Blowin’ In The Wind

One of the remarkable success stories in this country is the amazing strides the wind power industry has made despite the lack of a coherent eco-energy program formulated and supported by our Congress. In fact, the success has come in spite of strong opposition from the right-wing of that body. The Republicans have historically resisted any attempts by this country to go green. One can speculate that this results from the political favors owed to Big Oil which spends millions of dollars every year to get their subsidies and help them push through friendly legislation. Clean energy is not on the Republican agenda for the most part.

There are exceptions, of course. A number of key Republicans such as Senator Charles Grassley (R) from Iowa and Representative Mac Thornberry (R) from Texas have a vested interest in seeing at least wind power prosper. They are representing states where thousands of people are employed helping to produce the wind turbines. When jobs for their constituents are at stake the Republicans do know how to dance.

But on the whole, the Republicans in Congress resist the movement toward clean energy and as I write this it appears the wind power industry is about to be dealt a stunning blow. The renewable-energy production tax credits for wind power signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1992 are about to expire at the end of this year. This would be a severe blow indeed. There are 38 states in this country currently producing wind energy. As the recent issue of the Sierra magazine tells us, “This summer the installed capacity of U.S. wind turbines hit 50 gigawatts — as much as can be generated by 44 coal-fired power plants, or 11 nuclear-powered ones.” The U.S. ranks second  behind China as the world’s largest producers of wind energy.

However, as of this writing Republican opposition in Congress has blocked authorization to continue the present subsidies for wind power. If that opposition is not shaken by key members of the Republican party, like Grassley, Thornberry, and Representative Tom Latham (R-Iowa), it could well cost 37,000 American jobs. In fact, more than 400 jobs have already been lost due to the sporadic nature of the political process that plays keep away with the subsidies, while Big Oil continues to enjoys uninterrupted subsidies of $2.7– $4 billion a year. In addition, Wind-turbine manufacturer Vestas in Colorado is at present preparing to lay off an additional 1,600.

Perhaps the possibility of lost jobs in the states represented by key legislators will win the day. But we can be assured that there will be a battle between the short-term interests of Big Oil (and wealthy men like the Koch brothers who are up to their ears in dirty energy) and the clean energy movement itself which desperately needs the support of the majority of Congress to grow to its full potential. And it all centers around the Republican party whose major candidate for President is currently campaigning on a platform of “jobs.” And yet the man avoids the topic of clean energy like the plague.