The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is key to vital conversations about clean energy reform in the states. Legislative members, who comprise roughly a quarter of all state legislators, support the free market in a country where Republicans control a supermajority of state legislatures.
According to data analyzed by Quorum, ALEC members introduce more legislation – 1.2 times more than Republicans and 1.05 times more than average legislators – and get more legislation enacted overall – 1.2 times more than Republicans and average legislators. This means ALEC members are more cooperative, more legislatively active and ultimately more effective at passing legislation than any other set of lawmakers across the country.
Just as a bipartisan coalition of criminal justice reformers has partnered with ALEC to implement critical reforms over an intransigent status quo, so too could real environmentalists leverage the uniquely influential ALEC network to encourage good environmental stewardship. Such a partnership could promote clean energy innovation through a free-market renaissance that would triumph over the failed subsidies, mandates and regulatory capture of the current dysfunctional system.
Unfortunately, too many self-described activists choose a polarizing posture that denies energy progress – but supports their own bottom line – instead of real, free-market innovation on the environmental principles they purport to champion. Doubtlessly, this obstruction proves lucrative to the activists and self-interested bloggers when imposing on donors for cash. But it is disastrous for environmental reform.
American political discourse is increasingly polarized and dysfunctional in large part because of hypocrisy and mean-spirited divisiveness. Many partisan activists present their ostensibly reasonable organizations as committed to a set of consistent, nonpartisan principles, and they often succeed in making many people, especially media and business leaders, believe them. However, when their so-called opponents (like ALEC) attempt to engage these activists in good faith, the response is often derision and scorn.
I have seen this poisonous brand of disruptive politics play out in ongoing, iterative attacks against ALEC for its engagement on energy policy. For years, self-proclaimed environmentalists have applied intensely unethical pressure tactics to demand ALEC tow their line on climate change and clean energy. Interested journalists and green donors publicly goad and privately pressure member businesses to leave ALEC. Green groups create apps to harass members or even manipulate online information for unsuspecting private citizens. Obsessed activists stalk and harass ALEC members and staffers across the country.
Through all this, ALEC leaders, who prefer an exchange of ideas to a battle of influence-peddling or intimidation, seek to engage in good faith with people they take for sincere environmentalists. ALEC legislators oppose mandates, subsidies and market distortions of any kind that pick winners and losers. Such distortions encourage political corruption through regulatory manipulation. ALEC champions all reliable and affordable approaches to energy generation and supports pragmatic, fact-based engagement with climate concerns. While traditional forms of energy continue to be affordable, renewables are becoming increasingly economical options in the mix.
One would think climate-focused groups would see common cause with ALEC in a free-market discussion about how to improve both the quality of life of hardworking taxpayers and the impact of energy use on the environment.
Apparently, this is not the case.
Genuine climate activists and a healthy environment are the biggest losers in this state of affairs. ALEC is a singularly effective policy organization that would prove invaluable to environmentally focused groups. This fact was evident at the 2015 ALEC States and Nation Policy Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona, where a clean energy panel engaged a receptive crowd of conservative leaders on the merits of building a smarter energy grid through environmentally friendly policy reform. In 2005, Texas Representative and 2015 ALEC National Chairman Phil King spearheaded innovative reform to promote growth in renewables that made Texas the national leader in wind energy production. The Texas Wind Coalition was so impressed with King’s legislative success that in 2008 they honored him as a “Legacy Supporter” Champion of Wind.
As the Paris climate talks unfold, President Obama, Senate Majority Leader McConnell, American business leaders and state lawmakers have aptly recognized smarter investments in research and development will create the clean energy innovation people need in America and around the world. Those pushing for the tired mandates, subsidies and punitive regulations of yesteryear are deeply out of sync with this more serious conversation occurring at every level of government and economic development.
The planet needs radical innovation to reduce emissions, lower energy costs for hardworking taxpayers – especially the poor, whose government heating assistance constitutes a major part of oil subsidies – and restore peace of mind to everyone who wants a healthy economy and a healthy world. The stale fights and self-defeating “environmentalists” of today are impediments to progress when they should be assets. Mean-spirited activists who play the politics of division and obstruction make it more difficult for policymakers to even discuss, let alone resolve, the pressing challenges ahead. This has to end.
ALEC would be eager to work constructively with the Greenpeaces, Climate Investigation Centers (CIC), Environmental Defense Funds (EDF) and Sierra Clubs of the world to promote the kind of radical growth and reform that can achieve this progress. But with or without support from such groups, ALEC leaders will continue to push against the stagnant status quo.
The American people and the environment they depend on deserve no less.
Lisa B. Nelson is the CEO of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Before joining ALEC, Nelson served as the Head of Government Relations, Americas for Visa, Inc.; Senior Vice President for External Relations, AOL Time Warner; Public Affairs Liaison to House Speaker Newt Gingrich; and as Executive Director of GOPAC.
ALEC is the largest nonprofit association of state legislators dedicated to the principles of limited government, free markets and federalism. Nearly one quarter of all state legislators are members of ALEC and represent more than 60 million Americans. ALEC member companies, which range from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, create roughly 30 million American jobs. To learn more, visit www.alec.org.