Ohio: Poster Child for Mindless Global Self-Destruction

Kill People, Kill the planet – Whatever Makes a Big Profit is Cool

John Kasich is a smart guy who knows better than to be an overt serial killer, so, as Governor of Ohio, he joins with others who prefer to do their mass killing by stealth, maybe spread the carnage out over future generations, who will be unable to hold the Kasiches and the ALECS of this world to account. Ever. However long that turns out to be.

This is not to single out Republican Gov. Kasich as the worst environmental monster in office (current term 2011-2015). On the contrary, his behavior seems rather centrist in the context of contemporary American Republican politics.

But his decision to make Ohio the first state to roll back alternative energy on behalf of ALEC, the front organization for the Koch brothers, the rest of the oil industry, and the rest of the fossil fuel establishment is, quite realistically, a crime against humanity. The fulcrum for that claim is climate change, which even the  deniers acknowledge would be globally devastating, if it turned out to be real. Amazingly, Kasich accepts the scientific reality, which makes his actions to exacerbate climate change quite literally a crime against humanity.

Self-Evisceration: the New American Way of Governing?  

In May 2012, at an Ohio energy conference hosted by The Hill, Gov. Kasich made his understanding of reality pretty clear, including his belief in the reality of global climate change:

I am a believer — my goodness I am a Republican — I happen to believe there is a problem with climate change. I don’t want to overreact to it, I can’t measure it all, but I respect the creation that the Lord has given us and I want to make sure we protect it….

But we can’t overreact to it and make things up, but it is something we have to recognize is a problem.…
We are going to continue to work on cleaning coal, but I want to tell you, we are going to dig it, we are going to clean it, and we are going to burn it in Ohio, and we are not going to apologize for it….

I believe there is something to [climate change], but to be unilaterally doing everything here while China and India are belching and putting us in a noncompetitive position isn’t good, but some of that is the presidential leadership…. I am just saying that I am concerned about it, but I am not laying awake at night worrying the sky is falling. [emphasis added]

If you say you believe one thing, but act as if you believe another…

Gov. Kasich may or may not be worrying about the sky falling, but he’s taken actions that will help pull it down. This June, on Friday the 13th, Gov. Kasich signed the bill that put his state in the lead in the fossil fuel industry’s attack on alternative energy. Gov. Kasich chose this pro-global-warming path despite significant opposition from some big businesses (Honda, Whirlpool, Honeywell, Owens-Corning), as well as most environmentalists and climate scientists.

In 2008, the Ohio legislature voted nearly unanimously (one No vote) to establish alternative energy standards for Ohio that would help slow climate change. This “renewable portfolio standard” was signed into law by then-Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat. Under this act, Ohio energy generation by 2025 had to come 25%  from alternative energy sources, and half of that (12.5%) from renewable energy sources; the bill also required consumers to be 22% more energy efficient by 2025.

By 2010, the state ranked #2 in solar production (behind Oregon) and was reliably in the top five for “green energy.” Ohio utilities were required to buy their renewable energy from Ohio companies. An April 2014 poll showed more than 70% of Ohioans supported the 2008 energy bill and its achievements over six years. As Climate Progress noted about the alternative energy standards of 2008:

Since the standard came into effect, Ohio’s clean energy sector provided 25,000 jobs and at least $1 billion in private sector investment. This has saved ratepayers roughly $230 million, dropping electricity rates by almost a percent and a half….

[Utility company] FirstEnergy’s CEO said that his company is “being hurt by various mandates that drive down electricity demand.” The company has even asked its customers to push for the bill freezing the clean energy and efficiency standards.

Yet FirstEnergy admitted to state regulators that the law’s efficiency standards helped consumers save $2 for every $1 spent. In total, the energy efficiency program has saved Ohio $1 billion in formerly wasted energy.

If it looks like a fascistic cabal is in control…

The bill Gov. Kasich signed June 13, Senate Bill 310, attacks all this. The bill “freezes” the 2025 mandate to allow for a two year “study,” which look more like time to organize to repeal the legislation entirely.  One indication of the bad faith at the heart of the Kasich bill is that it no longer requires utilities to buy Ohio renewables, both a gift to the big utilities and a blow to renewable energy companies, with ratepayers picking up the expense (Green Tech Media fears the bill will “end new wind farms in Ohio”). The bill also cuts the renewable energy annual benchmarks already enacted in 2008 by as much as 55% each year. This literally requires energy producers to make no progress whatsoever on climate change until the end of 2017.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), for those who have forgotten, is a frequently dishonest, secretive, corporate-funded, legal entity whose mission is to corrupt enough state legislators so that ALEC’s benefactors can achieve national legislative goals state-by-state, by semi-stealth, free from national media or Congressional scrutiny. ALEC describes itself with as much accuracy as dishonesty as “the nation’s largest, non-partisan, individual public-private membership association of state legislators,” where the unmentioned members are the controlling corporate operatives and where “non-partisan” means “willing to be bought regardless of party affiliation.”

