by Matt Kasper and Kiley Kroh
This election season, groups promoting fossil fuels spent an incredible amount of money – $270 million in the last two months alone – on television ads to influence presidential and congressional races. But voters made it clear that they support candidates who understand the critical importance of transitioning away from fossil fuels and toward the renewable energy sources of the future.
A post-election energy survey released by the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) and Advanced Energy Economy Ohio Institute (AEE Ohio Institute) confirmed that energy was a “very important” issue to the majority of voters in Virginia (60%), Ohio (57%), Iowa (58%), and Colorado (66%) in their vote decision:
These same voters also overwhelmingly expressed more support for candidates who want to move their states away from consuming coal and toward the production of cleaner sources of energy such as wind, solar, and natural gas. According to the survey, 75% of voters in Iowa, 72% of voters in Colorado and Virginia, and 69% of voters in Ohio said they wanted to transition away from fossil fuels.
The future embraced by the fossil fuel industry is one in where America is nothing more than a land of fossil-fuel extraction. But after November 6th, it is clear that this vision does not align with the swing state voters.
The Center for American Progress recently released “Regional Energy, National Solutions: A Real Energy Vision for America,” a report that directly counters the vision for America offered by the American Petroleum Institute and highlights the current success and future potential of the clean economy across the country.
The U.S. military gets this. Realizing the critical need to enhance our energy security, the Department of Defense has become a major proponent of clean energy solutions. The world’s leading private investors, too, agree that long-term climate change and clean energy policy is a tremendous economic opportunity. And the American people continue to show an increasing understanding of climate change and support for clean, secure and affordable energy.
Voters in Colorado, for example, understand their region boasts nearly unlimited renewable energy resources like wind, solar, and geothermal. In fact, 71,872 direct jobs can be created if the West is able to continue its existing capacity of solar, wind, and geothermal projects while achieving the announced planned projects.
Voters in Iowa also expressed the same enthusiasm for clean energy this election cycle. Iowa is the now one of the country’s largest and fastest-growing wind markets. Iowa gets 20 percent of its electricity from wind, has up to 7,000 jobs in the industry, and has brought in $5 billion in private investment over the last three decades. It should not be a surprise that 75% of voters there support candidates who promote renewable energy.
The victory of Senator Sherrod Brown and President Obama in Ohio also show that many voters supported the auto bailout and are excited to continue promoting advanced clean vehicle innovation and manufacturing. Retooling the auto industry to build the next generation of vehicles has proved to be one of the most effective elements of a national recovery, adding more than 230,000 direct jobs in manufacturing and auto sales since the low point of the recession in mid-2009. That adds up to 14 percent growth, far outpacing the economy as a whole.
Another key takeaway from the post-election poll is that voters strongly support candidates who advocate for continued public funding of the development of cleaner energy. The ACORE/AEE Ohio Institute found that 77% of Iowa voters, 76% of Virginia voters, 75% of Ohio voters, and 72% of Colorado voters wanted to see continued government support of clean energy.
One action Congress can take to continue growth of clean energy sector in these key states is extending the Production Tax Credit for wind energy, a temporary credit that the American Wind Energy Association estimates has helped raise $20 billion in private investment over the last five years, supporting 75,000 jobs. The credit is set to expire at the end of this year, which could result in the loss of 37,000 jobs in the wind industry.
After this election, the American people reaffirmed their support for a future where we breathe clean air, create the good green jobs of the future, fight climate change, and ultimately transition away from fossil fuel consumption. However, in order to build on this success in states leading the transition to a clean economy – as well as expand to those that have not yet realized their potential – Washington must get behind this vision.
Matt Kasper is a Special Assistant for the Energy Team and Kiley Kroh is the Associate Director for Ocean Communications at the Center for American Progress.