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Power The Almighty Buck Politics Science

The Koch Brothers Attack On Solar Energy 769

Posted by samzenpus
from the there-goes-the-sun dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "The NYT writes in an editorial that for the last few months, the Koch brothers and their conservative allies in state government have been spending heavily to fight incentives for renewable energy, by pushing legislatures to impose a surtax on this increasingly popular practice, hoping to make installing solar panels on houses less attractive. 'The coal producers' motivation is clear: They see solar and wind energy as a long-term threat to their businesses. That might seem distant at the moment, when nearly 40 percent of the nation's electricity is still generated by coal, and when less than 1 percent of power customers have solar arrays. But given new regulations on power-plant emissions of mercury and other pollutants, and the urgent need to reduce global warming emissions, the future clearly lies with renewable energy.' For example, the Arizona Public Service Company, the state's largest utility, funneled large sums through a Koch operative to a nonprofit group that ran an ad claiming net metering would hurt older people on fixed incomes (video) by raising electric rates. The ad tried to link the requirement to President Obama. Another Koch ad likens the renewable-energy requirement to health care reform, the ultimate insult in that world. 'Like Obamacare, it's another government mandate we can't afford,' the narrator says. 'That line might appeal to Tea Partiers, but it's deliberately misleading,' concludes the editorial. 'This campaign is really about the profits of Koch Carbon and the utilities, which to its organizers is much more important than clean air and the consequences of climate change.'"
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The Koch Brothers Attack On Solar Energy

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  • Buggy whips? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo (196126) * <.ten.3dlrow. .ta. .ojom.> on Monday April 28, 2014 @08:12AM (#46857621) Homepage

    Seems like it is only a matter of time until coal power goes away. It will be a long time, granted, but in the next decade or two solar will get so cheap that the impact on traditional centralized generation will be quite severe. I guess they are watching what is happening in Germany with horror and realizing that is their future too.

  • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Monday April 28, 2014 @08:14AM (#46857623)

    ...that you disapprove just as much of Michael Bloomberg (another billionaire that spends a lot of money trying to influence politics) when he decides to buy a "grass roots" effort as you do when the Koch Brothers try to do so?

    Or does the choice of cause mean that one billionaire trying to influence politics is worse than the other billionaire trying to influence politics?

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Monday April 28, 2014 @08:15AM (#46857631)

    Everywhere I go its the democrats whining about the evil billionaires giving money to the republicans and republicans whining about the evil billionaires giving money to the Democrats.

    Shut the fuck up.

    You're both getting big donations from billionaires... stop pretending like they don't have their own interests and axes to grind.

  • Greedy douchebags. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 28, 2014 @08:15AM (#46857633)

    America is being made worse by what the rich choose to fight.

    They're more interested in protecting their own (sizable) wealth than they are about the future of humanity, the environment, or anything else.

    These assholes should be suspended over the smokestack of a coal plant for about 6 months.

  • Re:Buggy whips? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Monday April 28, 2014 @08:25AM (#46857683)

    Coal seems safe because the consequences are diffuse enough not to be noticed. A few thousand more people impaired by mercury exposure, a couple more hurricanes a year - but nothing you can point to and declare 'Coal did this.'

  • Re:Buggy whips? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rmstar (114746) on Monday April 28, 2014 @08:26AM (#46857685)

    This is a very real problemâ"it's not just some rich people being assholes, but rather some rich people who stand to become substantially less rich if things go the way they seem to be going.

    I thought the actual story was that if you or me dislike some policy we can go fuck ourselves, whereas if the Kochs dislike it, they get a real chance to change it.

    An oligarchy indeed [slashdot.org].

    What I also find a little unsettling is that most commenters, including you, don't seem to think much of that power imbalance (or even be aware of it) directly jumping to the solar vs. no solar issue.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 28, 2014 @08:26AM (#46857689)

    Buying influence in politics is bad enough without people trying to make scientific issues political.

