The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) had a really bad week. Coming under fire for its climate denial, the typically secretive ALEC answered with a cringe-inducing position statement on climate and renewable energy.
ALEC’s statement is a direct response to losing many of its new, cool, innovative friends. Last week, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt's declaration that ALEC is "literally lying" about climate change triggered a sudden exodus of tech companies. Google, Facebook, Yelp, and Yahoo dropped their ALEC membership so quickly that I could barely keep up with my Google Alerts.
ALEC's remaining corporate members include a lot of old, polluting industries that use the organization to obstruct climate action. The polluters’ agenda is obvious in ALEC's templates for state legislation, ghost-written by ALEC’s corporate members for state lawmakers to take up as though their own proposals. ALEC was behind activity in twenty state legislatures this year to oppose limits on carbon pollution from power plants, and to weaken support for renewable energy. These kinds of activities prompted the tech companies to cut their ties with ALEC.
With no pro-environment credentials of its own, ALEC is making the false claim in its new position statement that NRDC agrees with one of the group’s anti-solar proposals. Boy, were we surprised to hear that – because we don't agree with ALEC on this proposal. NRDC is actually against ALEC's proposal to apply “fixed charges” to rooftop solar customers. ALEC wants a fixed charge applied to anyone who puts rooftop solar panels on his or her home, no matter how much or little electricity the customer buys, or how much or how little solar-generated electricity the customer sells back to the grid. Fixed charges would stifle growth in roof-top solar systems and discourage energy efficiency investments. That’s why NRDC opposes them. NRDC is fighting day and night to protect our climate and advance clean energy. ALEC is doing the opposite.
On top of making false claims about NRDC in this statement, ALEC also attempts to dispel criticism that it denies climate change. Ironically, ALEC ends up highlighting its denial stance, as the organization is far from embracing the overwhelming evidence that climate change is real, caused by humans, and dangerous. The position statement asserts that "climate change is a historical phenomenon and the debate will continue on the significance of natural and anthropogenic contributions." ALEC’s true colors are evident in a "climate science" presentation from last July, which included these patently denialist claims:
- “There is no need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and no point in attempting to do so.”
- “There is no scientific consensus on the human role in climate change.”
- “Carbon dioxide has not caused weather to become more extreme, polar ice and sea ice to melt, or sea level rise to accelerate. These were all false alarms.”
ALEC doesn’t stop at trying to defend its climate science stance, also declaring that "ALEC members support the development of renewable energy" even though it opposes any actual policies to support renewables because they would violate its "free market" principles. Let’s not forget, ALEC will buck its free market principles whenever in the interest of its polluter members. Not one ALEC model bill promotes the removal of subsidies for the coal, oil, or natural gas industries.
ALEC's position statement concludes with its signature attacks on EPA’s Clean Power Plan proposal. EPA’s plan to place the first-ever limits on power plant carbon pollution is arguably the most important U.S. action ever to address climate change. ALEC opposed this plan even before it was proposed -- the "Resolution Concerning EPA Proposed Greenhouse Gas Emission Standards" appeared on ALEC's website six months before EPA released the proposal. Most bewildering is ALEC's “concern” that EPA did not consider the benefits of its power plant proposal, asserting that "ALEC believes policymakers should carefully weigh the costs and benefits of any proposal and is concerned that this has not yet happened" for the Clean Power Plan.
This should be a little embarrassing for ALEC. It has overlooked (or willfully ignored) EPA's analysis showing $53 to $93 billion per year in estimated benefits from the Clean Power Plan by 2030 – mostly from preventing thousands of premature deaths from air pollution – compared to annual costs of around $8 billion. Not to mention, the plan is projected to shrink electricity bills by roughly 8% in 2030 thanks to increases in energy efficiency. Considering that climate-related weather disasters in 2012 cost American taxpayers more than $100 billion – roughly $1,100 per taxpayer – you'd hope ALEC would support EPA action on carbon pollution from power plants.
ALEC’s most recent position statement is full of false and empty claims, but one point stands out loud and clear from the week’s events: its climate denial is now a big liability. It doesn’t work to lie about climate change, and then lie about how you aren’t lying about it. ALEC seems to think its new stance will stanch the bleeding, but the only real fix would be to stop obstructing climate solutions.