The Tea Party has formed an unholy alliance with the left,” Debbie Dooley recalls a panicked member of Georgia’s big energy lobby lamenting.
Dooley, a co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots, doesn’t deny the charges. In fact, she is set this Tuesday to celebrate the official launch of the Green Tea Coalition – the same “unholy alliance” of right and left grassroots that has big oil interests reeling.
“It’s an unholy alliance because they see it as a threat to them,” Dooley said, speaking ahead of the launch. “In the past, the elites on both the right and the left got away with it. On the right, they’d say, ‘This person’s on the left. Stay away from them,’ On the left, they’d say, ‘They’re radical, they’re the Tea Party. Stay away from them.’
“But we got through all that bull, got to know each other, and started working together,” she said.
And it’s not the first time. In 2012, the Atlanta Tea Patriot Patriots joined the NAACP and the Sierra Club to successfully defeat a $7.2 billion transit tax referendum. That same year, Tea joined forces with Occupy Atlanta and the AFL-CIO to stop an anti-union bill that would have banned protests at private residences (the bill sought to protect the “right of quiet enjoyment” of CEOs).
The threat of a grassroots movement united across ideological lines manifested itself again last month when the Tea Party Patriots – allied with environmentalists of the Sierra Club – triumphed in a win for solar energy.
Like many other states, Georgia law, through the 1973 Territorial Act, grants a single electric utility supplier the exclusive right to generate electrical power services. The beneficiary in Georgia is Georgia Power, which is owned by the Southern Company. Southern Company is the fourth largest utility in the country, with operations also in Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi.
Even electric co-operatives in the state aren’t allowed to generate their own energy under present law. Instead, they must buy it through Georgia Power, relying on a power grid that operates mainly off coal, gas, and nuclear power.
Such a centralized power grid presents practical dangers, claimed Dooley. For example, a terrorist could theoretically plunge an entire region into darkness with a few well-coordinated attacks.
Southern Company isn’t rushing to jeopardize its lucrative business model by embracing alternative energy. But thanks to Green Tea efforts and a Public Service Commission vote of 4 to 1 in July, the company will be required to obtain 525 megawatts of additional solar power by 2016.
That win didn’t come without fierce opposition from deeply entrenched interests, including the Koch Brothers-funded organization Americans for Prosperity. AFP Georgia sent out a misleading email to some 50,000 members urging them to oppose the solar changes, erroneously claiming that solar would raise prices by as much as 40 percent.