  • Re:Buggy whips? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrNaz (730548) on Monday April 28, 2014 @08:28AM (#46857701) Homepage

    This is a very real problem

    No, it's not really. The world has survived plenty of instances of entire technological paradigms becoming obsolete. Fossil fuels will become obsolete sooner or later, and the world will be better off for it. It's just a question of how long the elite (like the Koch brothers) can hold the welfare of the entire world hostage to their pointless shell game.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 28, 2014 @08:28AM (#46857705)

    Can you spot the irony in all this? These corporations that are fighting against government subsidized green energy are all those who have themselves grown enormously through different types of government subsidies.

    It's amazing how well the twisted corporationist logic sinks into the general public. The corporations on one hand speak for capitalism and free market, but on the other they cling to government subsidies and form monopolies effectively wiping out any competition on their markets.

    Roosevelt once stated that this type of centralization of power in the private sector that corporations have today, could eventually lead to fascism. In some way, I don't think he was too far off.

  • by Typical Slashdotter (2848579) on Monday April 28, 2014 @08:29AM (#46857709)

    This piece is by the New York Times editorial board, not a politician. Would you propose no one talk about the power of money in politics, just because it affects both parties? I, for one, would prefer that people talk about the corrupting influence of money on the political process whenever it occurs, so that, maybe some day, enough people will be fed up with it to do something about it.

    That doesn't mean I support a politician with big money backers using the fact that his opponent accepts campaign contributions as a cheap ad hominem, however, but that's not what this is.

  • by polar red (215081) on Monday April 28, 2014 @08:41AM (#46857759)

    can you back that up with figures and links?

  • by rmdingler (1955220) on Monday April 28, 2014 @08:43AM (#46857773)
    Rich guys attempt to influence industry dear to their hip pockets.

    In other news, the damage from these abuses of democracy could be mitigated with some sane campaign contribution reform legislation.

    Yes, wealth will always have more than its proportionate share of say, but it gets worse if you leave it alone to fix itself.

  • Re:Buggy whips? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo (196126) * <.ten.3dlrow. .ta. .ojom.> on Monday April 28, 2014 @08:45AM (#46857801) Homepage

    You would think that the sensible thing to do would be to invest all company profits into developing solar and other renewable energy so that they could become the market leaders in providing it, thus ensuring that they remain relevant in the future. As usual though they seem to have left it far too late and the need to post a quarterly profit + growth makes any long term planning or strategy impossible. It's suicide, essentially.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 28, 2014 @08:45AM (#46857805)

    Or does the choice of cause mean that one billionaire trying to influence politics is worse than the other billionaire trying to influence politics?

    You are pointing out two problems with the U.S.A. here: the first problem is that low taxation, inheritable business empires and riches and lots of exceptions make it possible for billionaires or ultra-rich people to emerge as a class on its own who have millions of times the resources at their disposal as the working class does, obviously without any remotely proportionally justifiable personal merit of themselves.

    The second problem you are pointing out that politics in the U.S.A. are organized in a manner where you can influence the lawmakers by throwing money at them, and do it quite legally so. In addition to the lawmakers being in the pockets of the ultra-rich, in addition the media are also under control of the ultra-rich.

    The consequence of that is that even where nominally democratic structures are still in place, they are controlled by big money interests.

    As long as the rich people are given control of the law- and news making processes, there is no factual democracy in place.

    As long as Americans care more about who is sleeping with whom as a moral compass rather than who is paying money to whom for things that utterly should not be connected by any monetary link, they will live in the system they deserve. The problem is that the rest of the world did nothing to deserve the consequences of the unmitigated systematic rampant corruption of the U.S.A. and its interest-focused government.

  • by MitchDev (2526834) on Monday April 28, 2014 @08:46AM (#46857809)

    Ban political contributions altogther, beginning of solving the problem.

  • by thaylin (555395) on Monday April 28, 2014 @08:50AM (#46857829)

    How do they mean higher prices for everyone else? There is no evidence to support that claim.

    Solar does not typically use net 0 energy, and they do not get retail prices, they get wholesale prices, and then still have to pay retail for the energy they use at night, meaning they have to use much less energy in the evening, than during the days, to be able to have a net 0.

    In addition since they only get wholesale prices the energy companies are making money off of the energy that the customers generate.

