Wind energy a conservative solution
BY ROBERTA COMBS and TOM KIERNAN
Growing wind energy aligns with conservative values. America’s renewable energy resources strengthen U.S. energy independence, transform local communities, and improve the lives of American families for generations to come.
That’s the message hundreds of Young Conservatives for Energy Reform and Christian Coalition activists brought to Washington recently at their Conservative Clean Energy Summit, which was co-sponsored by the American Wind Energy Association.
These conservative activists believe there’s an urgent need to accelerate this country’s transition to a cleaner energy economy. They want energy reform because they’re frustrated by a lack of leadership in Congress to supply stable, long-term policy to grow a domestic energy source like wind energy, and as their numbers grow, their voices are getting louder. Understanding the many benefits wind energy already generates for American homeowners and workers makes it easy to understand why they’re mobilizing.
The U.S. is blessed with abundant wind energy resources. We are now No. 1 in the world in wind energy production, with enough wind power installed to supply 18 million American homes.
Performance-based tax incentives that help advance wind’s technology and lower wind’s costs have opened up new economically-viable areas to develop wind farms. This includes North Carolina, which recently announced the approval of its first-ever utility-scale wind farm. This means in addition to being a wind manufacturing hub with 17 factories, South Carolina could soon both make and build wind farms all within its own borders. South Carolina is also on its way to becoming a wind research leader, as Clemson University is constructing a wind turbine testing facility in Charleston.
Diversifying our electricity mix with low-cost wind energy helps keeps the lights on for homeowners. Iowa, South Dakota, and Kansas already reliably produce more than 20 percent of their electricity from wind, and nine states produce more than 12 percent. And whereas plants generating other types of power can shut down suddenly, changes in the output of a wind fleet occur gradually and can be predicted four to 24 or more hours in advance.
American ingenuity has advanced wind turbine technology, helping lower wind power’s costs by 66 percent over the last six years. Savings created by cutting those costs help keep more money in pockets of homeowners and businesses. For example, wind saved consumers $1 billion over just two days across the Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic states during the 2014 “Polar Vortex” event.
By building and operating wind farms, American workers are producing more of our own energy right here at home. Over 73,000 jobs are supported by wind power, with more than 86 percent of wind farms built in the U.S. located in Republican-represented congressional districts. These wind farms create well-paying construction, manufacturing, and maintenance jobs for fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters.
Wind energy generates property tax payments and other revenues for rural communities, benefiting county and local services, schools and health care and public safety facilities. Family farmers and rural landowners are paid over $190 million a year by wind power companies for leasing land, meaning more of these families can stay in their homes or send their kids to college.
Even better, this potential is just starting to be tapped. Analysts predict wind can supply 20 percent of the United States’ electricity by 2030. Hitting that target with pollution-free wind energy will keep our air clean for the sons and daughters of future generations while creating 380,000 jobs.
However, without leadership from our elected officials, these benefits might never come.
To keep this American success story going, Congress must supply long-term, stable policy. The last time Congress failed to do so, it resulted in our economy losing $23 billion dollars and 30,000 jobs.
Congress must renew the renewable energy Production Tax Credit this year, for as long as possible, to provide this American industry and its investors with a business environment geared toward success.
Transforming America’s energy sector to create a better tomorrow will require us to seek new partners, search for common interests, and forge lasting relationships. America’s families share the same future, and the same risks. We owe it to ourselves and our children to work together to ensure continued prosperity in the years to come.
Roberta Combs of Charleston is the president/CEO of the Christian Coalition. Tom Kiernan is CEO of the American Wind Energy Association.