Koch vs Clean

The Koch brothers gained international notoriety in 2010 when Greenpeace and allies revealed that the Koch brothers had secretly spent over $88 million to fund the climate science denial machine, supporting groups and campaigns that deliberately worked to make Americans doubt the consensus of climate science. 

A few months later, New Yorker journalist Jane Mayer exposed their role spending “dark money” to cultivate the Tea Party movement and to fund a number of “free society” campaigns to undermine Democratic leadership on issues like health care and tax policy.  

The Koch brothers also have a long history of funding attacks on clean energy, a tradition that continues today with Fueling U.S. Forward.

The Koch Brothers, ALEC, and the Attack on State Clean Energy Policies

Before there was Fueling U.S. Forward, the Koch brothers have funded a number of campaigns to undermine the growth and adoption of clean, renewable energy. Some have been revealed, and we can only assume that many operated, or continue to, in the dark. 

One particular effort that stands out has been the ongoing campaign to use Conservative state legislatures to pass state laws that inhibit the development of renewable energy projects. This effort largely runs through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), with help from fossil fuel friendly academics and think tanks and non-profits that are in the pocket of the big fossils. 

The Energy and Policy Institute has a very useful primer on how ALEC operates. Here is an excerpt:

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) connects lawmakers with corporate lobbyists to produces model bills that are then introduced in legislatures across the country. Model bills can be brought to ALEC by the lobbyists themselves, which has led some to describe this organization as a “corporate bill mill.” In fact, 98% of ALEC’s funding comes from corporations or corporate “foundations” like the Charles G. Koch Foundation. This money is then used to subsidize lawmakers’ trips to ALEC meetings, where they are wined, dined, and then vote in committee meetings, side-by-side with lobbyists, on the model bills….

ALEC’s Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force, which includes representatives from major fossil fuel companies such as Exxon Mobil, Koch Industries, Duke Energy, and Peabody Energy, has approved model bills to repeal renewable energy standards (RES), weaken RES laws by watering them down with non-renewable sources of electricity, and eliminate solar net metering policies….

Once ALEC model bills are introduced, allied legislators and fossil fuel-funded front groups cite flawed reports to back up their reasoning to either repeal or weaken RES laws or net metering laws. The reports cited are written by the fossil fuel-funded Beacon Hill Institute housed at Suffolk University, and the Koch-funded professor, Randy Simmons, who works at Utah State University. The groups tout university studies to generate more support to eliminate or weaken clean energy laws, and then State Policy Network lobbyists work to increase co-sponsors while providing testimony in favor of the ALEC bills. Finally, fossil fuel-funded member-based groups, such as Americans for Prosperity, put additional pressure on lawmakers to pass ALEC model bills.

In total, EPI uncovered 14 ALEC-related or inspired model bills in 2015 attacking renewable energy standards and net metering laws. These do not include the ALEC model bills that targeted state environmental agencies’ ability to comply with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP). The Natural Resources Defense Council reported that were at least 13 bills in 2015 that attacked the CPP.

You can learn more about the Koch brothers, ALEC, and the state attacks on solar and wind in these articles and editorials: