Comment: Who really has grassroots support? Wind energy

Source: By Shauna Theel, The • Posted: Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A recent poll found that 73 percent of American voters support keeping the renewable energy Production Tax Credit “so that investment in wind energy can continue.” And 78 percent agreed it “helps American workers make more of our own energy right here in America.”

Wide majorities of Republicans, Democrats and Independents agreed, consistent with previous polls.

In the face of this widespread support, opponents such as the billionaire Koch brothers, who have significant financial interests in fossil fuels, have had to manufacture opposition. They have created a series of groups all with different names, but one common denominator: funding from the Koch brothers.And yet wind energy supporters include hundreds of other U.S. businesses. They know how wind energy can invigorate local economies with affordable power and manufacturing jobs.

Many farmers, ranchers and other landowners also see wind energy’s economic benefits every day. By choosing to provide clean energy to their local grid they get a piece of hundreds of millions in lease payments annually. Stagnant rural communities are seeing economic growth. Wind development brings in additional tax revenue to these communities, all without harming nearby property values on average.

Steelworkers and other manufacturing unions support wind energy. After all, the wind industry has supported over 73,000 full-time, well-paying jobs for Americans on average over the last five years.

Of course, major conservation and environmental groups also support wind energy, as this clean power source avoids pollution that harms humans and wildlife. Despite claims from opponents, these benefits come without causing any harm to the health of residents according to numerous studies, and wind has among the lowest impacts on wildlife of any way to make electricity.

Congress should listen to the majority of their constituents, not just the most well-financed special interests. Yet the House recently passed a bill that only extended the renewable energy Production Tax Credit through the end of 2014 – which at this point is in two weeks.

Needless to say, this does not provide the stability that investors and communities deserve for such a promising new part of America’s economy. The next time Congress looks at energy policy, it should finish the job so we can scale up this clean, affordable source of U.S. power.

Theel is deputy director of Digital Media at the American Wind Energy Association.