Senator Carper Calls Out Climate, Economic Benefits of Offshore Wind Energy

By Michael Conathan

During an hour-long conversation about offshore wind energy hosted by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) repeatedly channeled Stephen Stills and his Buffalo Springfield bandmates when talking about climate change.

There’s something happenin’ here,” Carper quoted, before paraphrasing in reference to his climate-denier colleagues on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. “To some people, maybe it ain’t exactly clear,” he said. “To me it is.”

Carper has long been a proponent of offshore wind, in part for the economic opportunity it represents for his home state of Delaware, but more pressingly for the role he believes the technology can play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And he’s backed up that support with action.


In the last Congress, he introduced legislation cosponsored by now-retired Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) that would make the first 3,000 megawatts of offshore wind generation capacity eligible for the investment tax credit, or ITC. This would effectively provide a 30 percent tax credit for money invested in construction of these facilities. Yesterday, Carper said he would reintroduce that bill later this year, even though he successfully included language in the fiscal cliff deal making offshore wind projects eligible for the ITC through the end of this year.

The offshore wind industry has identified the ITC as the policy most integral to its future development, and Carper spoke persuasively of the need to ensure potential investors have the “predictability and certainty” that the credit will be available to them:

Carper also talked at length about the need to “level the playing field” for offshore wind and other renewable energy technologies. He cited both the need to eliminate existing subsidies to the mature and highly profitable fossil fuel industries — Exxon Mobil alone made $45 billion in 2012 — and the need to account for the externalities of fossil fuel pollution. To bolster his latter point, he spoke of his time as Governor of Delaware and his experience fighting against Midwestern coal plants whose pollution fell not in the Midwest, but along the eastern seaboard, saying:

I could [have] literally shut down my state — our economy — in order to meet clean air requirements, and we couldn’t have met them. And it wasn’t our fault. It was all this stuff blowing on to us from other places.

As for those colleagues on the Senate EPW Committee who view climate as a hoax, Carper had a very simple analysis:

In the Republican Party, for a number of years, if you were one of those people to raise your hand and say “I think there’s something going on with our weather patterns and it does relate to more carbon up in the atmosphere and we need to do something about it”… [it] was like a one way ticket to an early retirement.

For what it’s worth (Buffalo Springfield pun very much intended), in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy — and other billion dollar extreme weather events that have hit households in two-thirds of all U.S. counties over the past two years — polling numbers are showing a huge shift toward the belief that human induced climate change is here now and is making our lives worse today. Yes, even among Republicans. And that means the day may rapidly be coming when climate denial, rather than climate action may be that one way ticket home.

As Stephen Stills said, “everybody look what’s going down.” That means you too, GOP.

— Michael Conathan is the Director of Ocean Policy at the Center for American Progress