The Green Tea Party  

Posted by Big Gav in

The Guardian has an article by ReNew Economy's Giles Parkinson on the emergence of the "green tea party" - libertarians who are in favour of decentralised energy generation - How the far right developed an unlikely interest in solar energy. I've always been baffled by "conservatives" who want state subsidies and guarantees for massive nuclear power plants for example, following in the footsteps of the French (and even Soviet) left who trod exactly the same path - though at least in their case it was compatible with their ideology as opposed to being total hypocrisy.

From the day in 1986 when president Ronald Reagan pulled down the solar array that had sat briefly atop the White House, conservative politicians in the US and elsewhere have had a growing antipathy towards renewables. Many conservatives, particularly those on the far right, simply refuse to believe solar can play a useful role in modern energy systems, and paint it as an unwarranted extension of government regulation.

It has frustrated many in the solar industry. “Let's make sure that before anyone paints me as some San Franciscan, solar-company-running, ultra-left-wing-fruitcake, please know that I am assuredly not,” David Lorens, the founder of solar company One Block Off The Grid, wrote last year.“I'm a fiscal conservative, I own a gun, and capitalism is the blood that runs through my veins. So back off.”

Now, in the state of Georgia, there has been a dramatic split in conservative attitudes. The local branch of the Tea Party has aligned itself with solar interests and environmental NGOs to force the monopoly utility Georgia Power to open its network to more solar power. Ironically, it has little to do with the need to with climate goals. It is being fought – as Lorens suggests – as a property rights issue, pitting private citizens against utilities, regulators and fixed rates of return.

This push to elevate solar energy as an individual right is being carried by the new economic case for solar power: the plunging cost of solar modules – they have fallen 80% in the last four years – means households can install rooftop systems and lower their electricity bills. The emergence of these "prosumers" is challenging the revenue and the profit pool for network operators and fossil fuel generators.

Even analysts at major investment banks describe the proliferation of solar as unstoppable. The Edison Electric Institute, a trade group that represents most investor owned utilities in the US, says solar is a direct threat to the centralised utility model, and could cause “irreparable damages to revenues and growth prospects.”

This explains why lobby groups are dead set against the Georgia solar decision. Americans for Prosperity, which like the Tea Party have been nurtured and sponsored by the Koch brothers oil billionaires, is dismissing the Georgia faction as an aberration, or even more damming, as a “green Tea Party.” It has sought to turn the issue of rights on its head by arguing that rooftop solar will “infringe upon the territorial rights to the distribution grids” of the network operators.

It sets the stage for an intriguing clash of two strands of conservative thought – one that remains true to its ideology of individual rights against centralised control, and the other where ideology is cherry-picked and co-opted for the protection of vested and incumbent interests.


Post a Comment


Locations of visitors to this page

blogspot visitor
Stat Counter

Total Pageviews




Blog Archive


australia (617) global warming (421) solar power (396) peak oil (353) renewable energy (301) electric vehicles (249) wind power (194) ocean energy (165) csp (158) geothermal energy (144) solar thermal power (144) energy storage (142) smart grids (140) solar pv (138) tidal power (137) oil (136) coal seam gas (131) nuclear power (128) china (118) lng (116) iraq (113) geothermal power (112) green buildings (111) natural gas (110) agriculture (92) oil price (80) biofuel (78) wave power (73) smart meters (72) coal (69) uk (69) electricity grid (67) energy efficiency (64) google (58) bicycle (51) internet (51) surveillance (50) big brother (49) shale gas (49) food prices (48) tesla (46) thin film solar (42) biomimicry (40) canada (40) scotland (38) ocean power (37) politics (37) shale oil (37) new zealand (35) air transport (34) algae (34) water (34) arctic ice (33) concentrating solar power (33) queensland (32) saudi arabia (32) california (31) credit crunch (31) bioplastic (30) offshore wind power (30) population (30) cogeneration (28) geoengineering (28) batteries (26) drought (26) resource wars (26) woodside (26) bruce sterling (25) censorship (25) cleantech (25) ctl (23) limits to growth (23) carbon tax (22) economics (22) exxon (22) lithium (22) buckminster fuller (21) distributed manufacturing (21) iraq oil law (21) coal to liquids (20) indonesia (20) origin energy (20) brightsource (19) rail transport (19) ultracapacitor (19) santos (18) ausra (17) collapse (17) electric bikes (17) michael klare (17) atlantis (16) cellulosic ethanol (16) iceland (16) lithium ion batteries (16) mapping (16) ucg (16) bees (15) concentrating solar thermal power (15) ethanol (15) geodynamics (15) psychology (15) al gore (14) brazil (14) bucky fuller (14) carbon emissions (14) fertiliser (14) ambient energy (13) biodiesel (13) cities (13) investment (13) kenya (13) matthew simmons (13) public transport (13) biochar (12) chile (12) desertec (12) internet of things (12) otec (12) texas (12) victoria (12) big oil (11) cradle to cradle (11) energy policy (11) hybrid car (11) terra preta (11) tinfoil (11) toyota (11) amory lovins (10) antarctica (10) fabber (10) gazprom (10) goldman sachs (10) gtl (10) severn estuary (10) volt (10) afghanistan (9) alaska (9) biomass (9) carbon trading (9) distributed generation (9) esolar (9) four day week (9) fuel cells (9) jeremy leggett (9) methane hydrates (9) pge (9) sweden (9) arrow energy (8) bolivia (8) eroei (8) fish (8) floating offshore wind power (8) guerilla gardening (8) linc energy (8) methane (8) nanosolar (8) natural gas pipelines (8) pentland firth (8) relocalisation (8) saul griffith (8) stirling engine (8) us elections (8) western australia (8) airborne wind turbines (7) bloom energy (7) boeing (7) chp (7) climategate (7) copenhagen (7) scenario planning (7) vinod khosla (7) apocaphilia (6) ceramic fuel cells (6) cigs (6) futurism (6) jatropha (6) local currencies (6) nigeria (6) ocean acidification (6) somalia (6) t boone pickens (6) space based solar power (5) varanus island (5) garbage (4) global energy grid (4) kevin kelly (4) low temperature geothermal power (4) oled (4) tim flannery (4) v2g (4) club of rome (3) norman borlaug (2) peak oil portfolio (1)