MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Maine has one of the most advanced renewable electricity laws in the nation. Even if one can argue it doesn't go far enough, it's a 15-year-old example of a first-step earth-friendly electricity initiative that works.
According to Democrat Phil Bartlett, former Maine Senate majority leader writing in the Bangor Daily News,
[Since its inception 15 years ago] Maine’s Renewable Portfolio Standard has created thousands of jobs, cut down on harmful pollution and helped to keep more of Mainers’ energy dollars in the state. Requiring 30 percent of the state’s energy providers’ electricity sales to come from renewables such as wind, solar, biomass, geothermal and hydroelectric power, it has also led to tremendous investment by renewable energy companies that are paying more than $17 million annually in property taxes and employing more than 2,500 Mainers.
Simply put, the Renewable Portfolio Standard is working — for everyday Mainers and businesses alike. In light of our struggling economy, programs such as the RPS should be celebrated and protected.
But Maine's Tea Party governor, Paul LePage, and some Maine legislators are trying to weaken the renewable energy mandate in order to allow the fossil fuel profiteers a bigger jolt of electricity generated dollars.
Bartlett charges that,
A new report by the Maine Conservation Alliance, Maine’s Majority Education Fund and Maine People’s Alliance, issued earlier this month, sheds some light on the powerful forces fueling LePage and his allies’ efforts to weaken Maine’s RPS: Charles and David Koch, billionaire industrialists from Kansas and owners of the second largest private company in the U.S. with revenues estimated at $100 billion a year.
The Kochs have an aggressive network of front groups at their behest in our state, which they leverage frequently to help them promote and pursue their financial interests. These groups operate for the most part behind the scenes in the form of think tanks, campaigns, nonprofit organizations and legislative PACs. The activities of this network are deceptive by design to mask their deep self-interest: The Kochs have no stake in the long-term viability of our state, aside from making sure that the policies in place bolster their bottom line.
Of course, one of the biggest front groups Bartlett identifies is the ubiquitous state capital lobbying organization, ALEC. He describes how the Koch brothers polluting electricity grab makes its way through the Maine legislature:
The process goes something like this: Businesses affiliated with the Kochs (including oil and gas companies such as ExxonMobil) give vast sums of money to groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, a membership organization that drafts conservative model bills that are introduced by legislators who are ALEC members and receive campaign donations from ALEC-affiliated groups. Once a bill is introduced, Americans for Prosperity, another national, Koch-connected group with a chapter in Maine, mobilizes to promote the legislation and attack any legislative opponents. In tandem with these efforts, the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a conservative, free-market think-tank that is a member of the Koch-funded State Policy Network, will often push out reports funded by the same corporate interests that stand to benefit from their conclusions.
What's more, according to Barlett and consistent with the ALEC model of pushing a templated pro-corporate bill through in a number of states, the Koch-brothers-friendly "Electricity Freedom Act" has been introduced in 16 additional states this year.
Due to the vast imbalance in assets and the loosening of corporate contributions in many states (as well as on the federal level), cash-rich business sectors control many state legislatures, just as they do Congress. This is particularly true of the fossil fuel industry and the Koch brothers.
Whether or not Maine's precedent-setting renewable energy law will be weakened remains to be determined. But the Koch brothers like to get a return on their investment. Just consider Scott Walker, Republican governor of Wisconsin, as exhibit number one.
(Photo: Madison Guy)