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Oklahoma GOP State Rep. Mike Turner is Sour on Solar

Alex Constantine - April 13, 2014

Sun? I thought you said gun!

Red Dirt Report, APRIL 11, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY – Just what is going on with State Rep. Mike Turner, the brash, young Republican from Edmond? And why does he hate solar power so much?

A few weeks ago, a political push-card arrived in the mail featuring Turner’s fratty, boyish grin and the twentysomething holding an oversized, novelty gavel. My wife pointed it out to me and I had to laugh. My thought? This is not a congressional candidate to take too seriously.

And now Turner is in the news this week pushing his House version of SB 1456, a bill which would allow regulated utilities to charge utility customers extra if they install rooftop solar panels or small wind turbines and want to be able to send excess electricity back to the grid, as The Fat City Times-Truncheon (aka The Oklahomannoted this week.

However, Turner is getting pushback from the solar industry and its allies, who featured an ad, which is all over the Internet this week, where, over The Byrds’ “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” viewers are told that Turner wants to “tax the sun” and is against “energy freedom” by “turning on solar.”

The ad wonders aloud if Turner will “turn” on his support of OU Sooners and become a Longhorn fan? Or, will he side with Hillary Clinton in a presidential bid? It offers Turner’s office number (405-557-7357) and a website: www.dontkillsolar.com.

Clearly, Turner didn’t like being called out on this issue.

On his personal Facebook page, Turner was confused and incensed all at the same time, writing: “As someone who has manufactured solar cells … I’m getting mad lulz at rinos squawking like chickens because their being weaned off generous subsidies. If it is free market, then let it stand on merit, not being a lobbyist subsidy parasite.”

Reading that statement, I couldn’t quite figure out what Turner was saying in this incoherent message. Was he lucid when he wrote that? When did he manufacture solar cells? We would love to hear more. We have contacted Turner’s office, asking for more information …

That state’s “newspaper of record” notes that conservative and environmental groups are banding together to fight Turner and Sen. AJ Griffin’s solar-surcharge bill. Barry Goldwater Jr., the former Arizona congressman and son of the late Republican senator and 1964 presidential candidate is part of a group called TUSK (Tell Utilities Solar Wont’ be Killed). InGoldwater’s letter, he says that “(a)llowing private enterprise and the rooftop solar energy to thrive will give energy customers in Oklahoma a choice as to how they get their electricity. If you slap heavy taxes on it, you are allowing the heavy hand of government to stop competition in favor of long-held monopolies.”

The impudent state rep wasted no times in responding to Goldwater’s request by stating on his congressional campaign Facebook page that Goldwater Jr’s father was right in saying equality “wrongly understood” leads to conformity and despotism: “Junior should heed his father’s advice and stop aligning with the Obama administration on forcing ratepayers to subsidize solar users. Fair is fair, and it’s time ALL power generators pay their own way.”

As Red Dirt Report researched this, we learned that ALEC has tried to force similar solar-surcharge bills in other states – where they have been subsequently defeated.

And yet in Oklahoma, only 200 or so energy users in the state primarily use solar power. That is not a big number at all, so one wonders why there is such interest by Rep. Turner and Sen. Griffin to take on a surcharge?

One insider told this reporter that ALEC, right-wing think tanks and utilities like OG&E are seeking to “kill this baby while it’s young” before access to alternative sources of energy becomes more widespread, efficient and effective. Alternative energy is viewed as a threat to 19th and 20th century-styled energy sources and "progress" and "protecting the environment" are code words for socialism and totalitarianism.

Another source, familiar with the bill, told Red Dirt Report that they were surprised Turner was embracing Stalinist-styled big government tactics when on Turner’s own congressional campaign website, www.mikeforthehousecom, he states emphatically: “Many of our key protections under the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution are gone. Government was never intended to have such sweeping, intrusive power over the lives of individual citizens. America was founded on the principles of personal liberty and freedom from unwarranted governmental control and regulations.”

If implemented, this new law would take away the powers of the Corporation Commission and mandates that a charge must be imposed, effectively rendering the Commission impotent.

“This is Big Government run amok,” our source explained. “(Turner) wants to use Oklahoma as a laboratory for a Washington think tank."

Yes, we understand that Oklahoma is an oil, gas and coal state, as Barry Goldwater Jr. noted in his TUSK letter. Energy is big and a job creator. Yet, as he also notes, the major utilities in the Sooner State have failed to recognize or embrace the fact that we are the ninth best in the country for solar production. What is stopping us from tapping into the power of the sun? A guy like Mike Turner? The impertinent kid holding the novelty gavel?

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