Monopolies exist when a specific person or enterprise is the only supplier of a particular commodity, and are thus characterized by a lack of economic competition to produce the commodity coupled with a lack of a viable substitute. The most terrifying thing on Earth to a person or enterprise controlling the only supply of a commodity is when a viable substitute is discovered that forces the enterprise into economic competition that, in part, is the nature of free market capitalism. Republicans and their conservative donors are staunch defenders of free market capitalism; that is until they see a viable competitor. It explains their drive to restrict Democratic voters during elections, and new energy sources that threaten the dirty energy industry’s monopoly on supplying power.
Although the world will continue depending on fossil fuels for the energy demands long into the future, there is growing movement to shift the world’s energy needs to clean renewable (and free) sources such as wind and solar power. That is bad news for the Koch brothers who use their substantial fortunes to buy conservative politicians and anything their fascist hearts desire, but their billions-of-dollars cannot buy the Sun or the wind to maintain their monopoly supplying dirty energy. However, they can buy Republican legislators to pass the Koch’s American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) template legislation to eradicate solar and wind competition. Unfortunately for Ohio residents, the Kochs and ALEC celebrated their first success restricting consumers from accessing the Sun and wind for their electrical power needs. Maybe the Koch’s cannot buy and eliminate the Sun, but they can, and will, prohibit its use.
Across America many states, and consumers, are overwhelmingly moving to embrace cheaper, cleaner, and renewable wind and solar energy, including Ohio voters who are strongly in favor of clean energy standards. The Koch brothers and ALEC could not care less what Ohio voters want and on Wednesday the state’s legislature passed an ALEC bill that rolls back its renewable energy standard (RES) and freezes mandates requiring utilities to add clean alternative energy. The now-dead RES required utilities to get 25% of their power from wind, solar, and (not) clean coal production by 2025, but there was no chance the Koch’s were going to allow a competing commodity to cut into their monopoly. ALEC alumnus and Ohio Governor John Kasich is expected to sign the ALEC-Koch legislation into law despite Ohio voters and a conservative business organizations’ objections.
According to a recent survey, there is “overwhelming public support for requiring utilities to incentivize energy efficiency and obtain more of their electricity from renewable energy sources.” That overwhelming public support included the very politically conservative Ohio Manufacturers’ Association that railed against the Koch-ALEC legislation arguing vehemently against the bill it claimed “will drive up electricity costs for customers and undermine manufacturing competitiveness in Ohio.”
The manufacturers’ association was not exaggerating because since Ohio adopted the RES, nearly unanimously in 2008, Ohio’s clean energy sector created over 25,000 jobs, over $1 billion in private sector investment, and cut electricity rates by 1.4% (over $230 million in savings). However, that was before the Kochs bought the Ohio legislature and installed an ALEC alumnus in the governor’s office.
Sadly, Ohio is just the first, but certainly not the last, state the Koch brothers, ALEC, Americans for Prosperity, and the Heartland Institute are working to prohibit access to the wind and Sun’s power source. According to the New York Times, in just the past year more than a dozen states have embraced ALEC proposals to eliminate green and renewable energy mandates and incentives due to intervention from “libertarian policy and advocacy groups.” It is noteworthy that libertarians and their staunch devotion to letting “free market capitalism” drive the economy does not apply if it cuts into the libertarian Koch brothers’ monopoly on energy and profits.
The Koch victory in Ohio over the will of the people and manufacturers portends an epic struggle for proponents of renewable energy, jobs, and economic benefits to business and the people across the nation. Around the country utilities, like Ohio’s coal-dominated utility, bemoan renewable energy standards they claim are reducing energy demands and cutting into their profits. The Koch brothers agree that nothing, not the wind or the Sun, is going to affect their profits and are funding the attacks on renewable energy standards in every state that embraced them. In fact, Kansas lawmakers recently defeated legislation to phase out RES and Koch-backers vowed to propose it again and again until they score a victory for the Koch brothers and the dirty energy industry.
The executive director of a pro-renewable energy group, the Energy and Policy Institute, Gabe Elsner, acknowledged that the Koch crusade to eliminate incentives and mandates for renewable energy is meant to bring an end to clean renewable energy sources altogether. He said, “The fossil fuel and utility industry has been caught off guard by the rise of cheap, clean energy, and over the past 18 months they’ve responded in a really big way across the country. We’re seeing the results of that campaign now in Ohio.”
Last month, ALEC and the Kochs’ pressured Republicans in Oklahoma to impose a tax on homeowners who had the temerity to install solar panels on their homes to reduce their dependence on dirty energy sources. The Kochs and ALEC are hard at work pushing solar panel taxes in other states, but they have not been as successful as they were in Oklahoma. Advocates for renewable solar energy in Kansas defeated the Kochs’ substantial efforts and succeeded in reducing the tax in Arizona to $5 a month. It is noteworthy that the Kochs and ALEC never met a tax they did not detest unless, of course, it helps eliminate competition and maintain their monopoly on energy and unrestrained profits.
A report by the power industry lobby, the Edison Electric Institute, complained that renewable solar power “puts a squeeze on profitability” and warned that states had better eliminate renewable energy incentives or “it may be too late to repair the utility business model.” One Koch brother ad likened renewable energy incentives to President Obama’s healthcare reform law saying, “Like Obamacare, it’s another government mandate ‘we’ can’t afford.” However, the people reducing their energy costs, finding new living-wage jobs, and helping reduce carbon emissions and the effects of climate change are reaping the benefits of renewable energy incentives and it is something the Kochs, ALEC, and their Republican legislators will not tolerate.
The Kochs claim the be all, end all to liberty and prosperity is libertarianism and free market capitalism, except when it gets in the way of their profits and monopoly of the energy industry. This column has mentioned in the past that if the Koch brothers could charge Americans for access to the Sun and wind, every home and business in America would be covered in solar panels and wind turbines. However, renewable energy is one resource they cannot control, or buy, with their multi-billion-dollar fortunes and they will not rest until Republicans in every state in the union pass ALEC legislation to abolish renewable energy and be like gods and prohibit Americans from access to the wind and Sun like the libertarian fascists they are.