Mighty Wind

Remember red states and blue states? It turns out that it's the red ones that have the most to gain by investing in renewable energy.

September 28, 2012

Click here to find the orig­i­nal Huff Post arti­cle.

Did you notice that last week­end the largest onshore wind farm in Amer­i­ca start­ed oper­a­tion in north-cen­tral Ore­gon? The 845 MW Shep­herds Flat facil­i­ty will gen­er­ate an esti­mat­ed 2 bil­lion kWh each year — enough to pow­er 235,000 homes. On top of that, this clean pow­er will elim­i­nate about 1.5 mil­lion met­ric tons of car­bon pol­lu­tion annu­al­ly — the equiv­a­lent of tak­ing approx­i­mate­ly 260,000 cars off the road.

Who built Shep­herds Flat? We, the peo­ple, did! Caith­ness Ener­gy relied on more than a bil­lion dol­lars in loans guar­an­teed by the Ener­gy Depart­ment. With the project up and run­ning, and with a long-term com­mit­ment from South­ern Cal­i­for­nia Edi­son to buy pow­er, it looks like a good invest­ment. Maybe that’s why Google also kicked in $100 mil­lion.

Shep­herds Flat is the kind of project we should be build­ing across the U.S. — or at least in those parts, like the East­ern Colum­bia Riv­er Gorge, with abun­dant wind resources. Yet the Repub­li­can Par­ty oppos­es even extend­ing the Pro­duc­tion Tax Cred­it that wind pow­er has had for decades. Right now, they would prob­a­bly soon­er move Burn­ing Man to the Nation­al Mall than help finance more suc­cess sto­ries like Shep­herds Flat.

Here’s why that’s crazy:

Remem­ber red states and blue states? It turns out that it’s the red ones that have the most to gain by invest­ing in renew­able ener­gy. For one thing, many of them are rich in renew­able resources — solar in the South­west and wind in the Mid­west. This isn’t just hypo­thet­i­cal. Accord­ing to a new report from DBL Part­ners, of the 10 states with the fastest growth in clean-tech jobs, only two (Hawaii and New York) are con­sid­ered tra­di­tion­al­ly Demo­c­ra­t­ic.

In fact, when you look at the total num­ber of clean-tech jobs per state, rock-red Texas comes in third! That’s because both Gov­er­nor Rick Per­ry and his pre­de­ces­sor, George W. Bush (not exact­ly card-car­ry­ing envi­ros), pushed for wind ener­gy incen­tives in their state. And it worked. In 2010, Texas got eight per­cent of its ener­gy from wind.

Gov­er­nors Bush and Per­ry are not the only Repub­li­cans who’ve refused to pre­tend that renew­able ener­gy isn’t good for their states’ economies. Par­tic­u­lar­ly in the Mid­west, Repub­li­can lead­ers like Kansas Gov­er­nor Sam Brown­back are up in arms about their party’s oppo­si­tion to wind ener­gy — not to men­tion the thou­sands of jobs at stake if the Pro­duc­tion Tax Cred­it expires.

So why has the nation­al GOP adopt­ed its top­sy-turvy world­view? For the answer, you have to look toward a dif­fer­ent kind of green — the unprece­dent­ed hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars that Big Oil and Big Coal are spend­ing to make sure that every­one in Amer­i­ca knows the name of Solyn­dra (even if they aren’t sure exact­ly what hap­pened there) but as few as pos­si­ble hear about suc­cess­es like Shep­herds Flat.

In the long run, of course, the dirty ener­gy advo­cates will fail because they’re swim­ming (as hard as they can) against the tide of his­to­ry. But we can’t afford to wait for rea­son to tri­umph over ad dol­lars. What can you do right now? Tell Con­gress to renew the Pro­duc­tion Tax Cred­it before we lose even more wind-ener­gy jobs.

 Fol­low Michael Brune on Twit­ter: www​.twit​ter​.com/​b​r​u​n​e​ski