Do Clean Energy Ballot Measures Have A Chance On November 6th?
We’ve seen a cage match between the old guard and the new kids on the block in the energy sector this election.
Monopolies almost never like ideas the harm their bottom line, which is why they so rarely play well in the sandbox with the new kids. One loves the status quo while the other exists to disrupt it. They are antithetical.
This election season has brought that tension into open warfare in the energy industry.
Now, utilities and energy companies generally aren’t known for their ability to adapt. They do one thing well on behalf of their owners and shareholders, and innovation is limited to the things which will help them do that one thing more efficiently and more profitably.
They aren’t inherently evil. Thousands of well-intentioned, earnest people draw paychecks from these companies and make a positive impact by giving back to their communities. At the top of the corporate ladder, however, greed pervades, and it’s at this inflection point where their interests and the public interest diverge.
How desperate does their greed make them? How far will they go to protect their monopolies? This election year leaves no doubt about the answer.
In Washington State, a coalition of the nefarious including BP, Phillips 66, Valero, Andeavor, Chevron and Koch Industries have gushed $30 millionover the airwaves, mailboxes and internet connections of voters to try to stop the nation’s first fee on carbon emissions, following the advice of Nazi spinmeister, Josef Goebbels maxim, “If you tell people a lie often enough, eventually they will believe you.”
Instead of ceding a little space for a modest $15/metric ton experiment in a medium-sized state (remember that argument about states being the laboratories of reform?) they have tried to smash Initiative 1631like winemakers stomping grapes with their feet. They know adding the cost of their pollution to the price of their product opens the door for cleaner alternatives on a board in which they don’t already own Boardwalk and Park Place.
Thirty million seems to be the magic number this year as Arizona monopoly utility, Arizona Public Service (APS), has juiced a campaignagainst bumping up the state’s renewable energy standard to 50% by 2030. Nevermind that Arizona should be the solar capital of the United States, APS won a concession in their last rate case before utility regulators in the state to slap a demand surcharge on all residential and small business solar customers. Why? Because rooftop solar, while it’s good for air quality and saves ratepayers thousands of dollars over the lifespan of the system, means homeowners can choose to produce their own energy instead of relying on the only game in town.
Finally, if you want to see utility owners throw money around like it’s from Monopoly, go to Nevada where the state’s largest utility, Nevada Energy, which is owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, has spent $62 millionto convince Nevadans to vote against choosing their own energy supplier. Question 3would direct the state legislature to create an open, retail electric market and prevent the state from granting electricity-generating monopolies, but Nevada Energy has told supporters of the measure, “Go directly to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.”
As Mel Brooks’ character in History of the World, Part I said, “It’s good to be the king,” which also means all of these behemoths have a degree of noblesse oblige embedded in their DNA when it doesn’t directly challenge their dominance in the marketplace. But make no mistake, that charity doesn’t extend to the startups who want to build hotels on St. Charles Ave. or who want their turn on Free Parking just like all of these outsized companies have done for decades at the expense of taxpayers and drivers.
Like a drug dealer, they want the public to stay addicted to their products. Not so coincidentally, they’ve all decried these proposed market changes as risky, flawed and uncertain in the hopes the public will continue to walk up to the same corner to get their fix, not knowing there’s a cure for their addiction around the corner.
Fortunately, in our democracy, despite all of the money spent, every vote still is equal. Americans have fought and died and marched for this right, and it is the crown jewel of our democracy. With the recent conclusiveIPCC reportshowing we are running out of time to prevent dangerous climate change, and none of the opponents of these ballot measures having offered an alternative, it comes down to a simple question when you fill out your ballot: choose to do something or choose to do nothing.