"Standing in the way of progress": Obama calls out the Koch brothers over their anti-solar hypocrisy

The President accused the libertarian billionaires of selectively wielding their free market ideals

By Lindsay Abrams

Published August 25, 2015 2:03PM (EDT)

  (Reuters/Thomas Mukoya)
(Reuters/Thomas Mukoya)

The big-spending, libertarian Koch brothers are all about the free market -- until free market-driven innovation directly threatens their interests.

The hypocrisy is so transparent, even President Obama is directly calling them out on it.

"Now, it's one thing if you're consistent in being free market," Obama said at a solar industry summit in Las Vegas Monday night. "It's another thing when you're free market until it's solar that's working and people want to buy and suddenly you're not for it any more."

It's a scenario that fits the activities of the Koch brothers, and the various lobbying groups they back, to a T -- as Obama acknowledged in his speech: "When you start seeing massive lobbying efforts backed by fossil fuel interests, or conservative think tanks, or the Koch brothers pushing for new laws to roll back renewable energy standards, or to prevent new clean energy businesses from succeeding, that's s problem,"

"That's not the American way. That's not progress. That's not innovation. That's rent seeking. That's standing in the way of progress," he continued.

It was, reportedly, the first time Obama's singled out the Kochs by name for their anti-solar campaigning. And it was about time, seeing as how the Kochs, and the absurd amount of money they're pumping into the political system, have the ability to completely undermine Obama's (mostly) aggressive work to fight climate change.

(Obama himself is not immune to charges of hypocrisy; separately, Monday, the White House defended the decision to allow Shell to drill in the Arctic, calling it necessary to the “transition” to renewable energy.)

But the case for solar, as Obama explained in his speech, goes beyond wanting to fight climate change. It goes beyond, even, believing that climate change is real or that human activity is contributing to it (although the president also had some choice words for those who “hold up snowballs...as if that disproves decades of scientific data.” Since 2008, he said, the price of solar panels has dropped 10 percent; installations are up 30 percent, and the industry's created thousands of jobs. In some, sunny cases, he added, renewable energy is already becoming cheaper than conventional energy, and it's “impossible to overstate what that means.”

Even Tea Partiers -- those who aren't concerned primarily with protecting the fossil fuel industry -- can get behind that. “If you’re progressive, libertarian, if you want to save some money, if you care about the future of our children and grandchildren,” added Obama, you can too.

Lindsay Abrams

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Koch Brothers President Obama Renewable Energy Rooftop Solar