Last week the U.S. Department of Energy released a new report detailing the potential opportunities for offshore wind power development in the U.S. The figures are mighty impressive. Along with generating 4,000 gigawatts, a full blown U.S. wind power development program would create thousands of new green jobs and reduce electricity costs in key coastal areas. Things are already starting to move forward on a grand scale, with eastern seaboard states joining in a new cooperative wind power development effort, called the Atlantic Offshore Wind Power Consortium. The question is, will things keep moving forward after the upcoming election?
Clean Energy and Government Support
What it all boils down to is federal funding and support. Take a look at any major component of the U.S. economy, and you will see massive public support in the form of various federal government subsidies, tax breaks, and regulatory structures. Railroads, seaports, agriculture, our national defense infrastructure, highways, and fossil fuel production — these are all transformational developments that make the modern U.S. what it is today, and they would not have happened without a federal framework. That’s exactly the kind of muscle needed to push us forward, and out of the increasingly risky and unstable fossil fuel economy. President Obama got things started with tens of billions in new federal funds for clean energy programs that help businesses create new green jobs, but depending on the results of the upcoming election the future of federal support for sustainable energy doesn’t look all that secure.
What’s Up with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
You would think that strong federal support for new jobs and new business opportunities would get props from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, but there you’d be exactly wrong. Clean tech companies, companies with strong sustainability profiles and major utilities have been been protesting and outright quitting the Chamber due to its obstructionist policies on climate change. The Chamber has always lobbied representatives in Congress but now it’s gone a step beyond and is also investing heavily in campaign ads, including attack ads, in support of candidates who are opposed to climate action. Apparently the Chamber is comfortable with supporting candidates who are likely to challenge, block, suspend or de-fund President Obama’s sustainable energy initiatives, even though it means waving good-by to new green jobs and new opportunities for business owners.
All Politics is Local…Except When it’s Not
One explanation for the motivation behind the Chamber’s partisan focus against clean energy can be found in last week’s explosive Think Progress report on the Chamber’s recent campaign activities. According to the report, the Chamber has been soliciting funds from overseas businesses and foreign governments, including oil-rich nations. The Chamber has apparently commingled these foreign funds with domestic funds in an account from which it draws campaign advertising expenditures. There’s a potential for some serious violations of federal election law, and Congress is now investigating. In the mean time, if you haven’t gotten all that excited about any of your local candidates for the upcoming election, it would be worthwhile to check out their position on clean energy, climate legislation, or the need for federal support for new green jobs. If you like what you see, by all means go out and vote.
Image: Offshore wind farm by m.prinke on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.