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Conservative Folly: How the Right's War on Renewable Energy Could Doom Red States

Right-wing groups are doing everyone a disservice by bashing renewables, but GOP strongholds may have the most to lose.

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But energy analysts and economists who spoke with AlterNet all pointed out that this so-called model bill is essentially just a list of well-worn fossil-fuel industry talking points -- including unfounded claims like renewable standards drive up household electricity bills, kill jobs and economic growth, and the renewable sector isn't a reliable source of energy. 

The Electricity Freedom Act, they also noted, includes no sources for its "facts." 

To fill that gap, ALEC has cited one template economic analysis from the Beacon Hill Institute on the impact of state renewable energy mandates, which was paid for by Koch-funded foundations.

The faulty modeling on which the Beacon Hill Institute researchers based their conclusions, said Deyette, was then applied cookie-cutter-like in state after state as a method to sell the repeal of RES. 

"There's this old adage -- the garbage in equals garbage out -- when it comes to energy modeling," he noted. "Meaning the assumptions you put into the model and the methodology by which you do the analysis has as much to do with the outcome as anything else."

They systematically inflated the cost of renewable energy in their assumptions while optimistically reducing the cost of fossil fuels, explained Deyette, both by ignoring recent price increases and the future need of significant portions of the coal power industry, particular to spending billions of dollars upgrading their facilities to meet public health standards. 

"Ignoring those costs is one easy way to have fossil fuels come out ahead when you're comparing them to renewable energy," he said.

Deyette pointed out that they also skewed results by inaccurately modeling policies as they've been designed, such as not factoring in cost caps, which protect consumers against unexpectedly higher costs of developing renewable technologies. 

"These usually have these safety valves in place," he said. "So if you ignore those safety valves in your analysis and you allow your inflated renewable energy costs to just run amok, that's also going to drive the results of your analysis towards a biased higher cost than what we've seen."

So in the end, armed with nothing but shoddy science -- and billions of dollars of influence -- and faced with real-world renewable success stories in state after state, what are ALEC's chances of success?

While Deyette thinks the push to repeal renewable standards might be an uphill battle, he was quick to note that if states are busy trying to prevent repeals as opposed to increasing their standards, then ALEC may view that as a victory.

Additionally, he said, "These [renewable standards] are very simplistic in their goals and more or less easy to explain, but they can be very complex when you look into the design elements and how they're implemented." 

He cautioned, "So some simple language changes can have an equally negative effect as a full-out repeal."  

Brad Jacobson is a Brooklyn-based freelance journalist and contributing reporter for AlterNet and OnEarth Magazine. His reporting has also appeared in The Atlantic, Mother Jones, Salon, In These Times, Columbia Journalism Review, Billboard and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @bradpjacobson.

 
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