WSJ's Misleading Defense Of ALEC Doesn't Disclose Its Parent Company's Membership


This post originally reported that News Corp. is a current member of ALEC, based on the Center for Media and Democracy's list of "corporations known to be currently involved with ALEC, as of September 2014." A News Corp. representative later clarified to Media Matters that News Corp. is not currently a member of ALEC. The post has been updated accordingly. Media Matters regrets the error.

Dropping ALEC

The Wall Street Journal editorial board defended the corporate bill mill American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in an editorial whitewashing the organization's climate change denial and vindicating their one-sided attacks on renewable energy.

This week, several large technology companies have left ALEC, which connects corporations, including many fossil fuel giants, to legislators. Just weeks after Microsoft ended its ties to the corporate bill mill for its attacks on renewable energy policies, Google chairman Eric Schmidt announced in an interview with NPR's Diane Rehm that his company would not renew its membership with ALEC, stating that ALEC is "literally lying" about climate change and that its policies are "really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place." Facebook, Yelp, and Yahoo quickly followed

In response to the fallout, The Wall Street Journal defended ALEC and demonized Google in a September 26 editorial, claiming that "ALEC takes no position on the substance of climate change." This echoes ALEC's recent statement refuting the claims of climate change denial and defending their position on climate and renewable energy policies.

But throughout the years, ALEC has made their denial of the scientific consensus on climate change clear. Their climate change model bill -- one of many bills that the legislative members later push through state legislatures -- declares that "human activity" may lead to "possibly beneficial climatic changes," going on to say that climate change influences "may be beneficial or deleterious." Yet consensus reports have found that the negative impacts of global warming will far outweigh any potential benefits. This falls in line with ALEC's stance on the consensus itself -- at its most recent conference, the organization featured the Heartland Institute's Joseph Bast who claimed that "there is no scientific consensus on the human role in climate change." The organization also featured a document called "Top 10 myths about global warming" on its website for years, including as a myth that "human activity is causing the earth to warm," according to Forecast the Facts and the Center for Media Democracy. And in their most recent statement on climate change, ALEC continued to undermine the consensus, writing: "Climate change is a historical phenomenon and the debate will continue on the significance of natural and anthropogenic contributions." 

None of this was mentioned in the Wall Street Journal editorial.

The Wall Street Journal went on to defend ALEC's nationwide attacks on renewable energy, another driving force behind Google and others dropping their membership. The Journal derided Google's many investments in wind and solar projects for "kill[ing] birds," an argument that falls flat. Statistics show that renewable energy's impact on bird deaths is miniscule compared to that from buildings, urban light, cell phone towers, and even cats -- and is far outstripped by bird deaths from other energy sources, as seen in this chart by U.S. News and World Report

Bird Deaths

And according to a study from the Audobon Society, climate change poses a far graver threat to bird species in North America, with half of all bird species at risk.

The Journal also attempted to defend ALEC's attacks on net metering -- a policy to compensate solar power customers for feeding excess energy into the electric grid -- by sarcastically suggesting that ALEC simply holds the same view on net metering as "the right-wing radicals at the Natural Resources Defense Council." The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has actually come out against ALEC's efforts to dismantle the policy. In an email to Media Matters, co-director of NRDC's Energy Program Ralph Cavanagh stated that "The Wall Street Journal is wrong" to equate NRDC to ALEC:

The Wall Street Journal is wrong about this. NRDC's position on net metering is very different from ALEC's, which ignores the value that distributed resources provide to electricity grids and calls for fixed charges on utility bills that would slow clean energy progress. NRDC believes that everyone who uses the electricity grid should share equitably in its costs, but this can be achieved without converting part of utility bills into fixed charges that do not vary with consumption. This kind of "all you can eat" rate design has the unfortunate result of reducing all customers' incentives to save energy or invest in renewable generation. NRDC is working with utilities and others to identify alternative ways of recovering grid costs while also providing fair compensation to those who install solar generation and energy efficiency technologies in their homes and businesses.

The Wall Street Journal previously failed to disclose its relationship with ALEC while defending the organization when its parent company, News Corp., was listed as a member -- as recently as 2012. 

Posted In
Environment & Science, Climate Change, Energy
The Wall Street Journal
American Legislative Exchange Council
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