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How the Koch brothers’ greenback influences green jobs, clean energy debate

Charles Koch (left) and David Koch, pictured in 1970.
Koch Industries Inc. | Wichita Eagle/MCT
Charles Koch (left) and David Koch, pictured in 1970.
Posted April 20, 2014, at 8:31 a.m.

Just last month, the Maine Heritage Policy Center and the Beacon Hill Institute, housed at Suffolk University in Boston, released a new study attacking Maine’s efforts to promote public health and mitigate climate change through its membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative — a highly successful, regional cap-and-trade program that has contributed more than $92 million to the state’s economy and more than 900 new jobs between 2009 and 2011.

While this all might seem innocuous, it’s actually textbook Koch brothers strategy and part of their larger, coordinated effort to dismantle renewable energy policy across the country in order to pad their already bulging wallets.

Both Maine Heritage Policy Center and Beacon Hill Institute are part of the Kochs’ broader State Policy Network, which comprises “think-tanks” located in all 50 states that publish reports on issues including environment and energy, education, workers’ rights and many others. State legislators and other mouthpieces of the Kochs often use these reports to build public support for model legislation that has been authored by the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, which comprises corporations that stand to benefit from this model legislation.

Simply put: Koch funding comes with strings attached, and those strings have an influence on everything, including the supposedly “nonpartisan” research that Beacon Hill Institute is churning out. Take the Maine Heritage Policy Center and Beacon Hill Institute study, which used Beacon Hill Institute’s research methodology, known as STAMP, to assess Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative’s economic impact in Maine. STAMP has been widely critiqued for its inherent bias by leading economists and groups such as the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Synapse Energy Economics.

For example, when Beacon Hill Institute assesses the cost of traditional, dirty fuels such as oil, it uses lower-than-average cost estimates. But when the institute looks at renewable sources such as wind or solar, it ascribes costs that far exceed anything resembling the real world. That in turn produces studies that always have one finding: renewables are costly and a bad investment. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

To date, Maine has received $51 million from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative — the vast majority of which goes to the Efficiency Maine Trust, which invests in programs designed to increase energy efficiency and lower costs for Maine’s ratepayers. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative also helps to reduce toxic air pollution that contributes to climate change and results in increased hospital visits and even deaths for the state’s most vulnerable, such as children and seniors who suffer from asthma.

In other words, Maine’s residents have reaped the rewards of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative’s success. Still, the Kochs and their vast network of corporate-funded front groups, such as the Maine Heritage Policy Center and Beacon Hill Institute, are doing everything in their power to dismantle this successful program in order to cater to their own self-interest.

Maine’s residents deserve to know who is really writing our laws. That’s why I’m proud to be a part of a nascent task force that will help identify legislation that was drafted by American Legislative Exchange Council or other outside corporate influences rather than lawmakers representing the people of Maine.

Policy that influences our precious natural resources and the well-being of our loved ones should be in the hands of Maine’s residents, not outside corporate influencers such as the Koch brothers.

Democratic Rep. Diane Russell represents Munjoy Hill and Downtown Portland in the Maine House of Representatives. Follow her on Twitter @MissWrite.

 

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