Knox Memorial Theater, which is funded by the Ariel Corp.

To hear anti-renewable energy pundit Robert Bryce tell it, the fight over a proposed solar project in Knox County, Ohio, is between “big banks, big law firms and big NGOs” trying to steamroll plucky residents in rural America despised by urban elites.

Except in this case, rural America is represented by the Ariel Corp., the maker of air compressors used in gas fracking. Ariel is the county’s largest employer, and it has funded multiple front groups working to block the development of renewable energy, a competing fuel source to natural gas in Ohio.

Bryce’s comments on Feb. 24 came inside the Knox Memorial theater in Mount Vernon, the beneficiary of financial support from the Ariel Foundation, the company’s nonprofit funding arm.

Ariel’s fingerprints are everywhere in the fight over the Frasier Solar project in Mount Vernon:

Bryce, Martis and the gas industry

More than 12 years ago, Checks & Balances Project (C&BP) asked Bryce about his financial ties to fossil fuel interests, drawing an angry, evasive response from Bryce. For this story, Bryce didn’t respond to C&BP’s questions about who paid for his trip to Mount Vernon. While he describes himself as a journalist simply asking questions about what types of energy make the most sense, he has invariably sided with fossil fuels, primarily the gas industry.

Bryce’s work came while he worked at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative-leaning think thank funded by fossil fuel interests, such as ExxonMobil and the Koch Brothers.

Bryce frequently works with Kevon Martis, a commissioner in Lenawee County, Mich. who has been a longtime opponent of renewable energy projects in the Midwest.  Martis also has a long record of sharing the positions as the gas industry. However, like Bryce, Martis refused to answer any questions about who funded his travel to fight the Frasier Solar project in Knox County. Instead, Martis demanded to know C&BP funding, which is shared on our website. However, Martis’ financial ties to fossil fuel interests has been explored by investigative journalist Michael Thomas.

Ray Locker is the executive director for Checks & Balances Project, an investigative watchdog blog holding government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP is provided by Renew American Prosperity and individual donors.

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