Last month, former Congressman Barry Goldwater, Jr., namesake of the man who came to help define the modern conservative movement with his 1964 presidential candidacy, addressed the state legislature in Indianapolis about a pending bill that dealt with how energy users are charged if they employ solar energy devices. Goldwater, who self-identifies as a “conservative,” was in the Hoosier State not to advocate for a free-market approach, but rather as a member of a growing group of so-called conservatives who have become so beholden to — or enamored of — solar energy technology, that pressing for protective legislation and government subsidies has come to define for them “conservative governance.”
Were this not serious in terms of increased government regulation of an important segment of our economy and a serious drain on taxpayers, it would be funny. But it is not. It masks a serious challenge to the energy marketplace and to the very definition of the conservative movement.
Goldwater, for example, currently serves as Chairman of an organization named “Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed,” which self-identifies by the acronym “TUSK,” accompanied by a cartoon logo of a red and white striped elephant. The irony of running to a state legislature to mandate continued interference in the electricity market place in order to skew markets in favor of solar, appears lost on the “conservative” TUSK Chairman.
But Goldwater’s visit to Indianapolis has come to define the weird, make-believe world in which “conservatives” can, with a straight face, advocate for government help to promote an industry that has — since the Jimmy Carter Administration in the 1970s — failed to make serious inroads in the energy marketplace despite billions in direct and indirect taxpayer subsidization.
With substantial funding from liberal sources like George Soros and Michael Bloomberg, groups like Goldwater’s and other on-the-surface conservative organizations, are engaged in a serious push to not only continue but increase state and federal subsidies — in both money and regulatory protection — for solar energy projects. As noted recently by Paul Driessen in townhall.com, several conservative-sounding organizations have coordinated their pro-solar drive under the umbrella group the “Conservative Energy Network.” According to Driessen, this group includes among its membership “the Young Conservatives for Energy Reform, an environmentalist Christian Coalition of America, Citizens for Responsible Energy and Conservatives for Clean Energy (CCE).”
As chronicled by Driessen, these and other solar advocacy groups have benefitted greatly from funds received from a variety of leftist donors with ties to liberals including Bloomberg, Nat Simons, Tom Steyer, and others, including foreign sources. The success of such efforts, including coopting individuals like Goldwater and so-called conservative organizations like Conservatives for Clean Energy, can be seen in the many direct and indirect subsidies afforded companies that manufacture, distribute and install solar-power devices on residences and businesses; to the tune of more than $39 billion per year, including a federal Solar Energy Tax Credit that even the Republican majority in the U.S. House has not been able to bring itself to simply repeal.
While each individual action in support of solar energy advocated by Goldwater and his faux conservatives — which includes also groups such as R Street Initiative, RepublicEN and the Green Tea Party — may appear benign or of minor cost, the overall impact of their efforts on the energy market is significant. It goes far beyond the cost of direct subsidies that transfer taxpayer dollars to solar energy devices that are proven consistently to be far less cost-effective than traditional sources of energy, including natural gas and coal-powered plants.
Whether it is Goldwater urging — with a straight face — that the Indiana House protect solar energy device users by extending the mandate of “net metering,” or Elon Musk pressing federal officials to take action benefitting his high-end electric car industry, the presence of so-called conservative individuals and organizations pressing government officials for largesse to aid an industry that, despite decades of subsidies remains significantly non-competitive, presents a growing challenge to both the energy sector and to defining what is “conservative.”
It is high time for conservative advocacy groups and the energy industry to awake fully to this challenge from the left using cover of faux conservatives to press their cause. The battle in support of the market place must be brought directly and consistently to local and state governments, as well as to those in Congress and the White House. Given the current GOP strength in Washington, this would appear an easy task. However, as the recent battle over Obamacare showed, it will be far from easy; but no less important a challenge to undertake.
Bob Barr served in the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003.