This Tea Party Leader is Championing Green. Here’s Why.

This Tea Party Leader is Championing Green. Here’s Why.

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Debbie Dooley isn’t your typical Tea Party leader. She’s a Georgia grandmother who became an activist six years ago when her first grandson was born. Dooley is co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots, and has been active with the Tea Party Patriots since their inception. Last summer, she teamed up with the Sierra Club to start a new group, the aptly named Green Tea Coalition, to fight for solar power in Georgia. And while Dooley says she wouldn’t call herself an environmentalist, she’s always cared about the environment, animals, and clean air

But Dooley isn’t just about building coalitions and lobbying for policy. She’s also about changing the conservative discourse on renewable energy. Dooley has taken it upon herself to convince the conservative establishment that supporting renewables fits with conservative values. If she’s not getting pushback, she said, she’s not doing her job. Bard College’s Center for Environmental Policy recently hosted Dooley for aseminar, where she explained why she supports renewables, and why she thinks other conservatives should too. Here’s what she had to say.

    1. Renewables can help free Americans from monopolies. Conservatives often support the idea of a level playing field for goods and services in the free market. But right now, fossil fuels are highly subsidized by the government. Renewables, in large part, are not. Removing fossil fuels subsidies and breaking up monopolies would level the playing field and allow the free market — not the government — to decide winners and losers. 
    2. Renewables will help decentralize the grid. Decentralization of systems and governments is an appealing idea to many conservatives. Building support for renewables would help to decentralize one of our country’s largest systems: the energy system. 
    3. Renewables can reduce national security risks Dooley went beyond the usual argument about how renewables will reduce our dependence on foreign oil. In her words: “It’s much harder for terrorists to attack rooftops than transformers and power grids. That’s a message that will get conservatives’ attention.” 
    4. Renewables will be cheaper if we better account for costs. Right now, electricity produced by fossil fuels is almost always cheaper than electricity produced by renewable sources. But if we removed subsidies for fossil fuels, solar and wind would come closer in price to fossil fuels. Plus, right now, taxpayers are paying for the environmental damage and human costs of fossil fuels, of which renewables have none. If fossil fuel producers had to pay for these costs, oil and gas prices would shoot up, and, in Dooley’s words, “renewables would win.”

Perhaps what was most striking about Dooley’s comments was her optimism about the future of renewables. Dooley says that with just a little message tweaking, she’s confident that conservatives’ support for renewables will soar, and prices will drop. “This is a battle I have no doubt we can win,” she said.

Listen to Debbie Dooley’s seminar at the Bard Center for Environmental Policy here.

Read Debbie Dooley’s op-ed announcing the launch of the Green Tea Coalition here.

Read more about the Green Tea Coalition here.

Read BCEP’s blog on the same NCS here.


CarolineHodgeCaroline is an Associate Manager of Communications & Research at ecoAmerica, a nonprofit working to build mainstream support for climate solutions in the United States. She graduated from Stanford University with degrees in Psychology and Philosophy & Religious Studies in 2013.  Caroline attended a C2C Fellows workshop at UC Berkeley in 2013.

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