    Lastly even if a customer is net 0 there is no evidence that they cost other individuals a penny.

    So the person spewing the bullshit seems to be you

  • Re:Buggy whips? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Luckyo (1726890) on Monday April 28, 2014 @08:50AM (#46857831)

    You miss my point. Consequences of not having power are several orders of magnitude worse. Power has to be generated somewhere. And unless you have a perpetual motion machine, or invented functional fusion reactor (or a way to improve fission's reputation in the eyes of the public) we're pretty much stuck with coal.

  • Re:Buggy whips? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Luckyo (1726890) on Monday April 28, 2014 @08:51AM (#46857843)

    Civilization as we know it will likely not exist several hundred years in the future regardless. We can't keep consuming the way we are, and we'll run out, causing us to change the consumption model.

  • Re:Heh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Luckyo (1726890) on Monday April 28, 2014 @08:53AM (#46857865)

    Shills from coal industry in Germany talk about German Energiewende like about manna from heaven. They're massively building up coal and firing up all the old plants as much as they can becuase of it and raking in massive profits.

    If I could be seen to be shilling for anything, it's not shutting down fission in Germany and replacing it with coal, as Energiewende has basically done.

  • by Ash Vince (602485) * on Monday April 28, 2014 @08:53AM (#46857867) Journal

    Need a Venn Diagram for the subsidies that the Koch brothers oppose.

    Draw a large circle, and write "government subsidies of any kind" in it. Then, draw a larger circle around it, and label it "subsidies that the Koch brothers oppose.

    Yes, the Koch brothers oppose solar subsidies, because they are subsidies.

    It is also disingenuous to say they want surtaxes on solar. While it may be true, the context is that there are surtaxes on other forms of energy, and they want a level playing field.

    This is a very bad summary.

    But that is stupid. The whole point of putting surtaxes on non-renewable forms of energy is that they are non-renewable so by using them today you are storing up costs for the future when they are gone. The problems can be to do with having to mitigate the effects of more CO2 in the atmosphere or with them simply running out but either way we know there will be a cost down the line, so since government will ultimately have to foot the bill either way they impose a tax to mitigate that (in theory anyway, even if they do then spend it on some other crap).

    With solar power however the energy gained is absolutely free at the point of generation. If you don't put a solar panel in the way then that solar energy would have just contributed to warming the planet when it hit the ground underneath. This is (or should be) the main reason why no tax is paid on energy from solar. Maybe you should even get a tax-rebate for using solar to generate electricity as the energy you generate would normally have contributed to global warming as it hit the ground and heated it. (ok, I studied years of physics so know this is a stretch but I still think it a net benefit, however minute)

    I can understand (although I do not agree with, we need to encourage more solar use, not less) the idea of putting a small tax on solar panels themselves as they are quite polluting to produce, but once they are built they actually do far more good for the planet than bad, unlike all the fossil fuels the Kock brothers make their money from.

  • Re:Buggy whips? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jonwil (467024) on Monday April 28, 2014 @08:57AM (#46857887)

    If some rich person becomes less rich because people no longer want the dirty polluting coal their companies extract from the ground, GOOD. If that means a bunch of people no longer have a job going down into a hole every day digging out that filthy stuff, GOOD.

    Just like the motor car made the horse obsolete as a means of transport, there will come a time when mankind invents a technology (or technologies) that make the use of coal for generating electricity obsolete and that will be a GOOD thing for the planet.

  • What? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 28, 2014 @08:59AM (#46857901)

    So your position is that the Koch brothers are for improved fairness in taxation by imposing new taxes on emerging industries? I don't believe that for one second. They see a threat to their profit and they are attacking. I have no idea how you can try to pretend this is benevolence.

  • by sjbe (173966) on Monday April 28, 2014 @09:00AM (#46857909)

    Using locally produced solar energy in a northern area that sees peak energy usage in the middle of winter is not really a good idea

    They don't use air conditioning in Germany? Solar isn't going to fix every problem but even if it can solve just part of the problem then it remains a good idea. Why would you not want to use relatively clean solar energy for at least those times when it is available? The only credible argument against solar power is an economic one. No it will not be able to supply all our power needs but neither is any other single source of fuel. They all have drawbacks of one sort or another. What seems abundantly clear however is that any technology that allows us to reduce use of fossil fuels at reasonable economic cost is a good thing.

