Conservation and conservatism: How to be ‘green,’ but without the word

It’s not easy being green. Especially if you can’t bring yourself to use the word.

One of the biggest surprises of the summer primary season was the victory of Christian conservative activist Tim Echols of Athens in the Republican race for a seat on the utility-regulating Public Service Commission.

From left to right, Lauren "Bubba" McDonald, member of the Public Service Commission; U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson; and Tim Echols, Republican nominee for PSC at a unity breakfast following the August runoff. John Spink/jspink@ajc.com

From left to right, Lauren "Bubba" McDonald, member of the Public Service Commission; U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson; and Tim Echols, Republican nominee for PSC at a unity breakfast following the August runoff. John Spink/jspink@ajc.com

Echols’ opponent in the GOP runoff was veteran state Sen. John Douglas of Social Circle, who enjoyed strong support, financial and otherwise, from members of the Legislature and two of five PSC members.

Echols’ church-based, grass-roots experience gave him some advantage. He is the founder of the nonprofit TeenPact, an organization that introduces kids — often home-schooled — to the workings of government and political campaigns.

Echols also, for a time, served as campaign manager for John Oxendine’s bid for the Republican nomination for governor.

But what may have pushed the 49-year-old father of seven over the finish line was his embrace, in a fashion, of environmentalism and consumer protectionism — two topics usually reserved for Democrats.

Echols is an advocate for increased use of solar power, which Douglas dismissed as the useless obsession of “radical environmentalists.”

Perhaps the biggest difference between Echols and Douglas was a measure passed by the Legislature in 2009 that allowed Georgia Power to charge ratepayers — in advance — for costs associated with the construction of two new nuclear reactors.

Douglas, who voted for the measure in the Senate, defended the unprecedented move as a $300 million cost-saver. “I criticized it because I had a disagreement with him over what should be paid by ratepayers versus stockholders — who should have borne that cost,” Echols said.

In front of voters, Echols pointed to the 90 lobbyists that Georgia Power hired in the effort and declared that he would avoid any financial connections with industries the PSC regulates or their employees.

“At Wal-Mart they don’t allow their purchasing agents even to go to lunch with a vendor,” he said. “We should do the same thing.”

To be sure, other Republicans on the PSC have taken up a populist flag on behalf of consumers. Bobby Baker, whom Echols is attempting to replace, earned that reputation during his 17 years on the commission. So did Angela Speir, who left the PSC in 2008.

But Echols is different — in the way he has placed environmentalism and consumer protection at the center of his campaign, and the way he explains himself.

Take solar energy, for instance.

“For conservatives, it’s all about saving money. For conservative business people, it’s all about being able to make a profit. And I embrace both of those,” Echols said. “But I believe — especially with solar here in Georgia — there is a profit-making potential for entrepreneurs and individuals. And there are energy savings available to the average consumer.”

He’s having his own house, where six of those seven kids still live, measured for a six-panel sun-powered water-heating system — a $7,500 cost that would be offset by state and federal tax credits.

“Energy conservation is not just for Democrats,” he said. “Energy conservation is about improving your family’s cash flow.”

Echols’ brand of environmentalism might fall a little short in the eyes of Al Gore, the Georgia Conservancy — or his two opponents in the November contest, Democrat Keith Moffett of Macon and Libertarian Jim Sendelbach of Conyers. (Efforts to draw both candidates into this discussion were unsuccessful.)

Despite his doubts about the way Georgia Power’s two new nuclear reactors will be funded, Echols is a major fan of nuclear power in general. And he thinks an Obama administration effort to put a tax on carbon emissions would hurt Georgia and most other Southern states.

Then there are the limitations that the Republican nominee places on his own vocabulary.

“Green — I don’t say green,” Echols said. It has become a loaded word in Republican circles.

He explained that a Democrat might sign up to buy “green energy blocks” on his Georgia Power bill — paying a slightly higher cost for electricity generated from alternative sources.

“They don’t mind paying more. It’s a conscience thing,” Echols said. “I don’t buy any green energy on my bill. My bill’s already $500 a month because of these kids.”

