Washington Monthly Article Highlights Need for Cleantech to Counter Fossil Fuel Influence Peddling Efforts

March 2nd, 2015

The current issue of Washington Monthly has an article that’s well worth reading, whether you’re a player in the cleantech industry, or whether you simply want the cleantech industry to succeed.  In short, the article — “A New Agenda for Political Reform” — shows how enormous and pervasive the influence-peddling industry is. The following excerpt gives a feel for what we’re talking about, and specifically on how serious the fossil fuel industry is about playing and winning this game.

Lobbying expenditures have grown even more, from an estimated $200 million in 1983 to $3.24 billion in 2013—a sixfold increase, controlling for inflation. And this doesn’t count the proliferation of strategic consulting and issues management and research organizations that now fill Washington. One recent analysis by the Center for Public Integrity found that between 2008 and 2012, the American Petroleum Institute paid Edelman, a public relations conglomerate, $327.4 million for advertising and PR, far more than the association spent on lobbying. Moreover, almost half of Fortune 500 companies also now have their own grassroots-mobilization consultants, finds Edward T. Walker in Grassroots for Hire. All of this intrudes on the already limited attention of policymakers.

While many groups are indeed represented, 80 percent of lobbying spending is on behalf of business. Of the 100 organizations that spend the most on lobbying (and collectively account for about one-third of all lobbying expenditures), consistently between ninety and ninety-five of them represent business.

Clearly, the American Petroleum Institute isn’t spending $300+ million in just five years because it think that money is being wasted.  To the contrary, as Tigercomm President Mike Casey wrote in late 2010, the fossil fuel industry knows that this money is being well spent at playing, and winning, what it knows is a “full-contact game.” And the fossil fuel folks know that this game is played out in the corridors of political power, both in Washington, DC as well as in state capitols.

The question for the cleantech industry is whether it will make the needed investment in advocacy and public case making, both to counter the fossil fuel industry’s attacks on cleantech, but also to proactively advance a cleantech-friendly agenda in the corridors of power across the country. Sure, ignoring the political world might be the preferred inclination for many in cleantech. And that might even be ok, except for one major problem: the political world can do a lot of damage – or, potentially, a lot of good – to cleantech, particularly if the voices in the room are hostile to our industry. As is the case right now.

Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (3/2/15)

March 2nd, 2015

Here are five recommended reads for today (3/2/15).

  1. RenewEconomy reports, “One of the biggest banks in the Middle East and the oil-rich Gulf countries says that fossil fuels can no longer compete with solar technologies on price, and says the vast bulk of the $US48 trillion needed to meet global power demand over the next two decades will come from renewables.”
  2. According to Clean Technica, “A new report, delivered by the UK’s Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult in time to coincide with the news that contracts were awarded to two offshore wind farms to be built in the United Kingdom, goes a long way to proving the cost of offshore wind energy is falling.”
  3. The Guardian reports. “Hundreds of thousands of academics, engineers and lawyers in Denmark are set to vote on divesting their €32bn (£23bn) pension funds from the fossil fuels that drive climate change.”
  4. According to Inside Climate News: “So far, 2015 has not been good to the oil industry. In just the last two weeks, the bad news included two fiery oil railcar accidents, a refinery explosion, a scandal involving an industry-funded climate skeptic, a high-profile setback for an oil-by-rail project, a big retrenchment in Canada’s oil sands, and the president’s veto of the Keystone XL oil import pipeline.”
  5. The Guardian reports, “A sea of glass panels may soon be sprawling across a paddock in Queensland’s Darling Downs cranking out two gigawatts of energy – 100 times more than the largest solar farm in Australia today…”

Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (2/27/15)

February 27th, 2015

Here are five recommended reads for today (2/27/15).

  1. Greentech Media argues: “LA should create a larger program — at least 600 megawatts of new solar, in line with the new mayor’s campaign promises — and keep the fixed-price system that it’s currently using, which declines over time as contracts are awarded. This provides a good price signal and promotes declining prices over time.”
  2. Gigaom reports: “Solar installer and financier SolarCity announced on Thursday that it plans to raise a $750 million fund to invest in installing solar panels on the rooftops of home owners, and $300 million of that fund will come from tech giant Google. While Google has put over $1 billion into clean energy projects over the years, the commitment to the SolarCity fund is Google’s largest to date, and the entire fund will be the largest one ever created for residential solar projects.”
  3. At Forbes, Ucilia Wang writes, “What’s more interesting to me is whether we will see Google — and other institutional or corporate investors — hurry up and set up more tax equity funds before a lucrative tax break is set to end next year.”
  4. Reuters reports, “A significant majority of Americans say combating climate change is a moral issue that obligates them – and world leaders – to reduce carbon emissions, a Reuters/IPSOS poll has found.”
  5. InsideClimate News explains “Why States Rejecting EPA’s Clean Power Plan Could Face Bigger Rate Hikes.”

Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (2/26/15)

February 26th, 2015

Here are five recommended reads for today (2/26/15).

  1. According to BloombergBusiness, “Solar is so cheap, the problem now is how to pay for it.”
  2. RenewEconomy reports, “US-based SunEdison, now the largest renewable energy company in the world, says it sees a $4 trillion value opportunity in the global wind and solar markets by 2020.”
  3. At Renewable Energy World, Tor “Solar Fred” Valenza explains that, “No matter how small you are, you must also realize that your solar company has an inherent media company, too.”
  4. Grist explains “how dirty media brought down Oregon’s clean-energy governor and his activist fiancée.”
  5. Renewable Energy World reports: “Ongoing research and development in the wave and tidal sector has brought the industry into the beginnings of commercial development. However, it will be years before we start seeing a device to harness the power of the tides and waves off every coast.”

Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (2/25/15)

February 25th, 2015

Here are five recommended reads for today (2/25/15).

  1. David Roberts of Grist explains “What we can learn from British Columbia’s carbon tax.”
  2. The BBC reports: “The UK offshore oil and gas industry has reported its worst annual performance for four decades. Industry body Oil & Gas UK said falling oil prices and rising costs meant the sector spent and invested £5.3bn more than it earned from sales during 2014.”
  3. Katie Fehrenbacher of Gigaom explains “Why Apple would benefit from building electric car tech.”
  4. NPR reports: “Florida is one of several states where the Tea Party has embraced a new cause: solar energy. Tea Party groups are teaming up with progressive organizations to open up the solar energy industry. It’s an unusual coalition and puts them at odds in some states with another conservative grassroots organization, the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity.”
  5. Rolling Stone asks: “Oil prices are crashing and Obama has vetoed Keystone XL. Will Canada double down on its dirty tar sands?”