In the Heartland, the Astro-Turf War on Renewables

February 8, 2018

I’m working on a piece about wind energy, and the trumped up, fossil fuel funded war against it in the Heartland.

Here are some snaps.

A state-wide poll of conservative Ohio voters finds that 85 percent would pay something extra in their monthly bills for power generated by renewable technologies such as wind and solar. Nearly half of those polled said they would be willing to pay between $10 and $20 extra every month for green power. The release of the polling results by the Ohio Conservative Energy Forum comes as state lawmakers begin hearings on legislation mandating renewable energy, minimum property setback rules for wind turbines, as well as new subsidies for old coal and nuclear power plants.

Key points in the survey results include:

    • Conservative voters generally support an “all of the above” position on how electricity is generated, not wanting to limit the newer technologies.
    • About a quarter of those surveyed think at least half of the power sold in Ohio should come from renewable sources, while four in 10 think 51 percent to 100 percent should be generated by renewable technologies.
    • Two-thirds of the voters who were asked how they felt about monthly surcharges to keep old coal power plants running said they opposed such charges. Surcharges for FirstEnergy’s nuclear fleet were rejected by a larger margin, 69 percent.
    • A significant plurality, 43 percent, believe that increasing wind and solar installations in Ohio will create jobs. Amazon and Facebook have repeatedly stressed that they want to power their facilities with renewable energy.
    • Conservatives are willing to pay higher monthly bills for green power, with 27 percent saying they would pay $10 a month extra and another 14 percent willing to pay $20 a month extra.
    • The willingness to support green energy with higher monthly bills is evident across all income levels, with nine out of 10 voters earning less than $40,000 annually saying they would be willing to pay more.
    • Nearly eight out of 10 conservative voters indicated they would be willing to tell Republican candidates to support energy efficiency policies and the growth of wind and solar in the state.
    • Overall, 82 percent said they would support energy efficiency programs, 60 percent said they would support rules requiring more green energy in the state, 87 percent net metering rules that require utilities to pay customers with solar arrays for extra power they generate, and 76 percent said they support increasing research and development into better battery storage systems.

The poll is pretty much consistent with results that have been seen around the country in recent years – naturally, Koch Brothers “conservatives” don’t like it .

Columbus Dispatch:

Some prominent Ohio Republicans are sparring over renewable-energy policy, with each side claiming to represent conservative Ohioans.

This started on Jan. 10 when the Ohio Conservative Energy Forum, an advocacy group, published poll resultsshowing that a majority of self-identified Ohio conservatives are in favor of policies that support wind, solar and other renewable energy sources.


Two days later, House Majority Leader Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, sent a mass email criticizing the poll. He is a leading critic of renewable-energy mandates and subsidies.

“The wind lobby is ramping up its minions to tout a new ‘statewide poll’… purporting to show that conservatives ‘overwhelmingly support clean energy policies,’” he said.

He described the group as “astroturf,” a derisive term for an organization that is concealing ulterior motives.

One by one, he responded to claims made by the poll results, including the core premise that conservative voters overwhelmingly support clean energy policies.

“You bet” they support clean energy, Seitz said in response. “But mandates are not a conservative’s way of getting there. True conservatives use their own money to further policies in which they believe.”

The Ohio Conservative Energy Forum, the group behind the poll, is led by Mike Hartley, a lobbyist who has worked on Republican campaigns for decades, including those of U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington, and Gov. John Kasich. The group started in 2015 and says it supports all forms of energy, from traditional Ohio sources, such as coal, to renewable sources, such as wind and solar.

On Monday, Hartley sent an open letter to Ohio General Assembly members in response to Seitz’s message.

While beginning by calling Seitz “a tremendous legislator and a very honorable public servant,” the letter continues to say that Seitz “is not aligned with the values and priorities of Ohio conservatives on clean energy policy and its many economic benefits just waiting to be realized.”

Hartley uses some of the poll results to back his point of view, such as the fact that 79 percent of self-identified Ohio conservatives say “they would tell a Republican candidate to support policies that encourage energy efficiency and greater use of renewable energy in the state.”