    There is this stupid tendency here on slashdot to dismiss partial solutions to any problem as unworkable. Solar does not have to supply all our energy needs to still be a good idea. The economics of it still need to make sense but there is no principled reason why it should not be a significant part of the energy supply equation.

  • Re:Buggy whips? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mellon (7048) on Monday April 28, 2014 @09:16AM (#46858057) Homepage

    No, that's the problem. That's not the sensible thing for them to do. The sensible thing for them to do is try to perpetuate the status quo. If they start investing heavily in solar, there's no way they can avoid many trillions of dollars in losses. These are real assets that absolutely have to be devalued in the process of solar winning. So the later in the game solar wins, the fewer assets they have to write off.

  • by sjbe (173966) on Monday April 28, 2014 @09:20AM (#46858099)

    Fossil fuels will become obsolete sooner or later, and the world will be better off for it.

    While I would love that to be true, what technology do you think is going to make that happen? Solar and wind cannot do the job by themselves due to their unpredictability on time scales shorter than months. Nuclear fission is feasible but the waste and operational safety concerns make it too much of a political and economic hot potato. Geothermal and hydro simply aren't available in a lot of locations in sufficient quantity. Transmission losses force power generation to need to be relatively close to point of use and there is no economically viable form of superconductivity. Nuclear fusion and other more exotic power sources remain perpetually 25 years away.

    I'd love to say that fossil fuels are doomed but I don't see any reasonably likely scenario in at least the next 40 years where that could possibly be true. Sure we might see a breakthrough in fusion or energy storage that would change the equation significantly but we cannot presume such a breakthrough will occur. We absolutely should maximize our use of solar and wind. Nuclear could be a bigger piece of the energy pie. Fossil fuels should be regulated to ensure that they have to pay the full cost of their use including all pollution they cause. But will all that occur? I doubt it.

  • Re:Buggy whips? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RazorSharp (1418697) on Monday April 28, 2014 @09:31AM (#46858207)

    No, they're just dicks.

    Or are they?

    Yes. They're definitely dicks.

  • Re:Buggy whips? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DrLang21 (900992) on Monday April 28, 2014 @09:39AM (#46858275)

    They will just have to find another job.

    I don't really disagree with your points, but this is an extremely naive statement. Many of these people are too old to make a radical career shift that will keep them in the middle class. When ever there is a radical shift in a large employment industry, there is economic devistation for a lot fo families. The steel industry is a good example of this. Yes most of them found new jobs, but the shift in economic buying power was dramatic and lasted for generations.

  • Re:Buggy whips? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sjbe (173966) on Monday April 28, 2014 @09:46AM (#46858355)

    True enough - the world has survived such things, but countries whose dominance is closely tied to such things often fare poorly during and after such transitions.

    The economic power of the US is not strongly tied to fossil fuels. The US uses them heavily but so does every other industrialized nation on earth. Nations whose economic output is primarily tied to fossil fuel mining (like Saudi Arabia) should in theory worry about such things but the US could relatively easily switch to new sources of power within reasonably short time scales. Most of the economic output of the US is not based on mining or distribution of fossil fuels.

    Unless the U.S. starts, pretty damned soon, to find an alternative to fossil fuels, it's economy is in for a beating, the likes of which few have scarcely imagined.

    Exactly what do you think is going to replace fossil fuels that is not going to be available in the US? Seriously, I'm all for replacing fossil fuels with cleaner sources of energy but there is NOTHING out there presently or in the reasonably likely future that is likely to do more than dent the use of fossil fuels for at least the next 30-40 years.

  • Not the first (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sjbe (173966) on Monday April 28, 2014 @09:56AM (#46858483)

    The world has never faced a technology which had the potential to take out the entire human ecosystem before.

