The Koch Brothers And Warren Buffett Try To Take Down Elon Musk Over Solar Power

Billionaire Investor Warren Buffett has portrayed himself as a proponent for fixing income and wealth inequality, famously telling congress they should tax the wealthy more, as he claims to pay lower-income tax rates than his secretary. In reality, his actions have hurt working class and middle class people, through his lobbying efforts in favor of the Electric utility companies he owns.

In Nevada, Buffett’s utility company NV Energy, strongly opposed the emergence of solar power in the state brought by Elon Musk’s Solar City, which made it affordable for homeowners to install solar panels. Because the solar panels often put energy back into the grid, utility companies like the ones Warren Buffett owns wind up paying those residents for energy. Nevada Senator Harry Reid in regards to Buffet’s company told the Las Vegas Sun, “looking at this as a lawyer, my personal feeling is that this is a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.”

Buffett’s lobbying efforts pushed Nevada’s utility regulator, the Public Utilities Commission, to remove incentives for homeowners to have solar panels, making solar power once again unaffordable for Nevada residents. The decision effectively derailed the fastest growing market for solar power in the country.

petition for Buffet to ease his opposition to solar power was signed by over 100,000 renewable energy advocates in protest. Actor Mark Ruffalo, who called the public utility commission, “the anti-Robin Hood,” also participated in the protests.

At the end of 2015, Solar City ceased operations and installations in Nevada as a result of the Public Utilities Commission decision, resulting in the loss of 550 jobs. The decision could set a precedent across the country in opposition of solar power, which not only has been championed by billionaire Warren Buffett, but the Koch brothers as well, over the argument solar power makes the market place unfair for competitors.

Koch advocacy groups didn’t directly enter the fight in Nevada between Elon Musk’s Solar City and Warren Buffett’s utility companies, but they have lobbied in nearby states against incentives for solar power.

In Florida, which has the third best solarity of any state in the country, the Koch Brothers have led efforts to keep solar power out of the state to protect electricity sales of investor owned utilities, as it remains ranks 16th in the nation in solar production. For investors, more infrastructure on the electric grid yields more profits, but solar power directly threatens those profits. In Florida, the average household pays more than 40 percent higher for electrical consumption than the national average. 61 percent of Florida’s electricity generation comes from natural gas, and 23 percent from coal.

The Koch’s grassroots political group, Americans For Prosperity, called for Florida to fight against the choice for Solar. Many organizations who have received millions in donations from the Koch Brothers helped struck down an initiative to open up Florida to solar power on voters’ ballots in 2016, including 60 Plus and the National Black Chamber of Commerce, whose latest convention was sponsored by Koch Industries.  Despite the lobbying efforts of the Koch Brothers, solar power has bipartisan support, as the ballot initiative to open up solar power in Florida was led by tea party founder Debbie Dooley, who now directs the group, Conservatives for Energy Freedom.

As Solar power becomes more accessible and affordable for Americans, utility companies and their investors, especially the most powerful ones such as Warren Buffet and the Koch brothers, are obstructing solar’s growth through lobbying state governments. Despite the obstructions, solar power is gaining bipartisan support across the nation.

“Let’s say if the only thing we had was solar energy—if that was the only power source—if you just took a small section of Spain you could power all of Europe,” said Elon Musk in a speech at Sorbonne University in Paris this past December. “It’s a very small amount of area that’s actually needed to generate the electricity we need to power civilization. Or in the case of the U.S., like a little corner of Nevada or Utah would power the United States.”

The technology exists to harness the energy from the sun, which more of hits the Earth in one hour than humanity uses in an entire year. Sooner or later relics of old capitalism like Warren Buffett and the Koch Brothers are going to have to join the 21st century in this transition to renewable energy.

Featured Image Courtesy of Occupy Democrats