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Climate skeptics target states’ energy laws

WASHINGTON — The Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank skeptical of climate change science, has joined with the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council to write model legislation aimed at reversing state renewable energy mandates.

The Electricity Freedom Act, adopted by the council’s board of directors in October, would repeal state standards requiring utilities to get a portion of their electricity from renewable power, calling it ‘‘essentially a tax on consumers of electricity.’’

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Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have binding renewable standards; in the absence of federal climate legislation, these initiatives have become the subject of intense political battles.

The legislative council, or ALEC, is a conservative-leaning group of state legislators from all 50 states that has sought to roll back climate regulation in the past. It lost some corporate sponsors early this year because of its role promoting ‘‘stand your ground’’ laws that allow the use of force in self-defense without first retreating when faced with a serious threat.

But the involvement of the Heartland Institute, which posted a billboard in May comparing those who believe in global warming to domestic terrorist Theodore Kaczynski, shows the breadth of conservatives’ efforts to undermine environmental initiatives on the state and federal level. In many cases, the groups involved accept money from oil, gas, and coal companies that compete against renewable energy suppliers.

The Heartland Institute received more than $7.3 million from Exxon Mobil between 1998 and 2010, and nearly $14.4 million between 1986 and 2010 from foundations affiliated with Charles and David Koch, whose firm Koch Industries has substantial oil and energy holdings.

James Taylor, the Heartland Institute’s senior fellow for environmental policy, said he was able to persuade most of ALEC’s state legislators and corporate members to push for a repeal of laws requiring more solar and wind power use on the basis of economics.

‘‘Renewable power mandates are very costly to consumers throughout the 50 states, and we feel it is important that consumers have access to affordable electricity,’’ Taylor said.

Taylor dismissed the idea that his group pushed for the measure because it has accepted money from fossil-fuel firms: ‘‘The people who are saying that are trying to take attention away from the real issue — that alternative energy, renewable energy, is more expensive than conventional energy.’

Renewable-energy officials said setting renewable targets is a way to diversify a state’s energy mix and lock in long-term prices, while alternative energy costs continue to decline.

It remains unclear whether the new drive to repeal state renewable standards will succeed: Similar efforts over the past two years have failed in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oregon, and Washington.

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