The Green Sun Tea Party
energywhiz | On 15, Aug 2013
Free Markets + Renewable Energy = Good Politics
Debbie Dooley is the co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party. She recently penned an article for Grist.org where she revealed her alignment with a strange bedfellow (for a Republican) in The Sierra Club in her home state of Georgia.
The equation was simple: free markets + renewable energy = common ground for all persuasions of politics.
She wasn’t referring to parity with respect to government subsidies or tax credits. She was referring to opening the energy markets such that consumers could properly vote with their wallets.
The premise is simple: Those who believe in the free market need to reexamine the way our country produces energy. Giant utility monopolies deserve at least some competition, and consumers should have a choice. It’s just that simple, and it’s consistent with the free-market principles that have been a core value of the Tea Party since we began in 2009.
In Georgia, as in many (nearly all) states, one giant company controls how energy is produced and distributed. Regardless of the level of progressiveness, altruism, enlightenment or outright greed of those monopolies, there are at-best weak market dynamics at work. They hide in the self-serving arguments of “we have to protect the integrity of the grid” and “renewables sources vary with sun and wind”.
We heard similar arguments from AT&T before their communications monopoly was busted up and we witnessed an explosion in innovation and positive economics in the communications industry.
The Constitution does not say that government should pick winners and losers, but that is what government is doing when it protects the interests of older technologies over clean energy that’s now available at competitive prices. I say, let the market decide.
EGW agrees: Let the market decide.
But only so far as it applies to renewable energy. The fact that carbon-based energy is dirty and exhaustible intrinsically sets it apart. Renewables are now essentially at (or very near) net-grid-parity with carbon-based energy, but one cannot equate oil, gas and coal with renewables in terms of conservative values. To even the market playing field, renewables *should* be given leg-up to be equally empowered, and carbon fuels should be handicapped for the very reasons stated by EGW or Ms. Dooley.
Fossil fuels have fossilized the government and market system into their image, and they have metastasized their momentum and advantages such that newcomers have to work exponentially harder, or pay exponentially more to break into the game. That not-so-invisible hand (read: stranglehold) carbon capitalists have on the markets must be broken. This 100-plus year old modus operandi of business-as-usual based on the premise of essentially unlimited resources and infinite growth within the increasingly small “closed system” of a planet on which we live can’t be the overriding principal that drives the free market. It must include conservatism– conservation, conservative values– and those include sustainability, a sadly missing precept in classic, myopic aspects of capitalism.
Thomas Edison, the surprising proponent of solar energy, said in a conversation with Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone 80 years ago:
“We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy — sun, wind and tide. … I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.“
It’s unwise and defies common sense.
Opening the markets to renewables doesn’t mean we want to see badly situated windfarms or gerry-rigged solar farms springing up in residential areas like scenes from dystopian, post-apocalyptic scifi; but it wouldn’t be difficult to frame best practices that could be easily adopted by municipalities for their zoning and building codes.
In fact, ending the so-called “public” utilities’ stranglehold on the advancement of innovation in renewable, reliable sources of energy and grid improvements would unleash a gold rush of entrepreneurship that would put massive numbers of people to work, solve challenging problems incumbents aren’t particularly motivated to solve quickly, and create, by definition, sustainable, scalable employment across the country for both skilled and relatively unskilled labor.