From ALEC’s perspective, the public has no role in making public policy beyond docile acquiescence.

One of ALEC’s prime techniques is to develop corporate-interest legislation in secret task forces, creating “model” bills that their covert, Manchurian-legislator members can then take home and shill as their own handiwork. Long used to operating in relative obscurity (since its founding in 1973), ALEC was exposed through a massive document leak in 2011, reported by John Nichols in the Nation:

ALEC’s model legislation reflects long-term goals: downsizing government, removing regulations on corporations and making it harder to hold the economically and politically powerful to account.

Corporate donors retain veto power over the language, which is developed by the secretive task forces. The task forces cover issues from education to health policy. ALEC’s priorities [have included] bills to privatize education, break unions, deregulate major industries, pass voter ID laws and more.  [emphasis added]

ALEC has developed a model bill for undermining alternative energy growth. The bill signed by Gov. Kasich June 13 includes language taken from the ALEC model bill. At least 33 Ohio legislators are also members of ALEC.  In 2012, Ohio legislators sponsored more than 30 bills reflecting ALEC language and goals. Before he was a congressman or a governor, John Kasich was active in ALEC during its formative years. This is a closed feedback loop that allows these “representatives” of the people to ignore the people even on an issue where 70% of the people oppose this corporate elite.

With unapologetic, deeply deceptive, Orwellian language, ALEC calls its model legislation the “Electricity Freedom Act.”

Saving the planet tends to remind some people of Stalin

One of the most consistent critics of Ohio’s renewable portfolio standard has been Republican state Senator Bill Seitz who is also a member of the board of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). He has been campaigning against renewable energy responses to the dangers of climate change for years. He has sponsored a bill to repeal the 2008 law. In 2013, he told Mother Jones: “Nobody is for more carbon emissions than you need to have, but at the same time the question is, well, what does it cost?”

Earlier he had told the Wall Street Journal that renewable portfolio standards reminded him of “Joseph Stalin’s five-year plan.”  That article’s headline was “States Cooling to Renewable Energy,” followed by text supporting that self-fulfilling prophecy, mentioning climate change only in passing, and noting, as if it was a good thing, that:

The American Legislative Exchange Council, a nonprofit whose members include fossil-fuel companies and mostly Republican state legislators, created a model bill for rolling back the standards last year and urged its members to pass similar bills in 2013.

Sen. Seitz’s third largest campaign donor in 2012 was the Ohio company, American Electric Power Company (AEP). AEP fears it will lose money because of increased efficiency in electric use.  AEP is also a member of ALEC.

Isn’t a “victory for fossil fuels” an oxymoron?

Media coverage of this quite literally vicious circle has been mostly thin and inadequate, in Ohio as well as nationally, as documented by Media Matters. A google search of the New York Times turned up little substantive coverage (the bill signing got a wire report one paragraph long). There were a couple of blog posts about Kasich versus renewable energy, one of which (“Ohio Rolls Back Renewables”) only began promisingly:

The big-money coalition attacking solar and wind power scored a huge trophy this week. On Wednesday [May 28], the Ohio legislature became the first in the country to roll back renewable-energy standards for power generation, a victory for fossil fuels, soot and greenhouse gases.

Gov. Kasich is up for re-election in 2014, and his Democratic opponent Ed Fitzgerald jumped all over Kasich’s willingness to sign legislation against renewable energy initiatives favored by 70% of Ohioans. Fitzgerald issued this statement:

Tonight, Governor Kasich’s office announced that he intends to move Ohio’s economy, families, and environment backwards. SB 310 will force utility prices to rise, and cost Ohioans thousands of jobs. In signing this bill, Governor Kasich will align himself with the Koch Brothers and the wealthy and well connected — and against working Ohioans. As Governor, I will work to make Ohio a national energy leader, rather than make headlines for trapping Ohio in the Rust Belt.

Ohio’s direct assault on the health of the planet, on the health of the renewable energy business, on a democratic process with integrity – none of these have caught the mainstream media’s fancy, but maybe the campaign name-calling will.

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. This article was first published in Reader Supported News. Read other articles by William.