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36 comments Add your comment

bigdawg

August 28th, 2010
3:04 pm

He explained that a Democrat might sign up to buy “green energy blocks” on his Georgia Power bill — paying a slightly higher cost for electricity generated from alternative sources.

“They don’t mind paying more. It’s a conscience thing,” Echols said. “I don’t buy any green energy on my bill. My bill’s already $500 a month because of these kids.”

Spoken like a true repug! “They don’t mind paying more. It’s a conscience thing!” The ignorance and the arrogance of his statement should be a wake-up call to all progressives!
I don’t do religion, but I’m sure he says he’s a christian. I wonder what his jesus would say about Echol’s conscience?

Alabama Communist

August 28th, 2010
3:37 pm

Echols’ church-based, grass-roots experience gave him some advantage. He is the founder of the nonprofit TeenPact, an organization that introduces kids — often home-schooled — to the workings of government and political campaigns*Story

In fact Mr Echols just sign up 4000 thousand Christian Teens to fight in the Whale Wars in Antarctica on the side of the Japanese Corporate Whale Ships to prove that Christian Republican Fascist Government works…….

No Teabagging

August 28th, 2010
4:38 pm

GA Power continues sockin’ it to consumers. Want green energy? Pay extra for it! If it is so good, why should I pay more for it?? I want green energy, I will NOT pay GA Power more for it, they should give us green for the same cost or charge less since it cost less. Right?

Want a new Nuke Plant? Make the customer pay for it with rate increases. But never, never cut the dividends for stockholders. Would the stockholders approve a Nuke plant if THEY had to endure lower stock price and dividends until it went online?

We are such suckers, and we let the PC get away with selling us out to the industries they ‘regulate’.

King Roy

August 28th, 2010
4:39 pm

Vote for me and I will be the greenest Governor ever…I promise ;)

Lone Star

August 28th, 2010
5:00 pm

The first two comments are from one self-proclaimed communist and one who is, by inference, a progressive.

My, my . . . and folks wonder why this country is on the way to hell?

Truth Speaker

August 28th, 2010
5:23 pm

Lone Star,

Progessivism taking us the hell? I do not think so. You conservatives fail to realize how enslaving the private sector and your “personal responsibility” refuse has taken this country to hell.

Nearly all of these issues we face require circumstantial considerations. Tax levels and government spending, as well as the scope of government influence and regulation are concepts that should be dealt with depending on the circumstance we as a nation find ourselves in. Your rigid conservative ideology fixes nothing and has only created more problems. There was nothing progressive about the Gramm-Bliley-Leach Act…it was simply a conservative sponsored measure to give wealthy investment companies more control over property acquisition in this country. Who gets what, when and how. That used to be the Lasswellian view of the political and the responsibility of the government. Then you Reagan conservatives and similar ilk sold that to the most politically attractive buyer.

Same goes with corporate tax rates. There is nothing that indicates taxes are too high. If anything they are too low. It is now more advantageous for a company to liquidate and downsize rather than reinvest profits into the company. Nobody, except for FairTax advocates, wants to tax investments (yes, there would be a sales tax on the purchase of stocks and bonds under the fairtax unless and exemption is made). We only want to tax income received from profit on investment and, in effect, penalize people for selling off their investments. Lowering the capital gains tax creates too great of an incentive to sell off and not return to the market (we are still waiting on $2-3 trillion to make it back into the market right now). If you reinvest your profits…you pay no taxes! What are these billionaire spin-masters worried about? The end to failing upward?

Fact is you, like so many, are falling for your own rhetoric. Right-wing agitators have always been an enemy to democratic government. You people hate your own political existence and freedom and for some reason crave a benevolent dictator. You would rather be told what to do, what to study, what to do for a living, who to be, what to wear, what to watch, what to read and what is right and wrong from the private sector rather than figuring it out for yourselves.

Also, learn about sarcasm. Alabama Communist is making fun of you and your ilk for labeling all those you disagree with as some right-wing ideologue (and yes, communism is a right wing ideology. it puts the state before the individual).

