Debbie Dooley is mad as hell.
Since 2012, the fifty-six-year-old grandmother and former IT consultant has been waging a fierce grassroots battle against her home state utility, Georgia Power, to make it easier and cheaper for homeowners to install rooftop solar panels. Now, she’s working with allies in Florida to sponsor a ballot initiative that would allow businesses and homeowners there to sell any energy they generate back to the grid.
But she has run into stiff resistance from the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity. The group has sent out e-mails to its supporters against the idea and organized a Tallahassee press conference at which the organization’s state director Chris Hudson complained that “requiring traditional utility companies to give their grid space to solar energy will impose a massive cost” on Florida ratepayers. Claims like that have Dooley riled up.
“I am battling the Koch brothers and all of their funded groups because they are giving me problems,” Dooley says in a Southern accent as thick as a humid day. “We have been brainwashed for years by the fossil fuel interests and politicians in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry to believe that green energy is bad. And it’s not.”
This is the kind of impassioned talk you might expect from, say, a Greenpeace campaigner. But Dooley is a dyed-in-the-wool political conservative. In 2009, she was one of the original organizers of the nationwide tea party protests. She’s a co-founder of the Atlanta tea party, as well as a board member of the national group Tea Party Patriots. And she’s a staunch believer in the importance of creating a decentralized and renewable energy system. Under the banner of her “Green Tea Coalition,” she’s brought together the Sierra Club and the Christian Coalition to fight for rooftop solar energy, something that she says is right in line with her conservative beliefs. “I believe in the marketplace and I believe in the free market, and we need to allow innovation to take place,” she says.