He notes that the pollster, Public Opinion Strategies, has also done work for the campaign arms of Ohio House and Senate Republicans and has a strong track record.

“I have been working to elect conservative candidates and advance conservative policy in Ohio for nearly 20 years,” he said in the open letter.

“It is unfortunate that Rep. Seitz has chosen to assert that this poll and my efforts to promote it are part of some sort of liberal plot. But I am encouraged and empowered by my fellow conservatives to continue pushing for the economic benefits that await Ohio when we embrace forward-looking clean energy policy.”

And who are “true conservatives”?

You know, the ones who are supporting a multi-trillion dollar deficit, and looking the other way while a hostile foreign power attacks our elections.

Any surprise they hate renewable energy?

Washington Examiner:

When an organization markets itself as “conservative” while promoting big government solutions under the banner of a misleading poll, it’s time to take a hard look at what makes them tick.

If the poll from Public Opinion Strategies, a Colorado-based firm, is to be believed, then “grassroot[s] attitudes are at odds with the speeches and actions of GOP legislative leaders during the past several years,” a report in observes as it details the key findings.

Support for green initiatives is noticeably higher than it was in the fall of 2016, when the same polling firm performed a similar survey, according to the Cleveland report. But this may just be a question of poll wording. Who doesn’t support heightened efficiency and technological improvement? None of the respondents are asked if they should be coerced into footing the bill for inefficient energy that is intermittent and unreliable.

The result is a poll showing almost 80 percent of Ohio conservative voters telling pollsters they would be inclined to encourage Republican candidates to support “energy efficiency” and the expansion of wind and solar power.

Remarkably, the poll also found that conservatives would be willing to absorb higher monthly bills for green energy.

Here is how Public Opinion Strategies describes its findings:

“While respondents were informed that ‘the cost of renewable energy is coming down dramatically,’ they were asked hypothetically if it did cost more how much they would be willing to pay per month in higher electricity prices. Fully 85 percent say they would be willing to pay something more in order to increase the use of renewable energy — well within the margin of error of a year ago. In fact, a majority — 56 percent — would be willing to pay five dollars or more a month …”

But notice the sly marketing behind the messaging. Respondents are told that the high costs attached to renewables are temporal and to accept the premise that paying higher energy bills in the short-term will lead to long-term dividends; a dubious proposition.

The Ohio Conservative Energy Forum is part of an umbrella group called the Conservative Energy Network or CEN, which was founded in 2016 to promote “clean energy” at the state level. Ohio is just one small part of the whole piece with “members and allies” now active in 20 states, according to the group’s website. While CEN claims to favor an “all of the above” approach to energy policy, it clearly favors what it terms “clean, renewable energy.”

The discussion is happening across the Heartland.

Northwoods River News, Rhinelander Wisconsin:

A group of conservatives wants a seat at the table when it comes to the issue of alternative energy in Wisconsin, and, with former Gov. Tommy Thompson on board as a principal, it launched this past month the Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum, part of a national network. Executive director Scott Coenen says the new organization will be dedicated to changing the dynamics of the renewable energy conversation in Wisconsin.

He says the forum will work to involve conservatives in discussions about changes in energy markets, including the development of clean and renewable energy resources, energy efficiency technologies, and the impact those projects can have on jobs and economic development.

According to its website, the goal of the Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum is to spur a dialogue and provide a vehicle for individuals, organizations, and businesses to join the conservative conversation about Wisconsin’s energy future.

“We believe that an ‘all of the above’ energy policy, with an emphasis on stimulating our economy, lowering costs, and protecting our national and grid security, must be pursued by increasing commitment to developing ‘Wisconsin-grown’ clean energy resources and expanding energy efficiency,” the website states.

4 Responses to “In the Heartland, the Astro-Turf War on Renewables”

  1. Sir Charles Says:

    For astro-turfers not only pigs can fly… For ordinary people it’s nothing but disgusting.

  2. Kiwiiano Says:

    Are they kidding? They should be paying a serious premium for fossil fuelled energy!

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