ALEC Targets Renewable Energy Standards and Global Warming Education

FILE - In this March 11, 2009 file photo, a wind mill, rear center, supplies water to a stock tank, surrounded by wind turbin
FILE - In this March 11, 2009 file photo, a wind mill, rear center, supplies water to a stock tank, surrounded by wind turbines of the Smoky Hills Wind Project near Wilson, Kansas. Tucked into the "fiscal cliff" tax package approved by Congress are billions of dollars in tax breaks, including a tax credit for the production of wind, solar and other renewable energy. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner, file)

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is suffering backlash from its battle on a new front: renewable energy standards.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) have let their ALEC memberships expire, according to Greenwire.

Why? Last October, ALEC adopted the "Electricity Freedom Act" model bill. This model bill, which ALEC is now seeking to roll out in various states, would end requirements for states to derive a specific percentage of their electricity needs from renewable energy sources.

Given the gridlock on national legislation, renewable energy standards, which are typically passed at the state or local level, set targets for shifting from fossil fuel energy to renewable sources, such as solar and wind energy.

SEIA let its one-year membership expire last fall; AWEA let its membership drop this month.

Carrie Hitt, Senior Vice-President of State Affairs at SEIA, told The Progressive in an interview:

"We let our membership expire for two reasons: 1. The level at which we were participating was not have an impact on renewable energy targets; 2. We were disappointed by the process and outcome of the discussions around last fall's model bill. We were trying to reduce permitting fees, costs and hurdles for renewable energy."

When asked if SEIA had any plans to renew its membership with ALEC, she responded, "We have no plans to renew our membership at this time."

Peter Kelley, AWEA's Vice-President for Public Affairs, told The Progressive: "AWEA became a member of ALEC last year because we wanted to educate state legislators and others about our industry. Our membership has lapsed and we are no longer a member."

He continued:

"We are accustomed to misinformation from opponents of renewable energy who are funded by competing forms of energy. We are warning our former fellow members of ALEC not to be taken in. As their quotes in The Washington Post story make clear, the Heartland Institute is taking credit for having written the sample bill. State legislators who joined ALEC, presumably expecting reliable information, ought to know this is just an attack from business competitors of renewable energy that is not in consumers' best interests. "

As to the bill's attempted push-back on renewable energy standards, he said: "States have put a lot of work into crafting Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) that make sense for them. To try to repeal these consumer interest laws with a one-size-fits-all approach makes no sense. The Synapse study, for example, shows wind is saving Midwest consumers billions of dollars a year. If state legislators are interested in defending consumers, they'll strengthen state RPS laws, not weaken them."

ALEC not only seeks to fight renewable energy standards, it has also proposed the "Environmental Literacy Improvement Act" -- a bill that would mandate "a range of perspectives [be] presented in a balanced manner."

According to Desmogblog, the bill was adopted by ALEC back in 2000 and language from the draft bill has been introduced in 11 states and passed in four states, including Louisiana in 2008, Texas in 2009, South Dakota in 2010, and Tennessee in 2012.

This model bill was adopted by ALEC's Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force, known at the time as the Natural Resources Task Force.

The legislation is currently under consideration in Arizona, Colorado and Oklahoma.

In Oklahoma, HB 1674 demands that both the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories" are taught. Furthermore, the bill argues that global warming is "steeped in controversy", despite the fact that consensus exists among the scientific community on the topic: its reality and urgency.

In Colorado, HB 13-1089 calls the bills the "Academic Freedom Acts." The bill notes that teaching global warming "can cause controversy."

In Arizona, SB 1213 was introduced on Monday, Jan. 26, echoing the language of the other bills, stating the "teaching global warming" can "cause controversy."

All three current bills were introduced by representatives who are dues paying members of ALEC.

Tina Gerhardt is an independent journalist and academic who covers energy policy, climate negotiations and related direct actions. Her work has appeared in Alternet, Grist, The Nation, The Progressive and the Washington Monthly, as well as Business Green, Climate Progress and TreeHugger.

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