Lone Star

August 28th, 2010
5:36 pm

Truth Speaker:

If the Fair Tax was implemented today, it wouldn’t be too soon for me. It is truly the fair method of taxation and would affect all equally.

Corporate taxes do not exist in the sense that corporations pay taxes. All businesses pass their taxes on to their consumers so that it really US that pay the taxes.

Government at all levels is far too big and too intrusive.

n

August 28th, 2010
6:23 pm

Solar water heaters are common in China. and are visible on most rooftops in cities, and across the countryside; even in places with no electricity.. They are becoming more common throughout Europe, Australia and Canada (yes, Canada.) I tried to buy one here in the U.S. No can do. When I did find some, they were not the simple, elegant design the Chinese use, with technology imported from Australia. The U.S. solar water heaters are expensive, clunky, and far too complicated. I finally imported one from China through the port of Savannah. Where are our entrepreneurs? We should be building solar water heaters, solar panels, leds, fuel cells, improved battery tech., improved catalysts for fuel cells, electric cars, high speed rail, etc. etc. Instead we’re letting China and Asia become world leaders in energy efficient technology. They are eating our lunch while we babble on endlessly about building new coal fired plants, nuclear plants, destructive highways for more billions of inefficient petroleum dependent automobiles. Our political and corporate leaders are relics of the Twentieth (Nineteenth?) Century. The rest of the world is forging ahead while we dither and go nowhere.

No Teabagging

August 28th, 2010
7:37 pm

I saw a story about an American solar entrepreneur. He could not get funding or Government help in US to build plant In Us and hire US workers. China courted him, with great incentives and now he manufactures in China. They probably used him for the carbon offsets. But he took his biz to China because the US did not want him creating jobs here.

Papp Grizzly

August 28th, 2010
7:43 pm

Solar and wind power are for sissy libs. Only a RINO would suggest they are an option. We need more offshore drilling and nuke plants. The legislature was right to make those sissy libs in Atlanta pay now so Ga Power can build more nuke plants in the future. I live in Cobb so it won’t impact me.

Who cares what those commies do in China?

Sarah in 2012!

Burroughston Broch

August 28th, 2010
9:07 pm

Folks, the pure and simple truth is that most of the “green” technologies are not cost effective in GA. For example, you can install a wind turbine and it will give you a payback of 20+ years.

If you want them because they make you feel better, go ahead and pay for it yourself. Don’t expect me to subsidize your passion.

The water heaters in China are backed up by electricity in the homes that can afford it. In the others, they do without. I like them and may get (and pay for) one myself.

Did someone say tax-cut?

August 29th, 2010
7:18 am

Anyone half-way paying attention knows a couple of things.
1. Climate change is real and is going to be with us for a long time
2. There’s a shrinking but vocal group of people who either don’t care or are ignorant about climate change
3. Most politicians know enough about climate change to acknowledge that something must be done to address it
4. Electric utilities and many large corporations (with large checks for politician’s campaigns) are financially motivated to do thwart efforts to combat climate change
5. The U.S. Senate is currently dysfunctional (60 votes required to pass almost anything)
6. Every year we send about $2 billion out of Georgia to pay for coal from Wyoming. If we were making our own energy, that money would stay in Georgia. How’s that for a stimulus package.

As such, we can’t wait on Washington to pass climate change legislation. Even if they did pass a bill, it would be watered-down (like the stimulus package).

Currently, GA Power charges customers a higher rate for “green” power. They got it backwards, “green” power should cost less. The PSC or our legislature should create a framework that induces people to use solar by making that rate cheaper than the rate for coal.

Bobby Anthony

August 29th, 2010
7:27 am

To: n

What was your total cost including shipping and installation for the water heater fom China? Is it meeting your expectation and what advice would you give to someone considering the installation of a rooftop heater? How do you order one?

Bill

August 29th, 2010
7:54 am

Lone Star
“The fair tax would affect us all equally”. But, we are not all equal (economically), are we?

