“Duke” McCrory and ALEC’s energy policies

by | Dec 7, 2013 | Economic Development, Environment, NCGOP, NCGov | 4 comments

It appears ALEC has instructed Pat McCrory to weaken our Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard. McCrory’s comments weren’t conclusive, but they used enough right-wing code words like “role of government” to communicate a destructive intent. We’d better get ready for another wearying battle to defend progress. The Renewable Energy Standard must be kept, and every argument against it is specious or ignorant.

The Standard requires utility companies (nowadays, one utility company) to produce 12.5% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2021. This is an exceptionally modest request–New York requires 30% by 2015. But despite its small scale, the Standard has already produced more utility-scale solar farms than any other state. Along with an expanding capacity, we’ve achieved the second-highest Green Jobs growth rate in the U.S. for two straight years. Solar energy offers far greater job-creation potential than fracking, which only creates one-third of the jobs per dollar invested.

The Standard is necessary to sustain this trend. In the short run, it’s cheaper for utilities to invest in greater coal capacity. That’s because every high-tech industry requires government assistance to get off the ground. Once Solar achieves significant momentum, though, experts think it will be at least as cheap as coal very soon. It will create twice as many jobs and spur much more technological innovation.

Republicans’ main anti-renewables talking point is that these sources are “too expensive” and “uncompetitive.” But the GOP doesn’t care about electricity costs. This year’s tax “reform” bill levied taxes on utility bills. McCrory, a wholly owned subsidiary of Duke Energy, didn’t speak out against his patron’s 4.5% rate increase. And they all aggressively support new nuclear plants, whose generation costs are three times current electricity rates.

Lingering below the “cost” argument is free-market fundamentalism. Since it currently requires support, they view clean energy as morally debased. That is no reason to kill a growth industry. The fact is, high-tech industries emerge with help from the public sector. The Wright Brothers themselves benefited from key government contracts.

The Renewable Energy Standard, then, has catalyzed the creation of over 15,000 permanent jobs and is key to sustaining the industry’s momentum. No empirically minded person should oppose the policy. It sounds crude to say so, but the Energy Standard debate shows just how fickle and venal McCrory really is. Earlier this year, he was declaring “Solar Energy Month.” Then a special-interest group came by and he agreed to kneecap the industry.

Somebody needs to knock some sense into the guy, if it’s possible.


*Unless individually linked, most data points in this article come from this brochure.



  1. Thomas Mills

    Dale, thanks for coming by. As Dale says, he’s been my ideological sparring partner for almost thirty years. In his younger days, Dale was a track star at UNC-CH, a veteran, a talented journalist and one-time lefty writer. Unfortunately, Dale wandered over to the dark side and has never come back. Maybe this blog will the light the way…Nah, forget that.
    Dale, just come on back and engage in your favorite past time of annoying liberals.

  2. Paleotek

    Hi Dale,

    We don’t know each other, but claiming old acquaintance with Thomas suggests you’re probably not entirely ignorant of how the game is played. Are you familiar with how ALEC has been writing model laws for state legislatures and pushing them through without much debate or concern for local conditions over the last decade or so? If not, here’s a bit more info. Admittedly, Brooking is a partisan source, but we’re talking about an EXTREMELY partisan group (ALEC) here, so normal “fair and balanced” media guidelines do not apply:


    ALEC is financed in large part by billionaires with enormous financial investments in coal. They have been on the front lines opposing renewable energy in a variety of ways, financing frivolous lawsuits and pursuing legislation enshrining in law opposition to replacements to fossil fuels. Are you aware of this?

    I think Alex shoots from the hip sometimes, and fails to build solid chains of logic, but in this one, he’s spot on, if somewhat abbreviated and elliptical. When ALEC says jump, McCrony puts on his Nikes. The Koch brothers stand to lose billions if their investments in coal become worthless, so they’re willing to spend tens of millions preventing that from happening. I’d be happy to help you understand my chain of reasoning here, which parts are you unclear on?

  3. Alex Jones

    Mr. White–

    I just extrapolated from the fact that ALEC, which has strong ties to our state government*, had started pushing for repeal of renewable energy standards at the same that McCrory and the legislature began discussing the same thing. The operative word in the sentence is “appears.” As to the specific diction, “instructed” was meant to be playful and idiomatic. It may sound more serious than intended.


  4. Dale White

    Hey, Thomas! Congratulations on getting your web site up; you’ve been one of my very favorite liberals ever since we started arguing politics over beers at The Cave in the eighties.

    Do me a favor: ask your writer Alex Jones how ALEC managed to “instruct” Gov. McCrory to weaken the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard. I’d be very interested in the mechanics of that leverage. Of course, maybe it was just a poorly-written sentence.

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