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September 11, 2012 / Todd Larsen

Why Mess With Success?

If you knew that there are government programs that produce tens of thousands of new jobs in the US, and  are making us a leader in industries that are increasingly important worldwide, wouldn’t you want to continue them?  Not if you were our current Congress.  Our nation’s leaders are allowing programs that support wind, solar, and energy efficiency to run out, just when we are seeing incredible successes.

Recent reports from IMS Research and the Energy Department suggest that energy production from solar and wind in the United States could rapidly increase in coming years. Though China and Germany have dominated the race to create a robust clean energy sector so far, the United States has taken steps to close that gap. Tax incentives and programs that create an increased focus on sustainable energy have helped two major clean energy sectors (solar and wind) thrive.

Solar PV installations rose more than 120% in the first 6 months of 2012, with almost 1.7 GW installed capacity added to the grid. IMS states that by the end of the year, there will be at least 3.5 GW installed, which would give the US the world’s third largest PV market.

The wind market has been similarly successful in recent years, as it has become one of the fastest growing energy industries in the country. Thirty two percent of all electric capacity added in 2011 came from wind, which has helped lower the price of wind power. The price of wind energy under long term power purchase contracts with utilities in 2011 was 40% lower than in 2010.

The rapid research and development of these two major industries has allowed for renewable energy to be competitive with fossil fuels for the first time in the history of our country. These industries create thousands of highly skilled technical workers and manufacturing jobs that are essential to a strong economy.

However, the incentives provided for solar and wind companies are being fought bitterly by fossil fuel giants like Exxon and Shell, while they fight to keep subsidies for the fossil fuel industry that have been in place for decades. They want to keep the price of oil and gas artificially low so that sustainable resources are unable to compete.

In particular, The Production Tax Credit (PTC), which is set to expire at the end of 2012, is a major thorn in the side of fossil fuel giants.  It is making the increasing success of wind power possible, which is why the fossil fuels industry is lobbying Congress hard to let it expire.

Considering what’s at stake, every candidate should be talking about what they would do to increase renewable energy in the United States.  However, the renewable energy debate has not been discussed in depth even in the Presidential campaign (although President Obama has publicly supported extending the PTC while Governor Romney has said he will let it expire).  Considering that the majority of Americans, both Democrats and Republicans,  support increased investment in renewables and see the tremendous value to our nation, it is surprising that the issue is getting so little play in the election.

Here at Green America, we’re working to mobilize all Americans in support for clean energy through the Clean Energy Victory Bonds Campaign.  Clean Energy Victory Bonds would let all Americans invest directly in Treasury bonds that would raise $50 billion for clean energy. The Clean Energy Victory Bond Act of 2012 (H.R. 6275) introduced in the House of Representatives this August, would extend the PTC and other valuable clean energy programs, and allow the clean energy industry to increase the rate of research, development, and installation nationwide. Any politician who supports the CEVB Act of 2012 is one who is casting a vote towards new jobs, economic growth and a sustainable energy future for the United States.
Thanks to Matt Jennings for research and writing

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