Bill

August 29th, 2010
8:00 am

Recently, Ted Turner became involved in efforts to promote solar energy. He talked about a new paradigm, but he got it wrong. His new paradigm is to produce energy from the sun, and distribute it in the traditional way. We should go much further. Centralized production of energy (at power plants) only benefits the power companies. For one thing, we need to allocate significant amounts of land for the solar arrays. We need an effort to put photovoltaic panels on every house. We do not need huge central solar arrays. We still need the distribution system, and the power companies should make a (modest) profit on that. One rap against solar is that it only produces on some days. This is true, but the sun is usually shining somewhere, and if we decentralize production, we can take advantage of that.

Intowner

August 29th, 2010
8:01 am

The commentary about how our technology is severely lagging the Chinese/Australians gets me to one of the things that drives me insane about the current social conservatives that have the Republican party by the throat…. The current ranting that going to college is a waste of time and money so good little white Christians should stay home after high school and have babies to keep up the white birth rate.
Who do these f***s think ever put the US on the moon before the Russians? The imported engineers from India, China, Europe and anywhere else that values education? Our higher education system, where it has not been gutted by ill-educated legislators, is still the best in the world for producing innovative thinkers, researchers and people who, more than less, make the world go round, save the planet and save your skeezy butt when you’re in the emergency room or your mother’s on life support. Gutting its funding, telling people not to get an education b/c that’s where the liberals are, and not supporting new businesses (which Atl/Ga is famous for – we incubate new technologies then they flee the state, read the Atl. Business Chron.) will doom the US to a backseat behind the Chinese forever more. And I sincerely doubt that if we have no technology to protect us from them, we’ll not be able to produce sufficient white babies to protect us instead (even if we include all the other home-grown colors)…

Bill

August 29th, 2010
8:01 am

No Teabagging,

Sad story. Happened under the Bush administration.

Bobby Anthony

August 29th, 2010
8:42 am

Intowner the education system which put us on the moon came from Germany. It is the same system which gave the USSR its space program. We will graduate 150,000 engineering students this year. China will graduate 500,000. Are you familiar with the law of probability? Let’s get real, the 1st World Countries can get by without us. Many of the second tier nations are coming to the same conclusion. In the United State we need to stop relying on the myth that we lead the world if we want to remain viable.

The Real Politico

August 29th, 2010
8:54 am

Anyone for the so-called Fair Tax is either wealthy or uninformed.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FairTax

n

August 29th, 2010
10:10 am

To Bobby Anthony: Mine is a stand-alone unit that is installed on the ground outside my house. It’s a pressurized evacuated tube (vacuum tube-like a thermos) type with a tank on top of the tubes. They are pressurized from household water pressure. It was ordered from a company in China called Himin Solar, but there are literally hundreds of Chinese companies producing similar products. I just checked Ebay, and there are now some listed on Ebay for $800. I’m sure these are also imported from China. There are some metric/U.S. pipe thread issues that some Chinese companies have eliminated in their exports to the U.S. There are also evacuated tube arrays that can be mounted on the roof and plumbed into a tank inside the house. I am glad to see them on Ebay, because they were not there when I started looking around three years ago. Georgia entrepreneurs needed. Factories needed–producing jobs for a new era. We need to stop sending all our jobs and money to China and the oil kingdoms, who do not have our best interests in mind. American workers can build, sell and maintain solar equipment. Why do we rely on the Chinese for EVERYTHING?

Simple Economics

August 29th, 2010
11:51 am

I saw a couple comments about charging more for “Green” energy. The reason GA Power does that is that it actually “costs” more to produce it. They are using the extra money to recoup the costs and expand the program.

We pay approx $.05/kWh for power here, by comparison the giant wind farm they want to build off the Mass. coast will cost over $.20/kWh.

The unfortunate reality is that fossil fuels produce energy much cheaper than any “Green” source and likely will for at least the next 10-20 years or longer. I am all for making green more reasonable, such low interest loans to put solar power systems on houses. If we try to force “Green” energy with something like Cap and Trade, all we will do is spike electricity prices for everyone. If we take a reasonable approach with some incentives, we will move towards more “Green” energy and it should then become cheaper and continue to grow.

n

August 29th, 2010
12:27 pm

If you count the cost of the infrastructure and long-term environmental destruction necessary to produce electricity from coal and nukes–the kWh cost would be far more than $.05. The Stone Age didn’t end for lack of stone. It ended because people used their frontal lobes to constantly develop and improve their technologies.

