Not-So-Smart ALEC: Right-Wing Policy Group’s Opposition to Climate Action Drives Away Corporate Members
The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, is a right-wing policy shop that brings together conservative state lawmakers and corporations to develop model legislation that promotes what ALEC calls “principles of limited government, free markets, and federalism.” Translation, according to John Nichols of The Nation: “downsizing government, removing regulations on corporations and making it harder to hold the economically and politically powerful to account.”
With that agenda, it’s not surprising that, according to Climatewire, ALEC recently adopted a resolution supporting President Trump’s action to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement to control greenhouse gas pollution, and another resolution against tax credits for electric vehicles.
But here’s what’s eye-opening: In the wake of the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s dire warning that the window is rapidly closing for humanity to wean itself off fossil fuels, ALEC is losing corporate members who realize that the group’s position on climate change is folly.
In an interview with CleanTechnica, Kevin Haley of the Rocky Mountain Institute, or RMI, named 10 big companies that are corporate leaders in renewable energy purchases. Seven of those were ALEC members, but six have also established 100 percent renewable energy goals for their companies. According to RMI, corporate purchases of renewable power have reached record-breaking levels this year.
The sharp contrast between what the not-so-smart ALEC is selling and what businesses are buying is one reason corporations are leaving the group. The Hill recently reported that ALEC “has lost numerous major members over its advocacy against climate change policies,” including ExxonMobil, Expedia, Yahoo and Yelp.
But the apocalyptic scale of the climate change threat means that elected officials who support ALEC’s agenda must also come to their senses. Fighting climate change will require more government planning, policy and intervention, not less. The more successful that climate deniers and conservative economic ideologues are in slowing the response to climate change, the more strident that government intervention will ultimately have to be.
California is the prime example of what sound public policy on climate change looks like at the state level. The Golden State will meet its 50 percent renewable energy goal a decade early and met its climate goal of reducing climate-disrupting air pollution below 1990 levels by 2020 four years ahead of schedule.
The renewable energy goal was reached by the passage of sweeping energy legislation in 2015, among other iniatiatives. The state met the climate air emission goal with tough air standards. Without unswerving state leadership, these goals couldn’t have been met.
A federal example is the Obama-era fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks, which included incentives for electric and hybrid vehicles. Under the Obama standards, cars and light trucks are supposed to average nearly 55 miles per gallon by 2025. The Obama administration reported that its regulation would reduce carbon emissions by 6 billion metric tons – “more than the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the United States in 2010.” The Obama EPA estimated that by that date, consumers would save $1.7 trillion on fuel.
Every dollar spent to comply with the standards would return $13 in health benefits. The additional cost to the price of a car would be just $72. Moreover, according to a BlueGreen Alliance report, these standards have resulted in the creation of 60,000 jobs that, E&E News says, could be lost if President Trump is successful in rolling back the standards.
There are many other examples of where public policy has bolstered the economy, improved public health and begun to address or establish the institutional framework for meeting climate change disruptions. ALEC’s head-in-the-sand climate positions are irresponsible and scientifically indefensible, and corporations and policymakers should refuse to endorse them.