Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Eskew: Kochs’ attacks on solar power could hurt GOP
First Published Apr 24 2014 06:31 am • Last Updated Apr 24 2014 01:27 pm

The Republican Party’s biggest sugar daddies, the Koch brothers, are a mixed bag for the GOP: They bring money but lots of baggage. Their downside isn’t only that they are a convenient foil for Democratic turnout but also that they could exacerbate tensions within the Republican Party.

For years, the party has maintained an uneasy and unlikely alliance among big business, social conservatives and anti-government libertarians. If you looked at these three groups on a Venn diagram, you would often find little overlap except in years when they have a shared enemy: Barack Obama, for example. Enter the Koch brothers and their agenda, which is transparently self-interested.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

In an effort to respond to Democratic donor Tom Steyer’s statement that he is different from the Kochs because he isn’t looking for a quo for his quid, a Koch spokesman disputed this characterization of selfishness, pointing out that the brothers have long opposed tax subsidies for oil and gas interests, an example where their mouths oppose their money. But, of course, the Kochs don’t spend money on campaigns designed to kill oil and gas drilling depreciation allowances. Instead, they are spending it to kill one of the most promising forms of alternative energy: solar. It is this anti-solar campaign that may awaken part of the Republican coalition and turn it against the brothers and their agents.

Solar panels throughout red states of the South and Southwest have become this century’s version of the satellite dish. In the late 1970s, rural and, later, suburban households who couldn’t get cable TV or were tired of paying its monopoly prices set up satellite dishes instead. This was about more than the thrill of getting television where it had been too fuzzy or expensive before: This was an act of freedom. You were beating a system that was rigged against you.

Today, another way to beat the system is to take on big utilities and their monopoly prices by putting some solar panels on your roof or in your yard. Your energy bills go down, and the utility company buys the extra power you generate. No wonder anti-establishment conservatives (and liberals, for that matter) love their solar panels. They are a deeply powerful and personal badge of defiance and independence.

Now the Koch brothers want to take it all away. They are funding a multistate campaign to kill solar panels by imposing a monthly fee on their usage. The argument is that solar-panel users are freeloading on the power grid. There may be some limited merit to that argument, but it is laughable coming from the Koch brothers and the large, carbon-based utilities. The grid has been a neglected stepchild of the energy business for generations. Now some freedom-lovers started a trend that could reduce the nation’s dependence on coal and oil, crown jewels in the Koch business empire.

Republicans are now fooling around with people who are only situationally for freedom — freedom when it’s good for their business. But the message for the young family trying to save money or the guy with 20 acres who is tired of getting jacked around or the small farmer barely getting by is clear: We will crush your dream.

This is not an association Republicans should covet.

Carter Eskew is a co-host of The Insiders blog, offering commentary from a Democratic perspective, and was the chief strategist for the Gore 2000 presidential campaign.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.