New Report Follows Money Trail Behind Attacks on Clean Energy
Every election season, more and more money is poured into campaigns. But there is a surprising new twist this year - fossil fuel interests are actually spending money to directly attack clean energy like wind and solar, as we reveal in a new report we are releasing today, "Clean Energy Under Siege" (PDF).
Over the past decade, renewable energy's strong growth and success has made it a target for unprecedented new attacks from oil, coal, and gas interests. The report reveals how the fossil fuel industry is using tactics such as financial contributions to political campaigns, faux "think tanks," phony intellectuals, and fake grassroots "astroturf" groups to shift public opinion and discredit renewable energy. This is, of course, on top of the millions fossil fuel companies have been spending for decades to land loopholes and weak standards that give dirty energy an unfair advantage, while regular Americans bear the burden of polluted air and water.
- Big Oil tycoons David and Charles Koch gave at least $85 million to dozens of right-wing "think tanks" and advocacy groups over the past decade and a half that are actively working to slow or stop the adoption of renewable energy and efficiency, including maintaining anti-renewable clearinghouses.
- Organizations like the Manhattan Institute and the Heartland Institute that defend oil subsidies while attacking renewable energy have received upwards of $600,000 each since 1998 from the oil company Exxon.
- Fossil fuel interests are working through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to repeal state clean energy mandates, called Renewable Portfolio Standards.
- Attempts to use Solyndra to tarnish the reputation of the entire clean energy sector are being backed by big money interests like Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity.
With renewable energy seeing an 83 percent approval rating among all Americans - including 63 percent support from Republicans and 84 percent support from Independents - it seems counterintuitive that many politicians still oppose the development of clean energy.
But that's where the industry's hundreds of millions of dollars come in. They continue wanting to put profits over public health and are threatened by the success of clean energy.
Wind energy has grown steadily in the past decade, doubling in size since 2009. In 2011, it accounted for roughly three percent of U.S. electricity production. During the first months of 2012, it topped four percent. Already, Iowa and South Dakota generate 20 percent of their electricity from wind power, and the wind industry is on track to produce 20 percent of America’s electricity by 2030.
A boom in the production of photovoltaic solar cells has not only cut the price of solar panels in half, but has also helped double solar energy's contribution to America's power supply
Now dirty industry has the Production Tax Credit for wind energy in its sights - and polluters don't care that letting the credit expire means major job losses. The wind energy Production Tax Credit helps support the more than 75,000 jobs in the wind industry, but if the tax credit is not renewed before the end of this year, as many as half those jobs could be lost.
This misinformation and dirty money must stop. As we face weather extremes such as drought and excessive heat, climate disruption is already on our doorstep. Plus, clean energy has become one of the few sectors that is actually reviving our struggling economy, and we need the growth of clean energy to continue. It's time to invest in and support clean energy to protect this planet and create a prosperous future for our children and grandchildren.
-- Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign