dependent upon them for our fuel needs, they believe we’ll buy it because we have no other choice. That is why it is so important to push for renewable energy and break the stranglehold upon us that ALEC has given them…and above all, understand that any press release, statements or claims coming from ALEC and their sycophantic cabal members are well thought out and designed to misinform and help them succeed in their conservative agenda.
The fact that global warming is real and oil companies and manufacturers are helping to further increase pollution, bringing us to the point of no-return – where the harm done becomes irreversible – has become undeniable. This summer’s national drought has demonstrated this better than any report could ever do, with Americans from coast to coast experiencing the very real effects of climate change first hand and personally. It’s time all of us begin to understand that the arguments put forth by the Koch/ALEC Cabal are nothing more than hollow words meant to distract us from realizing they will sacrifice us all – and the very planet – in pursuit of continued enrichment. They simply must be stopped!