Posts Tagged ‘ Koch brothers ’

The Little War on Rooftop Solar


These are my solar panels. There are many like them, but these are mine.

These are my solar panels. There are many like them, but these are mine.

By now–and despite anti-science propaganda from politicians bought off by big oil–most Americans know the score about climate change. Few Americans are fooled any longer and understand that as we use more fossil fuels, we are changing our atmosphere in ways that will impact future generations. Climate researchers point to a future of rising sea levels and less predictable weather systems caused by human activity.

We know now that we, as a culture and indeed as a species, literally cannot adopt clean energy fast enough to offset some of these negative consequences.

Knowing this makes it completely shocking and appalling that electric utilities around the country are actually trying to disincentivize solar power through extra fees on customers with rooftop solar panels.

It should surprise no one that these measures can all be traced back to dollars from the big oil oligarchs the Koch brothers–dirty money propping up dirty energy.

Now these backward-thinking regulations have come to my home town: the Sun City.

El Paso, Texas should be awash in solar energy. With so few days of cloud cover throughout the year, it’s an ideal climate for distributed solar power.

Yet now the El Paso Electric Company has requested a rate change to charge rooftop solar customers an extra fee and has even launched a series of commercials trying to sell the public on their twisted logic.

According to EP Electric, the problem is that rooftop solar customers still use the grid on cloudy days and at night, so the cost of maintaining that grid needs to be represented on their bills.

It’s an argument presented by a reasonable sounding narrator and, in the TV spots, even has a cute little graphic of dollars being distributed equitably between houses–one with and one without solar panels.

But it’s an absurd argument with no basis in reality.

All customers already pay to support the grid–based on how much they use it.

By this faulty logic, EP Electric should look at customers with small houses who need less energy to cool and bill them extra.

According to this bizarre reasoning, when customers invest in energy efficient appliances or energy saving window panes, they should be charged extra because those energy saving measures mean they’re no longer “supporting the grid.”

Rooftop solar panels are no different from any other energy-saving measure in this regard and trying to charge these customers more is worse than a shameless attempt to grab cash from a minority segment of the customer base–it’s actually part of a sinister political agenda to undermine clean energy.

Despite the ad campaign’s implications, rooftop solar customers are not vampires unfairly taxing the electric grid. Quite the contrary.

When consumption is at its highest–during the summer when every house in this city has the A/C on full blast–rooftop solar customers provide an important service, easing the burden of an expanding power grid and preventing brown-outs. In fact, some customers even produce surplus energy, feeding into the grid and alleviating the draw off the main grid from their neighbors.

Let me be clear here. This is not about the money for me. I am a life-long supporter of clean energy and have always put my money where my mouth is. At one time El Paso Electric had a program where customers could help subsidize expansions in regional wind and solar power. For years, I voluntarily paid into this account to help develop this important infrastructure.

No, this isn’t about the money for me.

This is about principle. El Paso Electric should be doing everything possible to encourage rooftop solar adoption, not punish customers with unfair surcharges that reduce the value of the investments they made in the best interests of our community.

It’s a dirty game El Paso Electric is playing and every customer–rooftop solar or not–should rebuke this disgusting step in the wrong direction.

This Week in Republican Evil

The Right is sick.

Look to Republicanism of the past–of Eisenhower who built the interstate highway or even Nixon who proposed something quite similar to “Obamacare”–and you will not find anything resembling this current brand of American conservatism with its depraved attachment to an absolutist anti-government ideology. Any given week brings a slew of sheer idiocy from the talking heads of the Tea Party-bent, but this week was particularly foul.

Take, for example, the exchange on–you guessed it–Fox News between Bill O’Reilly and Rick Santorum. O’Reilly, acknowledging Nelson Mandela’s greatness while deriding him for being a “communist,” prompted Rick Santorum to reflect that, “[he] stood up against a great injustice and was willing to pay a huge price for that. That’s the reason he’s mourned today, because of that struggle that he performed. But you’re right, I mean, what he was advocating for was not necessarily the right answer, but he was fighting against some great injustice, and I would make the argument that we have a great injustice going on right now in this country with an ever-increasing size of government that is taking over and controlling people’s lives, and Obamacare is front and center in that.”

This is the narrative that these people fight, tooth and nail, to promote.

And it is one giant lie.

A well-funded lie. This myth of the big, evil government harkens back to the Reagan Republicanism, it’s true, but it has grown and mutated since then. No, not “mutated.” Mutation is a natural process that proceeds by capitalizing on random change. This shift in the ethos of the Republican party has been genetically engineered by massive influxes of cash from truly evil men.

As a palpable example, consider the agenda of the State Policy Network uncovered this week. This innocuous-sounding group is really just a confederation of various “think tanks” and 501c groups that have been used by big-money donors to conceal their efforts to reengineer society. The web of money sliding back and forth between nonprofit groups and their rich donors trying to shape policy while skirting effortlessly the laughably ineffective regulations meant to keep these groups out of the actual election process is mercifully not entirely invisible. We know that these groups command millions upon millions of dollars and thanks to a few brave souls actually practicing the nearly-lost arts of real journalism, we know where some of the money is coming from. The sources aren’t too surprising. Rich, anti-government fiends like the Koch brothers are paying for this agenda to save citizens from “government dependency.”

And herein lies the hypocrisy of these people.

Government dependency is an unspeakable evil–among the poor. Naturally, the Koch brothers’ fortune’s continuity is every bit as “dependent” on government as is an unemployed mother’s food stamps. Government regulates intellectual property, maintains order, promotes commerce through roads and even tax incentives, codifies their business models by protecting their liability as members of corporations, etc. etc. The Koch brothers and their ilk have no problem with government when it preserves their brand of capitalism.

What they resent and wage war against is government doing anything that does not directly benefit them.

I suppose in their twisted imaginations, this is just and right. After all, they are paying for it. Why shouldn’t they get exactly what they want out of government (and nothing more)? Low wages (Let ’em suffer–that’s their fault for not inheriting daddy’s fortune). No environmental interference (screw the future). No healthcare (um…I really don’t know how they rationalize this one–how can it ever seem just for people to waste away financially and physically in the richest society in human history because of illness?).

They act and speak as though government was evil. But what is evil? If the human condition is defined by both our reason and our empathy, then evil must be that which abandons both.

Government is simply our collective response to society’s challenges. It is how we choose to organize ourselves. Asking for smaller, more efficient government is a rational plea–one that past Republicans championed while still using government to serve the nation’s vital interests. Deriding government as evil and inherently wasteful is itself an evil. Not only is this anti-government ideology one that selfishly endangers a multitude to serve the interests of a few–failing the empathy test–but it is also irrational.

The Koch brothers and the other Tea Party sugar daddies have profited from an American prosperity that blossomed after World War II. That monstrous prosperity was built by a vigorous and strong middle class. Unions, a strong social safety net, investments in infrastructure, and ample funding for education created that unprecedented prosperity, and they were paid for by a tax structure that would turn these fiends sheet-white if it were enacted today. Yet even with a top tax rate three times as high as today, the rich prospered, because society prospered.

It wasn’t enough to satiate the greed of men like the Kochs, though, and slowly, over two generations, the ultra-rich and their ideological stooges–from detached intellectuals like Milton Friedman to rank buffoons like Santorum–have let them chip away at the foundation of our society. The costs we have all paid are now well documented: skyrocketing inequality, job exports, financial instability, and worsening environmental degradation.

These men are systematically destroying America to ramp up their profits.

If they could, they would burn down the world to sell off the ash.