    You mean like nuclear weapons? Perhaps you are not old enough to remember the Cold War. We've had the capability to destroy the entire planet for roughly 60 years and on a few occasions have come disturbingly close to doing it. Fossil fuel pollution is a serious threat but it's not the first technology in a position to wipe us out entirely. Fossil fuel pollution has only become an acute threat in the last few decades though that should not be interpreted to minimize the seriousness of the problem.

  • Re:Buggy whips? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kilfarsnar (561956) on Monday April 28, 2014 @10:03AM (#46858555)

    I thought the actual story was that if you or me dislike some policy we can go fuck ourselves, whereas if the Kochs dislike it, they get a real chance to change it.

    If anyone ever wonders why fabulously rich people want to keep making more money, this is why. Money=Political Power in America. It's not about how many yachts, houses or G4's you have, once you're in the billionaires club. It's about how many Senators you have doing your bidding, and how many news stations you have framing your views. Like Walter White, they are in the empire business.

  • by Lawrence_Bird (67278) on Monday April 28, 2014 @10:19AM (#46858779) Homepage

    a) it is not an "article" It is an editorial and thus opinion.
    b) stop taking money from taxes to subsidize installation of solar panels. My school taxes are high enough already thank you.
    c) why should a private company be forced to buy and resell your product and assume all the delivery expenses?
    d) why should I or anyone else be forced to pay higher electric bills just so you can sell your solar power back to the grid?
          Ex: "Learn how you can sell the electricity you generate back to Georgia Power at a premium price, currently 17.00 cents/kWh."

  • Re:Buggy whips? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 28, 2014 @10:30AM (#46858913)

    You're under the mistaken impression that they're out to make money.

    They are not. They've already won that game. Once you reach a certain level of rich making more becomes irrelevant. When you can buy anything that's for sale you're done.

    These people are out to become kings. Literal monarchs. They only thing standing in their way is this thing called the "middle class". It's no coincidence that every policy pushed by these oligarchs is specifically designed to destroy the earning power, social mobility, and well being of everyone that's.. Well, not them.

    And it's working. The wealth gap is increasing at breakneck speeds. Your wages are stagnating. The social safety nets that keep you from falling in to poverty are evaporating. Your parents could buy a house, two cars, and send 2 kids to college on a single income with a high school diploma. You cannot.

    You are being attacked. When will you start fighting back?

  • Re:Buggy whips? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Archangel Michael (180766) on Monday April 28, 2014 @10:46AM (#46859147) Journal

    Solyndra

    Subsidized "Green" energy in a nutshell.

    But, if you're a left wing nutjob who see "evil" only on the right side then by all means keep yelling "Koch Brothers". And pay no attention to Harry Reid's deal with the Chinese to land a job for his son in the Nevada Desert, under the auspices of "saving the tortoise".

    Corruption in the Political class is both (D) and (R), but until you realize that the enemy isn't the guys with the (R) behind their name, you're just substituting one "evil" for another. And at that point, you might as well go Cthulhu.

  • Re:Buggy whips? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dishevel (1105119) on Monday April 28, 2014 @11:39AM (#46859787)
    The problem is not the "Koch Brothers" or "Big Oil" or "Big Pharma" or "The Unions" or "Warren Buffet" or how much they spend on commercials.

    The problem is the people that vote because of the last commercial they saw. There are a lot of uninformed, stupid, lazy people who think it is a good idea that they vote anyway.

  • Re:Buggy whips? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Sarten-X (1102295) on Monday April 28, 2014 @12:57PM (#46860523) Homepage
    Money buys you an audience. What you say to that audience gets you power.
  • Re:Buggy whips? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Feyshtey (1523799) on Monday April 28, 2014 @02:14PM (#46861321)
    Sarcasm tit-for-tat...

    As for your comments about global warming, you're absolutely right. 97% of the world's climate scientists, who are generally not paid very well, agree that global warming is real and a real danger to human existence.

    And those 97% of climate scientists would be generally paid nothing if it were determined they'd been flat out wrong (again) for the last 2 decades. At the least they'd be discredited and viewed as incompetent. The grants and foundations that make their work possible would evaporate. A cynical person would point out that pure self-preservation might encourage some to speak that which ensures their job over the truth.

    Just saying...

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