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Wind turbine on the Kumeyaay Indian reservation in southern California.
Wind turbines on the Kumeyaay Indian reservation in southern California.
Nearly three-fifths of the states have established renewable energy standards. That rises to three-fourths when renewable energy goals are included. The standards mandate how much electricity utility companies, including municipally owned utilities, must generate by a certain date from solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, biomass and other renewable sources. And the folks at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), who are celebrating their 40th birthday at the group's annual convention in Chicago this week, worked in their usual behind-the-scenes way in the past seven months to dump those standards.

They failed. Not just once. But in every state where they attacked.

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have mandated standards. These vary widely. Minnesota has mandated 25 percent from renewables by 2025. California has set its standards at 33 percent by 2020. Eight other states have set voluntary goals. Over the past four years, these standards have helped double the amount of electricity generated from renewables. And, taken altogether, they could, in theory, result in 75 gigawatts of new renewably sourced generating power by 2025, enough to supply about 16 percent of our nation's residential electricity in addition to the 5 percent already being supplied. Not enough, to be sure, but a tremendous increase in a short time if the targets are met.

The folks at ALEC, funded by the brothers Koch and Exxon Mobil, among others, made it a priority at their annual convention in Salt Lake City last year to go after the renewable energy standards, according to Matt Kasper at Think Progress.

ALEC's Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force—heavily influenced by the fossil fuel industry and whose public sector chairman is veteran Republican Rep. David Wolkins of Indiana—adopted the Electricity Freedom Act. a model bill designed to repeal or weaken state renewable energy standards. ALEC partnered with the Heartland Institute, the climate change-denying libertarian think tank that ran a billboard campaign linking climate activists to Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Charles Manson and Fidel Castro. They also brought the right-wing John Locke Foundation, Grover Norquist, the American Conservative Union and Americans for Tax Reform aboard for the fight. They were involved in 13 states.

And they lost big time. Not a single state in the ALEC crosshairs repealed its standards. Indeed, Minnesota raised its mandate.

Find out more details below the fold.

As Jim Malewitz at Stateline reported:

“ALEC’s attempt to squash clean energy standards in the states has failed,” said Gabe Elsner, director of the Washington D.C.-based Checks and Balances Project, a self-described government and industry watchdog group. “I thought they would have had more success.” [...]

Meanwhile, Colorado doubled its mandate for rural electric cooperatives, requiring 20 percent of their energy sales by 2020 to come from renewable resources. In Minnesota major utilities now must generate 1.5 percent of their power from solar—on top of the 25 percent by 2025 for renewables at large.

This doesn't, of course, mean that ALEC will give up. The organization has donors with very deep pockets. And it has not been successful on so many fronts—from right-to-work and stand-your-ground laws to various deregulatory schemes—by surrendering after losing a battle here and there. Like the anti-abortion movement, it keeps fighting, maneuvering in new ways when it encounters obstacles to its objectives. Some of those defeats over renewables this year were close things. In Montana, for instance, the ALEC-inspired S.B. 31 required the veto of Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock to bite the dust.

But what these defeats show is that ALEC is no all-powerful juggernaut. It can be beaten. And progressives should make every effort to extend these defeats into the whole range of legislation that ALEC and its corporate backers are trying to impose in so many states. Not merely fighting against new legislation but repealing the crap ALEC has already gotten onto the books to our detriment.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 12:57 PM PDT.

Also republished by American Legislative Transparency Project, Climate Change SOS, Kosowatt, EcoJustice, DK GreenRoots, Gulf Watchers Group, and Daily Kos.

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