The contribution to the U.S. grid mix from renewable energy last month was 7.3%–not counting hydro-electric dams, which accounted for an additional 7.0%. At this point, I guess it’s fair to say that clean energy in the U.S. is not huge, but it’s most certainly not negligible.
And that fact is not lost on the world of traditional energy. It’s why the billionaire Koch brothers and their political network are planning to spend almost $300 million during the 2014 election cycle, including a renewed effort to combat unprecedented carbon regulations unveiled by the Obama administration last month. In addition, they’re using their money and other forms of clout to sue the state governments that have implemented renewable portfolio standards, as these RPSs would force utilities operating in those states to purchase a certain amount of their power from renewable sources.
Should anyone be at all surprised by this? Of course not. Opposition builds only when there’s a real threat – and that’s precisely what renewables have become at this point. Five years ago there was no threat, and thus no reason for the Kochs or the rest of the fossil fuel industry to spend their hundreds of millions of dollars fighting something that didn’t yet exist.
I’m reminded of a conversation I had with an expert on lakes a few years ago, when I asked about the wisdom of stocking my small pond in rural California with koi. When she warned me against the danger represented to the fish by raccoons, I told her that, as far as I was aware, we didn’t have any raccoons. She looked at me blankly, as if I were a little schoolboy, and asked, “Did it ever occur to you that the reason you don’t have raccoons is that you don’t have fish?”