DD

August 29th, 2010
12:29 pm

Echols, do something for the environment. Invest in a box of condoms.

duke

August 29th, 2010
3:43 pm

The basic problem is that modern Americans are numerically illiterate. Solar and wind power do not produce enough energy over the lifetime of the equipment to build the replacement solar panels and windmils. They do not produce anywhere near enough. They do not produce half enough. Concealing this with tax subsidies does not solve the problem. Government can print money, but it cannot print energy.

During the 1970’s an insane anti-nuclear campaign, based on outright lies, resulted in draconian regulations which make it impossible to build and operate nuclear reactors profitably. The Palo Verde nuclear plant in Arizona was completed before those regulations took effect. It paid for itself within a few years, and has been producing net energy profit ever since. It provides electricity to Los Angeles at two cents per kilowatt-hour. Solar cost 20 to 40 cents, once you include all the hidden subsidies.

The Navy has been operating nuclear reactors for decades with zero deaths. The Chernobyl accident killed less than 100 people. In vain have environmentalists searched for the tens of thousands of deaths which are supposed to result from such an accident. But their opposition to nuclear power is based on ideology, not empirical science.

Nuclear fuel does not remain toxic for tens of thousand of years, only about 500 years. Recycle it as the French do, which insanely is illegal in the US, and the total volume is minuscule. The French have been getting 75% of their electricity from nuclear for decades, and all their nuclear waste is stored in one room.

RGB

August 29th, 2010
8:50 pm

No surprise that the first two comments out of the box (which came from the so-called tolerant Left) attempted to malign Almighty God and Christianity.

You may not “do religion” but God reigns over all. It’s kind of like gravity: you don’t have to believe in it but when you drop a hammer it falls to the ground. Your belief in gravity is irrelevant.

I hope for you my friend that you soon discover the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ who paid our sin debt in full with His blood on the cross at Calvary.

And I hope you other folks on the left will exhibit the tolerance you profess to possess by not bashing Jesus, Christianity, or for that matter any other religions. I do not malign the fact that you believe in nothing at all and that you were created by…..whomever you think you were created by. Self-created?

BehindEnemyLines

August 29th, 2010
8:57 pm

Thanks Jim, now we have something to look back for reference when the voters realize the mistake they made in the primary. It won’t correct the mistake of course, but at least it’ll be a handy reference that we should have thought more about who we were voting for in the PSC race.

Boatdoc

August 30th, 2010
1:56 am

Duke and Simple Economics: you both bring up exceedingly good and important points – the cost of “green” energy is exorbitant, and not likely to fall. I don’t see anyone else bringing up this important point: Fossil fuels are being used far faster than they’re being generated. A rudimentary education would lead one to realize that it takes eons to CREATE fossil fuels – at current consumption rates existing fossil fuels will be completely depleted during the lifetimes of today’s young.

Unless some as-yet-undiscovered technology arrives in the next forty years, nuclear power will become a necessity, and the world will be criss-crossed by electric trains. Not laying the infrastructure to deal with the loss of fossil fuels now will make for some difficult times in the decades to come.

For those who would say “I don’t care if the world runs out of petroleum or coal in the next forty years…. I’ll be dead by then!” – I pity you.

Saul Good

August 30th, 2010
6:28 am

Perhaps someone can tell Echols that the most “wasteful” thing one can possibly do in the whole wide world is have SEVEN KIDS (unless at least say 5 are adopted and had already been born). There is nothing more “wasteful” compared to having and creating more humans who will consume MORE water, use more electricity, more oil, have more animals raised to feed them (which wastes tons of water per year and produces tons of waste, plus shipping costs to the market), etc. It leads to a bigger home, which too is wasteful from the production of it…to maintaining it. I have a feeling that the ONLY reason why he wants the solar ht water heater….is because of all the hot water his kids waste and the BILLS he gets every month.

