Getting Clean Energy from America’s Oceans

Our guest bloggers are Michael Conathan, Director of Oceans Policy, and Richard Caperton, energy policy analyst at the Center for American Progress.

For 87 days in the spring and summer of 2010, an undersea gusher of oil continuously reminded Americans of the toll energy development can take on our oceans.

Approximately 3,500 oil rigs and platforms were operating in U.S. waters at the time of the BP disaster. There were also over 1,000 wind turbines generating clean, renewable electricity off the coastlines of northwestern Europe. But not a single windmill yet turns in the strong, abundant winds that abound off our shores.

Wind power cannot immediately replace the energy we still generate from the oil and gas produced on the outer continental shelf. But America’s unwillingness to clear the way for permitting a proven, commercially scalable, clean source of energy is a major black eye for a nation that purports to be a leader in technological development.


Denmark constructed the first offshore wind facility in in 1991. In the intervening two decades 10 other countries installed offshore wind farms — eight nations in northern Europe, plus Japan and China:

Unfortunately, in the United States, the lack of a clear regulatory structure, inconsistent messages from other ocean stakeholders, congressional budget battles, opposition to specific project siting, and instability in financial markets have all played a role in preventing domestic offshore wind from becoming a reality.

Securing cheap, clean, domestic, energy sources is a universal goal. And yet, as a country, we continue to drop one roadblock after another in front of one of the world’s most proven renewable energy technologies.

More than 40,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy capacity have been permitted around the globe, but the United States accounts for barely 1 percent of that and we have yet to generate our first watt of electricity from this abundant, carbon-free source of power.

The longer we wait to begin developing this technology and creating the infrastructure and knowledge base that go along with it, the further we will fall behind the rest of the world and the harder it will be to bring the economic development and environmental benefits to our own shores.

Read more at the Center for American Progress.