A Solartopian Revolution is sweeping the world.
But it may miss Ohio...and leave Governor John Kasich’s national ambitions in the dust, along with the rest of the Republican Party.
Indeed, the legislature’s latest move to make the Buckeye State the first to slash renewable energy goals has made national news in the worst possible way. On Friday, June 13, Kasich signed the controversial Senate Bill 310 that will freeze Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards at their present levels for two years. The New York Times called it the first major victory for anti-renewable energy forces in the United States.
Nobody’s happy about it…except five guys
Even Kasich’s political supporters in the Ohio Manufacturers Association (OMA) opposed the giant step backwards. The OMA was quite blunt, stating that the governor’s action “will drive up electricity costs and undermine manufacturing competitiveness in Ohio.” Major manufacturers such as Honda and Whirlpool went on the record against the bill. A report from the Ohio
Advanced Energy Economy documented that between 2009 and 2013, the law Kasich overturned – the Renewable Energy Standards (RES) law – cost $456 million to implement, but saved Ohio residents $1.03 billion.
Since RES was implemented, more than $1 billion had been invested in Ohio by private renewable energy companies, some who now say they will move out of the state.
Many of Ohio’s churches went on record against Kasich signing S.B. 310. At a press conference, Rev. Tim Ahrens of Columbus’ First Congregational Church stated that “The people who would benefit from this are just five people…the five CEOs of Ohio’s utility companies, and I can tell you, the CEO of FirstEnergy made 11 million dollars last year. He doesn’t need this money, he has enough money in his wallet. We need this money to care for the people coming to our doors.”
The answer, my friend, is no longer blowing in the wind Kasich has not only rolled back renewable energy standards, but has also made it harder to build wind farms here, costing still more jobs and investment.
Kevin Eigel of Ecohouse Solar told the Free Press “S.B. 310 definitely will have a negative effect on clean energy in Ohio, especially wind energy.” The American Wind Energy Association wrote on their website that Kasich has “abandoned $2.5 billion in current wind energy projects.”
Every day the financial and technical pages bring new reports of major green-powered breakthroughs. The price of solar and wind-driven electricity continues to plunge. It’s spreading to rooftops (of cars as well as buildings), open spaces and even into the window glass being installed throughout the globe.
According to SunDay, more than three-quarters of the new electrical generating capacity being installed in the United States today is green. That includes not just wind and solar, but geothermal, ocean thermal, tidal and undersea current energy, and more.
As the Drug War winds down, sustainable bio-fuels ramp up. Hemp for fuel will be a huge business. Canada already sells $500 million per year. The US market is way bigger.
So too electric cars and high-speed rail. Tesla’s Elon Musk has released his company’s patents.
The Buckeye State is joining New Jersey in trying to limit the ability to sell the Tesla electric car. But in scores of other states, electric car sales are booming. A tsunami of ever-cheaper LED lighting has poured into the marketplace. The multi-trillion-dollar global business of making, delivering and consuming energy is being transformed. But Ohio and the national GOP are being left behind.
Republicans left behind during green rapture
In 2012 a majority of Ohio voters went for Barack Obama and liberal Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown.
But gerrymandering has left the state with 12 Republican Congresspeople versus just 4 Democrats. The state House and Senate are controlled by heavy GOP majorities that are vehemently anti-green.
Especially in the face of global warming, renewables enjoy widespread public acceptance throughout the United States and the world. Germany – the world’s fourth-largest economy – is successfully converting to an energy future totally free of fossil and nuclear fuels. Renewables are a multi-billion-dollar Wall Street favorite and a major source of new jobs.
According to the American Council on Renewable Energy, more than a million Americans now work in the green energy sector. Far more work in wind and solar than in mining, moving and burning coal.
In short: the old hippie image is long gone. The Solartopian vision has jumped deep into mainstream public opinion. It’s birthed what may be the world’s fastest-growing industry.
Thousands of vested workers and billions in invested capital are paying an unprecedented return. Which has serious political implications.
Is Kasich addicted to Koch?
When the Renewable Energy Standards law, Senate Bill 221, originally passed the Ohio state legislature in 2008, it had nearly unanimous bipartisan support. Now six years later, with the intervention of the Koch brothers into Ohio politics, the debate over renewables has become increasingly partisan and contentious. Six weeks prior to Kasich signing S.B. 310, oil magnate David Koch donated $12,155 to Kasich’s re-election campaign – the maximum allowed under law.
Today’s GOP is owned and operated by obsolete 20th-century relics. The Koch Brothers and their fossil-nuke ilk may have oceans of cash. But they are technological dinosaurs, and their days are numbered.
As is their absolute terror in the face of renewables. For the long-term nature of green technology leans toward decentralization.
Individual homeowners, towns and counties will not be owning their own coal or nuke plants. But photovoltaic cells, mid-scale wind arrays and down-home hemp farms are the stuff of Solartopian democracy. Small wonder the “anti-tax” Koch Brothers want to tax home-owned solar panels.
In techno-financial terms, we’ve already seen the Koch-GOP future. It’s called Detroit. Right-wing commentators love to blame the Motor City’s downfall on its unions. But what really killed Detroit was terminally smug corporate executives refusing to build fuel-efficient cars – twice!
Confronted in the 1960s and ‘70s with the lean/mean likes of Honda, Toyota and othereconomy-minded newcomers, the fat Ford/GM/Chrysler execs just kept on building ever-bigger gas hogs.
Those same corporate “geniuses” then did it again by refusing to build hybrids or electric cars (see Who Killed the Electric Car?) Ditto today’s GOP.
King CONG: The 800 lb. gorilla in the state
With some exceptions, the Tea Party is sponsored by King CONG (the Coal, Oil, Nukes and Gas industries). In Ohio and elsewhere, it does all it can to stop renewables and protect corporate fossil-nukes.
Those states whose GOP governors have followed that path are paying a heavy price – including Ohio.
New Jersey’s Chris Christie is now infamous for manipulating traffic patterns out of petty peevishness. But his foulest legacy began much earlier, when he killed a commuter tunnel project for which $8 billion had already been secured. Thanks to that, Jersey suburbs will suffer for decades with horrific congestion costing millions of lost travel hours, billions in lost revenue and untold eco-health decay.
Wisconsin’s infamously anti-labor Scott Walker is now strangling a Milwaukee-Madison train link, costing millions in taxpayer dollars and billions in economic, ecological and public health havoc. Rick Scott has taken Florida on a parallel death march, as did his predecessor Jeb Bush, whose anti-green policies tracked those of the brother he put in the White House.
Kaveman for President?
When Ohio Governor John Kasich first took office, he too killed a train line – this one meant to restore passenger service between Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati.
Kasich’s reasons may have made sense in a Tea Party world. But some $400 million had already been secured. When it died, all that money left the state, along with untold jobs and income.
Hugely expensive highway projects have followed with intense environmental damage and instant obsolescence. Columbus may be the western world’s largest capital city without passenger rail service.
Renewable energy standards have meant investment, job growth, economic progress and ecological salvation. Kasich’s policies will only deliver inefficiency, low-tech solutions, pollution and sickness to the citizens of Ohio.
The technology and marketplace have spoken. Kasich, in his rush to do the bidding of the Koch brothers, will find himself politically left behind as he embraces obsolete primitive fossil fuels made from the decaying corpses of the Jurassic period.
In our high-tech era, no one wants a caveman for governor, or president.
Harvey Wasserman contributed to this article