The lines have been drawn in the battle over California’s energy future – solar and clean energy, or just more of the same? It’s not difficult to tell who wants the status quo. Just look at who is funding the opposition to the Solar and Clean Energy Act (Proposition 7), the November ballot proposition that would quadruple the state’s output of solar and clean energy by 2025.

All of the funding to oppose this far-sighted but practical measure comes from large energy companies in California. PG&E is the biggest culprit, joined by Southern California Edison and Sempra. To date, they have invested over $24 million to defeat Proposition 7. This does not count the millions they have spent shoring up the support of California’s major environmental groups, grassroots citizens groups, and even the Democratic and Republican parties. Judging by the money trail, they are pulling the strings in a concerted effort to kill not only the Solar and Clean Energy Act, aka Proposition 7, but San Francisco’s Clean Energy Act as well.

The modus operandi of Big Energy is to use fear tactics whenever there’s a major push for solar and renewable energy. They tell the public that rates will be too high, that the goals are too far out of reach, and the cost of development will be passed on to customers. All the while, they pretend to support clean energy with a token investment here and there.

PG&E touts the fact that it expects to deliver 14 percent of energy from renewable sources in 2008. However, the remaining 86 percent of energy is from non-renewable sources such as coal and gas. That won’t change unless citizens make their voices heard.

By law, PG&E already needs to increase its clean energy portfolio to 20 percent by 2010. It’s already falling behind, and the company is desperate to stop the growing support for increased clean energy standards.

The San Francisco Bay Guardian recently ran an editorial that details how PG&E is using money, fear, and hyperbole to lead the opposition against clean energy. In the dark days of our current economy and rising energy costs, it is a highly manipulative method. The public doesn’t want to hear about higher costs, they want relief. The sad part is that PG&E’s arguments are less than accurate and threaten our energy security and independence.

PG&E and its fellow electric utilities systematically subvert all legislation that would increase clean energy generation. Then they throw their hands in the air and say there is no clean energy to be had in the market, so they can’t meet their goals. Their executives even go so far as to threaten donations to the community should these initiatives pass. In June before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, PG&E’s manager of government relations, Brandon Hernandez threatened financial blowback for the community should the Clean Energy Act pass, “We no longer will be contributing to San Francisco’s non-profits and service organizations.”

The utilities’ dirty money does not simply go to campaigning against ballot measures and legislation; they are also spreading it around to environmental groups and officials at every level of government.

The California League of Conservation Voters, the A. Philip Randolph Institute, and the League of California Cities are all recipients of major money from Big Energy. And political parties themselves are not immune: in 2007 and 2008 alone, the California Democratic Party received over $700,000 of Big Energy money, not to mention the thousands of dollars given to elected officials including the Democratic leadership. No wonder the state Democratic Party and these grassroots organizations came out against Proposition 7 before it even had a number. In the ultimate sign of compliance, these same organizations are now resorting to the same fear tactics that they have decried for so long.
What does all this add up to?

PG&E and the rest of Big Energy are scared. They are scared of being forced to change their energy portfolio to include more solar and renewable energy. That fear has led to a campaign against clean energy that tries to frighten the public and silence the biggest environmental advocates. The influence of money and the politics of fear are not new ideas, but most Californians would be surprised had how much resistance there is to clean energy, and just how far the reach of Big Energy goes as it tries to deceive us and warp our opinions of a practical step like Proposition 7.