The Koch brothers' underhanded attack on wind energy

The duo's anti-Obama spin on a bipartisan issue is beyond despicable

Published November 7, 2014 8:04PM (EST)

David Koch                                      (AP/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
David Koch (AP/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Well that took absolutely no time at all. A coalition of conservative groups lead by the Koch-affiliated American Energy Alliance (and including the Koch-affiliated Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-affiliated Competitive Enterprise Institute, among others) are showing up in force against renewable energy, urging congressional Republicans to allow a key wind energy tax credit to expire.

Wind power's Achilles heel, for the time being, is that it's not yet sustainable on its own -- without tax credits, it collapses. According to the American Wind Energy Association, capacity and construction drop a full 84 percent when the wind production tax credit (PTC) isn't available. In a letter addressed to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the groups warn that Democrats will try to extend the PTC during the lame-duck session. Forget that doing so will save jobs and promote clean energy, they argue: cooperating would  be tantamount to endorsing climate action.

"Rejecting efforts to extend the PTC is a meaningful way for this Congress to oppose the president's climate plan," the letter reads. "A vote for extending the PTC is a vote for the president and the majority leader's agenda."

The incredibly duplicitous thing about this is the way the groups spin wind energy into a climate change issue, when in reality, it's much simpler than that -- and something that, unlike the EPA's power plant rule, has bipartisan support. Last March, 144 Congressional members, lead by Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Reps. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) called for the PTC's renewal (wind power contributes over 27 percent to Iowa's energy mix, while Colorado's home to major wind turbine manufacturers). Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, once wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal calling them out for trying to politicize the PTC, when in reality, he argued, the wind industry is "an American success story that is helping us build our manufacturing base, create jobs, lower energy costs and strengthen our energy security" -- not, as the AEA letter reads, "an attack on affordable energy from gas, coal and nuclear."

Even Joni Ernst, Iowa's newly elected Tea Party senator who literally wants to shoot it out with the feds and who has not seen "proven proof" that human activity contributes to climate change, has publicly supported the wind credit.

The letter itself is proof that the Koch brothers, who are notorious for attacking renewable energy -- precisely because their fossil fuel interests are so threatened by renewable energy -- fear that their cronies in the federal government aren't on their side. "The letter is, in part, an expression of concern among groups that are usually aligned with Koch (and the conservative movement) that House leadership is starting to stray pretty far off the reservation with respect to tax extenders," said Mike McKenna, "a Republican lobbyist whose clients include a Koch Industries affiliate," told E&E News. "It has the potential to be a significant source of conflict."

By Lindsay Abrams

MORE FROM Lindsay Abrams

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Climate Change Congressional Republicans Joni Ernst Koch Brothers Renewable Energy