A Democratic approach to energy: promote the interests of citizens, not industry
Conservative supporters take Washington to advocate for clean energy
This week, hundreds of conservative grassroots supporters are streaming into Washington, D.C. to make their voices heard. Normally, that might not be especially newsworthy-people visit our nation's capital to advocate for causes all the time. But the reason for this fly-in might catch some people off guard: they're coming to rally for renewable energy and tell Congress why it's a critical part of our county's future.
No one should be surprised that these conservatives support renewable resources like wind power, however-it's perfectly aligned with their values. Nor is conservative support for wind new. States red and blue have recognized the contributions renewables make, and Republicans represent America's 10 congressional districts with the most wind.
It was conservative support that created the current business environment ripe for wind power's continued growth. A bipartisan deal reached at the end of 2015 to extend and phase out renewable incentives has given the industry the policy certainty it needs to keep growing. Congress should resist any efforts to put a retroactive tax increase on wind, which would undermine already agreed-upon business deals. That would only serve to jeopardize the progress we have made.
So what makes wind power so compatible with a conservative worldview?
Family values are paramount for conservatives, and well-paying jobs are key to creating healthy, stable families. Wind energy offers good career opportunities in all 50 states, with more than 100,000 Americans working in wind. Many of these jobs are in conservative strongholds in the rural U.S. and Rust Belt. Nearly all wind farms are built in rural areas, which creates demand for operations and maintenance jobs. That means America's fastest growing profession flourishes in the rural U.S.-wind turbine technician.
Wind is also one of the few U.S. industries creating new manufacturing jobs. Today, over 500 American factories build wind turbine parts, and the wind industry could add another 8,000 manufacturing jobs over the next four years.
American wind power proudly offers attractive careers to the men and women who serve our country-U.S. wind power hires veterans at a rate 50 percent higher than the average industry. "Absolutely, I feel like I'm doing a service to the country by providing a clean energy that's renewable and will help us for future generations," says Kyle Derosch, a Marine Corps veteran who builds wind turbine towers in Manitowoc, Wis.
The armed services have long recognized that renewables contribute to national security. That's why Fort Hood, the country's largest active-duty armored post, now powers half of its operations using wind and solar, and the military has a strong goal to source 25 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025, all in the name of mission readiness. The DoD Siting Clearinghouse is effectively helping the armed services achieve these goals in a way that maximizes military preparedness.
We also value national security, and by using wind to make more of our energy right here at home in the U.S., it helps us become energy dominant. Access to affordable, reliable energy is a huge part of national security, and wind makes our electric grid more reliable and secure. It helped keep the lights on for families and businesses during the Polar Vortex, when extreme cold forced conventional power plants to fail. Just last month, wind helped restore power to homes after Hurricane Harvey, as virtually all of Texas's wind turbines resumed turning immediately after the storm passed.
Healthy families need healthy bodies too, and wind energy literally keeps our children out of the hospital. By cutting air pollution that triggers asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses, wind saved $7.4 billion in public health costs in 2016 alone. From 2007 to 2015, wind helped avoid 12,200 premature deaths by reducing air pollution, according to researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Our conservative activists have a powerful message to tell their elected leaders-renewable energy sources like wind grow our economy, boost national security, and keep our children's air clean. Those are values both sides of the aisle can agree on.
Roberta Combs is President and CEO of the Christian Coalition and Tom Kiernan is CEO of the American Wind Energy Association.