The war over America’s coastal-energy future has officially begun, and the result could determine whether we see wind turbines or catastrophic oil spills along our coastlines in coming years.
The opening salvo came in early July, when everyone’s favorite climate-hating, fossil-fuel-loving industrialist villains, the Koch brothers, released a so-called “cost-benefit analysis” of New Jersey offshore wind development plans through their front group Americans for Prosperity.
The focus on New Jersey is no big surprise. Fresh off their recent success in manipulating the state’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie into backing out of the Northeastern cap-and-trade system known as RGGI, the brothers grim are honing in on what they see as a weak spot in the clean-energy movement’s eastern front. Hoping to score a knockout blow, the duo have packed their offshore wind “analysis” with distortions.
Topping the report’s list of misrepresented facts are the jobs benefits. In fact, forget about misrepresentation; the report actually failed to represent those benefits altogether. Considering the impressive job-creation numbers cited in a range of other studies on offshore wind [PDF], it’s hard to imagine how any analysis that wasn’t commissioned as an intentional piece of fiction could have made such a glaring omission. Indeed, a study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory indicates that the 1,000 megawatts of offshore wind power New Jersey is planning to build could result in nearly 5,000 construction and maintenance jobs. Adding to the imbalance of the Kochs’ equations, their report completely discounts wind power’s benefit as a relief valve against foreign-oil dependence or New Jersey’s need to import electricity from other states.
Of course, this parade of misinformation should come as little surprise considering the track record of the key Koch crony in the Garden State: AFP New Jersey chapter director and Tea Party high priest Steve Lonegan. A longtime extreme-right gadfly of the New Jersey political scene, Lonegan earned his Koch-worthy credentials publishing false accusations about political opponents during his time as mayor of Bogota, N.J., and has been accused of violating state election laws and defrauding taxpayers in a 2008 run for governor. What’s more, as chronicled in the New Jersey Star-Ledger, Lonegan was the local force behind the “dishonest scare-campaign” that led to Christie’s retreat from RGGI.
With Lonegan leading the offensive, it’s clear the Kochs are planning to make the fight over New Jersey’s coasts a particularly ugly and bruising one. The situation also bodes ominously for other states up and down the Mid-Atlantic Bight that are considering wind projects, from Connecticut to North Carolina.
Thankfully, for all the dollars and deceitfulness the Kochs have in their arsenal, their victory is far from assured. As their failed attempt to cut down California’s climate law in 2010 proved, the Kochs can be beaten by a well-organized, grassroots-powered opposition with truth on its side. And that’s exactly what they’re up against in New Jersey and up and down the Mid-Atlantic Bight, where a robust coalition involving everyone from Google to the United Steelworkers to the League of Women Voters is ready to stand up for wind and smack down any BS Lonegan and the Kochs serve up.
Game on, boys. Bring it.