Can’t use the word “green” in front of other republicans? Just makes him a “sissy” who’s too afraid to stand up to them… want to have kids? Good for you…have one or two… feel a need to have more? Then be a true “Sanctity of Life” human being and ADOPT one of the millions of kids around the world who have already been born and need a home. Too expensive you say? When then you can’t afford to have a kid anyway. If the average kid costs $250K from birth to HS graduation…then paying $10K or so to save one’s life is a small price to pay when compared to what you will pay once you “conceive” one anyway.

Saxby Chambliss

August 30th, 2010
8:44 am

RGB, tolerate ignorance, make believe and wishful thinking? Really?

T Knight

August 30th, 2010
9:25 am

Progressives are nothing new one either side of the isle. I am always skeptical when politicians attach themselves to some cause. Frankly, the whole green thing will come and go as so many ’causes’ have. Mr. Echols needs to talk issues if he wants to get elected.

n

August 30th, 2010
9:48 am

The “who green thing” amounts to the survival of the human race. That’s not an issue?

lmno

August 30th, 2010
10:38 am

I think that Edward Abbey should be required reading for all high school students. That would probably be enough to change the world.

Oil is the most expensize energy source on the planet. In addition to the money to buy it, it is the main source of funding of terrorism which we spend billions to fight. It also pollutes our environment which costs tons more $.

Coal is bad for the air, and the strip miners are trying to rape appalachia into submission.

Everyone loves nuclear energy cause its “clean” but no one wants to live next to a reactor and no one wants to have the waste associated with it stored in thheir back yard. Ask the people out in Yucca what they think of nuclear.

S

August 30th, 2010
2:46 pm

GA Power (The Southern Company) is using the Territorial Act of 1972 to stop all serious solar (PV) development for Schools, Governments and Businesses. This Act gave away Georgians’ rights to be in the game of selling electrons derived from a renewable source. Until we get the Legislators out that kiss GA Power’s a$$ and replace them with forward thinking Citizens willing to help the People of Georgia to regain power, we will not see Solar Power in Georgia!

Have any of you actually looked at the amount of money the ratepayers are now paying for the 2 nuke plants? The Legislators held their noses and voted for the nucear power plants but they were told that it would get Georgians “cheap” power well into the future. However, it is now approaching $0.18 and continuing to increase.

The PSC Commissioners are really GOOD people and have tried very hard to help open the door for renewable energy but GA Power only gives us inches while we are seeing ALL the States around us move miles ahead with renewables.

Learn these facts:
1) For every 1kWh we consume it requires 1lb of coal to produce it….the average home in uses 1000kWh/mo….yes, 1/2 ton of coal for that 1 home….the numbers ae staggering for Schools, Businesses and Goverment! This is a fact!
2) Governor Perdue’s Chief of Staff, Ed Holcomb, is Georgia Power’s former chief lobbyist!

Are we really this stupid as a State and a Nation to let the FOX watch the hen house? I decided to become educated in these matters and I urge you all to do the same and then ACT for our State, our Kids and JOBS from NEW Industries!

S

August 30th, 2010
3:10 pm

Also, very good to see that Saxby read this article and the comments. I supported him in 2008 and hope he realizes how many jobs in Georgia are wanting for PPA private-investor PV projects…thousands – high paying and highly skilled careers means more money from income taxes….yes, 1+1 does equal 2.!

Saxby, one of your supporters is waiting on your support – real support!

s

August 30th, 2010
3:47 pm

How about a VERY simple change to the Territorial Act of 1972….”solar is exempt from the Act”. Do this Legislators and watch “green” jobs decrease our unemployment rate in a very short time.

Jay

August 30th, 2010
5:55 pm

Wow! Tim Echols’ power bill is $500 per month! I can only imagine the McMansion he must live in.

Can Mr. Echols explain how his conscience operates. I mean he pays $500 for power, but he won’t even buy one green power block for a measly five bucks. Jim, I believe Mr. Echols was being honest with you. He doesn’t consider himself green because he isn’t green. His “christian conscience” is like that of a lot of other conservatives around here I know: lacking when it comes to stewardship of this earth that god gave us.