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Under The Election-Season Radar, Signs Of Bipartisan Support For Clean Energy

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"Under The Election-Season Radar, Signs Of Bipartisan Support For Clean Energy"

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by Clint Wilder, via Clean Edge

On the eve of the first 2012 presidential debate, I’m not optimistic that our nation’s clean-energy future will suddenly turn into the campaign issue that it should be. But looking beyond the November 6th election, I’ve seen some recent signs that a more bipartisan push for clean-tech growth might be possible.

The first sign came about a month ago when DBL Investors issued a terrific report called Red, White & Green: The True Colors of America’s Clean Tech Jobs. The report’s early September release date and the theme coincided nicely with the launch of my new book Clean Tech Nation, co-authored with Clean Edge co-founder and managing director Ron Pernick, in which we discuss some of the same themes. The jobs report, by DBL managing partner and veteran clean-tech investor Nancy Pfund and Yale MBA candidate Michael Lazar, details the surprising leadership in clean-tech jobs in several politically conservative southern and western states. Since it’s election season, these are better known as red states and swing states. Of the 10 states with the fastest growth in clean-tech jobs from 2003 to 2010, only two (Hawaii and New York) are solid Democratic blue states. All the others are either solid red (Alaska, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming) or swing (Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and North Carolina).

“We all need to understand,” write the report’s authors, “that green jobs and clean tech are not merely the idle dreaming of a small group of partisan activists and insiders, but a source of livelihood for millions of Americans, literally in all parts of the country.” The report also highlights the efforts of five current or former Republican governors to attract and grow clean-tech jobs in their states, most notably Mississippi’s Haley Barbour and Kansas’s Sam Brownback.

This is a point I make in nearly all of my public appearances, particularly to call out the inexcusable stance of the national Republican party (and presidential candidate Mitt Romney) in opposing the extension of the federal production tax credit (PTC) for wind power, which expires at year’s end. Brownback, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin are among the GOP governors who have spoken out in favor of extending the PTC. Last week, Fallin told the newspaper Tulsa World, “I agree with Governor Romney on 99 percent of the issues. But on this one, I’ve got to do what’s best for our state.” Bottom line: this is not about ideology, it’s about jobs. And thanks to the insane political fight over the PTC – Congress adjourned last week without taking action – jobs are already disappearing as wind companies announce layoffs due to the PTC uncertainty.

I saw more support for clean tech from an unexpected corner last week when I attended the opening sessions of Climate Week NYC, produced by U.K.-based non-profit The Climate Group, in New York. Timed to coincide with the Clinton Global Initiative annual conference (I was there as well) and the United Nations General Assembly, Climate Week brings together a diverse group of global leaders, including former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, World Bank vice president Rachel Kyte, and Prince Albert II of Monaco. But in this august company I found the most compelling speaker to be Deborah Fikes of Midland, Texas, executive advisor to the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA).

I was not familiar with the WEA – it was quite an eye-opener. With roots dating back to 1846, it’s a network of evangelical churches in 129 countries, representing more than 600 million people. “The U.S. is the only country that I work in where climate change is considered ‘controversial’,” said Fikes. The WEA believes it’s a moral imperative to reduce carbon emissions with clean energy and efficiency, and Fikes said the group plans to take its message to all four of the national candidates’ debates in the next month, with banners asking Obama, Romney, Biden, and Ryan what they plan to do on the climate issue. Good stuff.

At the end of the week, I was back home in San Francisco and spoke on a clean-energy panel at the Commonwealth Club public affairs forum with Vice Admiral (Ret.) Dennis McGinn, head of the American Council on Renewable Energy, and Renewable Energy Trust CEO John Bohn. Bohn boasts quite a resume, as the former head of Moody’s Investor Services, the Asian Development Bank, and the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. When panel moderator Greg Dalton, founder of the club’s Climate One program, asked us to name the biggest myth about clean energy, Bohn wasted no time.

“I’m a card-carrying Republican,” he said, “and the biggest myth is that Republicans don’t support clean energy!” Poll after poll says that Bohn is correct, and we can see more proof in places ranging from the Oklahoma governor’s office to the banners of evangelicals. As the political season enters full swing and the campaign rhetoric cranks up, let’s be sure to keep that in mind. And even more important, remember it on November 7th.

Wilder is Clean Edge’s senior editor, co-author of The Clean Tech Revolution, and a blogger about clean-tech issues for the Green section of The Huffington Post. His new book, Clean Tech Nation, co-authored with Ron Pernick, was published in September by HarperCollins. E-mail him at wilder@cleanedge.com and follow him on Twitter at @Clint_Wilder.

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7 Responses to Under The Election-Season Radar, Signs Of Bipartisan Support For Clean Energy

  1. TKPGH says:

    John Bohn needs to come to Pennsylvania, where a Republican administration and Republican-controlled state house have the solar industry all but on the ropes. It’s criminal that in this day and age, when people need good-paying jobs, that the idealogues in the state GOP are holding up the bill (HB 1580) that would put our solar industry on par with those in neighboring states. In PA these days, GAS and GOD are one and the same.

  2. Mike Roddy says:

    It was never about red states or conservative people. The fossil fuel companies are the ones calling the shots, using bribery and intimidation.

    • Ozonator says:

      I have noticed the educated, deep thinking Saudi’s have slowly come to support our extremist Republicans and Christians plans. Their country only poops out only 30% religious graduates. Ours naturally take short-cuts and more tax cuts. Justice Antonin Scalia once came to Baton Rouge to worship downwind from ExxonMobil.

  3. Omega Centauri says:

    Between conservative litmus tests, and having major fossil fueled sugar Daddy’s the GOP has to be anti-clean energy -even if their rank and file doesn’t go along. The only cure for this mismatch is for the rank and file the threaten to leave the party if it doesn’t change its ways. Until that happens, I have to consider all Republican supporters to be anti-green. As long as the elites can take the support and votes of the rank and file for granted, this won’t change.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      The ‘rank and file’ in capitalist societies are serfs, wage slaves, cannon fodder in wars and patsies, but never, ever, the holders of power.

  4. Jamie Ross says:

    It’s great there is widespread support for clean energy, but bipartisanship – yuck. If Republicans want to be taken seriously here, they need to find new people to run for office.

    Till then, hold the bipartisanship.