Position Statement on Renewables and Climate Change

The operative principle of the ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture (EEA) Task Force is free market environmentalism. Members of the EEA Task Force work together to develop state-based policies that promote the mutually beneficial link between robust economies and a healthy environment, unleash the creative powers of the free market for environmental stewardship, and enhance the quality and use of our natural and agricultural resources for betterment of human health and well-being.

Many climate activists and pressure organizations willfully and dishonestly conflate these free market environmentalist principles with climate change denial and opposition to renewable energy technologies. Such behavior is unproductive and runs counter to the concept of the free exchange of ideas that ALEC was founded upon.

The ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force maintains model policy indicating renewable energy consumption and production should grow according to consumer demand.

Below is an outline of actual ALEC positions and model policies related to the ongoing misinformation and pressure campaign by Forecast the Facts, Greenpeace, Common Cause, The Center for Media and Democracy, and Courage Campaign, among many others.

Claim: ALEC is a “climate denier” organization.

 The EEA Task Force understands all discussions about energy policy are inextricably linked with discussions about climate and man’s impact on the planet. In regard to climate change, the Task Force has adopted the following language in ALEC’s Energy Principles, one of the Task Force’s guiding documents:

Climate change is a historical phenomenon and the debate will continue on the significance of natural and anthropogenic contributions. ALEC will continue to monitor the issue and support the use of sound science to guide policy, but ALEC will also incorporate economic and political realism. Unilateral efforts by the United States or regions within the United States will not significantly decrease carbon emissions globally, and international efforts to decrease emissions have proven politically infeasible and unenforceable. Policymakers in most cases are not willing to inflict economic harm on their citizens with no real benefit. ALEC discourages impractical visionary goals that ignore economic reality, and that will not be met without serious consequences for worldwide standard of living.

Further recognizing the fact that “[h]uman activity has and will continue to alter the atmosphere of the planet” and that “[s]uch activity may lead to demonstrable changes in climate, including a warming of the planetary mean temperature,” ALEC developed the Interstate Research Commission on Climactic Change Act in the mid-1990s. This policy was designed to address the scientific and economic aspects of the issue of climate change through the development of a multistate research commission with a strong emphasis on basic and applied research.

ALEC has also been accused of promoting model policy that advocates for the teaching of “climate denial” in schools. The model Environmental Literacy Improvement Act seeks to ensure schools use sound science and provide for balanced discussion on issues pertaining to the environment and climate change. It does not deny climate change or direct educators to teach the denial of climate change.

Claim: ALEC opposes the use of renewable energy technologies.

ALEC believes in an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy. ALEC members support the development of renewable energy. New energy technologies and constant innovation are critically important in the U.S. and around the world. Several ALEC members represent renewable energy technologies and others that work and supply products and services to the renewable energy industry as a whole.

One can support renewable energy while disagreeing with how these technologies should be deployed, subsidized or regulated. ALEC is opposed to government policy that distorts the energy market and picks winners and losers. ALEC holds that the free market, rather than governments, produces more opportunities, more energy, lower prices, and fewer economic disruptions.

ALEC fully supports voluntary efforts to expand and advance renewables so long as no technology or class of technologies is given an unfair, politically-driven competitive advantage. Many ALEC private sector members have embraced the concepts of corporate responsibility and sustainability. These commitments are entirely consistent with ALEC policy because these companies and organizations made these pledges absent any government mandate.

As it pertains specifically to state-based renewable portfolio standard (RPS) programs, ALEC developed the Electricity Freedom Act which opposes government mandates that require utilities to generate a certain percentage of electricity from any particular source. Instead, this model articulates a need for renewable energy consumption to grow according to consumer demand. To that end, ALEC developed two market-based proposals—the Market-Power Renewables Act and the Renewable Energy Credits Act—that allow market forces to play a larger role in the deployment of renewables, remove regulatory burdens that prevent ratepayers from purchasing renewable energy and potentially lead to an increase in the amount of renewable energy used.

As energy consumers across the country continue to install small scale, on-site distributed generation (DG) technologies on their houses and places of business and continue to take advantage of state-based net metering programs, the EEA Task Force adopted the Updating Net Metering Policies Resolution. The resolution lays out a position similar to those advocated by a number of other policy organizations, including the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, the National Policy Alliance, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. ALEC believes that states should ensure everyone who uses the services provided by the electric grid pays for the maintenance and upkeep of the grid infrastructure. As it currently stands in a number of states, when DG customers are reimbursed at the full retail rate for their surplus electricity, they benefit from a subsidy benefiting one source of electricity over others and a cost-shift from those who can afford solar photovoltaics to those that cannot. These negative effects are expounded upon in great detail in an ALEC publication titled Reforming Net Metering: Providing a Bright and Equitable Future.

 Claim: ALEC opposes legislative or regulatory action that addresses climate change.

On June 2, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made headlines by proposing a rule that the agency refers to as the “Clean Power Plan.” The proposed regulation seeks to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels.

Task Force members have expressed significant concerns with the proposed rule, many of which are outlined in the model Resolution Concerning EPA Proposed Greenhouse Gas Emission Standards for New and Existing Fossil-Fueled Power Plants. This resolution is similar to ones adopted by a number of other organizations including the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Council of State Governments.

The proposed regulation is projected to have a number of economic effects on the country. EPA itself acknowledges their Plan will directly lead to increases in electricity rates, the United Mine Workers of America estimates significant job losses (with more than 4 million jobs lost in the utility, rail and coal industries by 2035) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce expects losses in economic growth and household disposable income. The Plan also presents significant reliability concerns. EPA acknowledges that 120 gigawatts of installed electricity generating capacity—enough to power 60 million homes—will be forced into retirement as a result of the Clean Power Plan as well as other environmental regulations already imposed by the EPA. Finally, the proposed rule represents a significant shift in the relationship between the EPA and the states in environmental regulation that has existed for more than four decades.

Significantly, neither the 654-page proposal nor the 376-page regulatory impact analysis explains the climactic benefits of the proposed rule. When developing regulations, ALEC believes that policymakers should carefully weigh the costs and benefits of any proposal and is concerned that this has not yet happened with the EPA’s most recently proposed rule. ALEC members will continue to work to ensure that states have the ability to play the important role that they are statutorily allowed to play in developing environmental regulations.

Members of the EEA Task Force derive tremendous benefit from the unique public-private partnership of state legislators and the private sector found at ALEC. The Task Force places great value on the free exchange of ideas and has on many occasions hosted presentations and speakers that may disagree with the model policy developed and generated by the Task Force. We invite all members of the private sector to join us in these discussions as we continue to promote the principles of free markets, limited government and federalism.