Why The Brothers Koch Can’t Beat Energy From Mother Nature

Bill Scher

As the Washington Post recently reported, fossil fuel interests led by the Koch Brothers are trying to repeal renewable energy mandates and nullify upcoming EPA climate regulations in 18 states, yet they haven’t had a win in 17 of them.

And Slate reports that Team Koch is 0-for-11 at trying to impose unfair fees on rooftop solar customers at the state level. Most recently, the right-wing governor of Oklahoma Mary Fallin signed an executive order undercutting the legislature’s attempt to do the fossil fuel industry’s bidding.

The Kochs’ “Subsidies-For-Me-Not-For-Thee” coalition is learning the hard way about markets and customer choice. Once the energy market playing field is made relatively level, and renewable energy proves to be an affordable option, people like it. And the renewable energy companies make enough profit to combat right-wing propaganda and prove how much people like it.

Yes, government support has helped the renewable energy industry. Under Obama, the share of our energy we get from renewables has jumped 25% But it’s still slightly under 10% of our total energy mix. Government has not crushed Big Fossil. It has simply helped renewables get a toehold after subsidizing dirty energy for decades.

For example, in deep red Kansas, per the Post, wind power has earned landowners more than $13 million a year and created coveted manufacturing jobs. Opponents tried to argue that electricity rates significantly shot up, but there was one problem with the argument, they hadn’t.

And as Post columnist Carter Eskew noted, in the Southwest, libertarian-minded conservative see solar panels as a badge of freedom:

Solar panels throughout red states of the South and Southwest have become this century’s version of the satellite dish. In the late 1970s, rural and then suburban households who couldn’t get cable or were tired of paying its monopoly started setting up satellite dishes instead. This was about more than the thrill of getting television where it had been too fuzzy or expensive before: This was an act of freedom. You were beating a system that was rigged against you. Today, another way to beat the system is to take on big utilities and their monopoly prices by putting some solar panels on your roof or in your yard. Not only do your energy bills go down, but the utility company buys the extra power you generate. No wonder anti-establishment conservatives (and liberals, for that matter) absolutely love their solar panels. They are a deeply powerful and personal badge of defiance and independence.

With that in mind, a Tea Party-flavored pro-solar group led by the son and namesake of Barry Goldwater has regularly defeated the Koch Brothers with the warning: “Monopoly utilities want to extinguish the independent rooftop solar market in America to protect their socialist control of how we get our electricity.”

But such an ideological appeal wouldn’t have any resonance without there being people who liked their solar power.

The Supreme Court may be doing everything it can to tilt the political system in favor of the Kochs Brothers and their ilk. But there’s a force even more power than the Supreme Court: Mother Nature, and the energy she can provide.

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