Republicans Who Oppose Solar “will be wiped out”

April 23, 2014


The Right Wing war on solar power is running up against stiff headwinds, from within their own ranks. Turns out there are still some republicans who believe in personal initiative, competition, innovation, and free choice.

The New Republic:

It’s a strange campaign not least because it seemed at first like the electric utility’s proposal would be a lay-up. Arguing that customers were not paying enough to cover the cost of maintaining the grid infrastructure they use whenever the sun is not shining, the electricity provider—Arizona Public Service, or APS—only needed approval from the state’s utility commission, which is 100 percent Republican. And the company generally enjoys strong support among Arizona Republicans. It donated $25,000 to the Republican Victory Fund in 2012, according to Arizona campaign filings. Four of Arizona’s five state utilities commissioners are former members of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, which has staunchly opposed renewable energy mandates and incentives. On top of that, APS has spent $3.7 million to wage a lobbying and P.R. campaign against net metering, according to a recent disclosure filed with state regulators. “As more customers install solar on their homes, it becomes even more important that everyone who uses the grid shares in the cost of keeping it operating reliably for the future,” APS CEO Don Brandt said in the company’s filing with the state regulatory commission.

And yet the utility faced surprisingly fierce resistance from Arizona conservative activists, including former state GOP chairman Tom Morrissey, former Tempe Mayor and Republican candidate for State Treasurer Hugh Hallman, and an assortment of current and former Republican state lawmakers. “I can’t tell you that six months ago we would have seen the success with Republicans that we have seen here now,” said Jason Rose, a Republican public relations consultant whose firm is behind the TUSK campaign. “Republicans who oppose solar in the next election, they are going to be wiped out across the board.”

“Solar power is philosophically consistent with the Republican Party,” Rose added. “If you’re going to be for healthcare choice and school choice, how can you not be for energy choice? Conservatives, overwhelmingly, get that. If the Republican Party stops standing for the empowerment of the individual, what does it stand for?”

But something funny has happened to renewables that major power companies and their Republican allies didn’t see coming. Over the past two years, the solar industry has skyrocketed, with one new solar unit installed every four minutes in the US, according to the renewable energy research group Greentech Media. The price of photovoltaic panels has fallen 62 percent since January 2011. Once considered a boutique energy source, solar power has become a cost-competitive alternative for many consumers, costing an average $143 per megawatt-hour, down from $236 in the beginning of 2011. Backed by powerful conservative groups, public utilities in several states are now pushing to curb the solar industry, and asking regulators to raise fees and impose new restrictions on solar customers. And as more people turn to rooftop solar as a way to reduce energy costs—90,000 businesses and homeowners installed panels last year, up 46 percent from 2011—the issue is pitting pro-utilities Republicans against this fledgling movement of libertarian-minded activists who see independent power generation as an individual right. In other words, the fight over solar power is raging within the GOP itself.

The Atlantic:

If Republican voters are concerned about the environment, haven’t we seen an action?

One explanation is that the framing of environmental issues is often anathema to conservatives. Matthew Feinberg and Robb Willer’s important paper on the subject, “The Moral Roots of Environmental Attitudes,” finds that liberals view environmental issues as moral concerns informed by a harm principle, while conservatives view environmental issues through the lens of purity, and particularly for religious people, stewardship.

In 1971’s Octogesima Adveniens, Pope Paul VI laid out a religious case for protecting the environment, using the language of responsibility, duty to future generations, and purity—in other words, the conservative framing under Feinberg and Willer’s standards:

Man is suddenly becoming aware that by an ill-considered exploitation of nature he risks destroying it and becoming in his turn the victim of this degradation … thus creating an environment for tomorrow which may well be intolerable …. The Christian must turn to these new perceptions in order to take on responsibility, together with the rest of men, for a destiny which from now on is shared by all.

In his 2006 “Letter to a Southern Baptist Pastor,” E.O. Wilson showed how to use the religious framing in defense of the environment:

You have the power to help solve a great problem about which I care deeply. I hope you have the same concern. I suggest that we set aside our differences in order to save the Creation. The defense of living nature is a universal value. It doesn’t rise from, nor does it promote, any religious or ideological dogma. Rather, it serves without discrimination the interests of all humanity. Pastor, we need your help. The Creation—living nature—is in deep trouble.

The environmental movement has stumbled because it has not framed the issue as Wilson and Paul VI did. A 2012 study by Matthew C. Nisbet, Ezra M. Markowitz, and John E. Kotcher found that climate campaigns overwhelming frame the issue in terms of harm and care, fairness, and oppression of marginalized groups. These frames fall into what Feinberg and Willer would consider left-wing frames, alienating conservatives.


10 Responses to “Republicans Who Oppose Solar “will be wiped out””

  1. fredeliot Says:

    I’m personally in favor of the use of solar power, however, I also see some validity to the claim made by the utility. One thing that seems to be left out is the possible benefit to the utility from the peak load reduction on hot summer days. It would be nice if someone does a full analysis of all the factors including reduction of carbon emissions for the basis of a reasonable debate of the issue. It could turn out the the utility should be paying people to have solar power.

  2. Shall we mourn the passing of pay phones? Shall we mount a campaign to discourage cell phone use? What good would it do? Why all the concern for outdated businesses? I have yet to see anyone express fear of losing their land line. Many consider a land line a quaint anachronism. How about phone books. Are you nostalgic about their hulking paper mass and wondering how to find one to tear in half to demonstrate strength? 🙂
    Customers who use cell phones are not paying their fair share of telephone line costs, therefore we should raise the cost of cell phones so that companies that over invested in out dated technology don’t have losses. Send your donations to save the pay phone or I want a princess phone with that tangled extension cord.

  3. It’s a strange campaign not least because it seemed at first like the electric utility’s proposal would be a lay-up.

    It’s a no-brainer.  A lot of top Republicans are rich people.  Rich people didn’t get rich and stay rich by not recognizing a good deal when they see one, or being able to bend the laws to favor themselves.  When net metering got to be a really good deal, a lot of them forked out the cash for a ticket on that bandwagon.

    It doesn’t matter what effect widespread net metering has on the grid as a whole, it’s a really good deal for the people who’ve got it today.  It privatizes the profits while socializing the costs.  OF COURSE your typical psychopath loves it!

    What I don’t get is why environmentalists aren’t insisting that these people also install something like the Solar City battery-buffer system to offset or eliminate the negatives of paying full retail rates, grid-upkeep costs and even taxes included, for power that doesn’t have any of the associated services that other grid generators provide.  Maybe they think that if something is too technical for them to grasp easily, it must be made-up BS.  (Those people should have more sympathy for folks who can’t get their minds around anthropogenic climate change.)

  4. […] 2014/04/23: PSinclair: Republicans Who Oppose Solar “will be wiped out” […]

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