Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Americans Want Renewable Energy. What's Stopping Them?

Everyone loves renewable energy – even Grover Norquist, who writes in an otherwise completely inaccurate opinion piece that:

Opposition to renewable energy mandates should not be misinterpreted as an aversion to renewable energy. In fact, renewable sources could play a significant role in the future.

I totally agree Grover! And in fact, nine in ten Americans—including 85 percent of Republicans and 89 percent of independents—say developing renewable energy should be a priority for the President and Congress.

And what’s not to love? Renewable energy serves core American values like economic prosperity, self-sufficiency, independence and security.

The renewable energy industry is growing rapidly, with some sectors like solar and wind creating jobs at triple the rate of the overall economy. While most industries were cutting jobs during the recession, employers in the broader clean economy added 500,000 jobs between 2003 and 2010. Electric and hybrid vehicle technology is driving a resurrection of the U.S. auto industry in places like Michigan and Kentucky. Renewable energy is providing new markets for old industries, like fiberglass boat makers in Florida that now also make wind turbine blades. There are renewable energy projects in every state and new renewable energy jobs are being created every day.

Meanwhile, renewable energy reduces pollution, protects public health, and builds a cleaner future. Instead of forcing American children to continue to suffer from asthma attacks, and other health and developmental issues as a consequence of breathing dirty air from fossil fuels that contains mercury, lead and other toxics, we can move to a future where renewable energy makes our air and water cleaner and safer for us and for our children.

Then of course, there’s the fact that renewable energy is homegrown energy that we own and won’t run out. Producing clean and reliable renewable energy right here in our country helps make us more independent and more in control of our energy future.

So what’s the problem? Well, unfortunately for Norquist, fossil fuel companies and their entrenched special interests in government, you can’t just say you love renewables, then block our progress on renewable energy and take our country in a direction Americans don’t want to go.

In his opinion piece, Norquist tries to tie the policies that support the growth of renewable energy like wind and solar, which the vast majority of Americans want, to inaccurate, fossil-fuel industry funded studies and misleading statistics about the cost of power, or high unemployment. The four linked articles in the previous sentence do an excellent job addressing these inaccuracies. To synthesize them, he confuses correlation with causation between standards and energy prices, he misrepresents data on state energy prices, he ignores the myriad of reasons why the energy sector isn’t a free market and therefore requires policies that level the playing field for renewables and he misses the incredible growth story of the renewable sector.

Norquist even tries to claim that Americans aren’t interested in policies for renewable energy, despite that fact that two-thirds of the public say it is important for federal funds to be invested in renewable energy, especially to boost the economy and 72 percent of Americans support Renewable Portfolio Standards, exactly the policies he is questioning!

Unfortunately, as much as Norquist and his polluter allies would like to proclaim otherwise, Federal funding has always helped drive our greatest and most complex innovations—from railroads and highway systems to space travel. These transformations were partnerships between the private sector and government. Without effective government, they would have never occurred, and neither will the transition to renewable energy in America.

Policies like the renewable electricity standard are critical tools that can level the playing field so that renewable energy companies have a fair chance to compete against entrenched fossil fuel technologies. In fact, a renewable standard is probably the most market friendly of all options – requiring renewable energy technologies to compete on price and allowing utilities to select the cheapest options available.

More importantly, if we don’t lead on renewable energy, other countries will. China has stated plants to invest $1.7 TRILLION in renewable energy and other strategic technology sectors over the next five years. Are we going to stand on the sidelines, or are we going to compete?

America has a choice. We can allow fossil fuel companies, entrenched special interests, and their supporters in government to block our progress on renewable energy and take our country in a direction Americans don’t want to go. Or we can move forward with building a future that secures America’s leadership in homegrown renewable energy, drives economic growth and jobs, and provides a cleaner, healthier life for us and our children.

Which choice would you prefer?

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