Unfortunately, it seems that hasn’t gotten through to enough Republican voters yet (or hadn’t in 2010). But hopefully that will change soon.
Anyone who’s been in this space for at least a few years knows that clean energy and other cleantech once had strong bipartisan support. Actually, anyone who follows energy polls knows that it still does among the public. However, anyone who follows energy politics and policy these days (yes, a wickedly masochistic thing to do) knows that GOP leaders are attacking clean energy and energy efficiency left and right.
This is, again, obvious. But a recent piece by Stephen Lacey over on Climate Progress drove home that point for me just a few moments ago. The post mentions how supporters of Global Wind Day who decided to go fly kites on the beach in support of wind energy were labelled “environmental extremists” with a “radical agenda” by Americans for Prosperity (AFP) — a powerful right-wing group with a lot of influence over GOP congresspeople — and that the organization would be working to “combat” that radical agenda.
I’m sorry, but, What?! Supporters of clean wind energy (i.e. representative of the majority of Americans) who organize a completely peaceful, fun day at the beach flying kites to show their support for that energy option are “environmental extremists” with a radical agenda? I feel like this is a story from the Onion or something.
While this particular story is crazy enough that I could spend the whole post on it, I think more important is how this fits into the grand scheme of things.
The thing is, GOP leaders (which AFP is one of) have gone so far off to the right that things supported by the majority of the public are now considered extreme by them. This is a very sad state of affairs, and it is a very important reason why the US has fallen behind on some important world matters, threatening itself and human society as a whole.
Wind isn’t the only hugely popular clean energy sector AFP and others steering the current GOP consider “radical” and in need of combating. Solar energy is also a prime target. I was on a conference call with the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) today in which Vice President Tom Kimbis made note that solar energy shouldn’t be a political football and shouldn’t be sacrificed due to political fighting. Well, it’s clear from polls that it shouldn’t be, but, unfortunately, we now have one party consistently try to weaken, water down, or kill solar energy policies while protecting fossil fuel subsidies vehemently.
I put together a few charts and rankings of solar energy countries the other day, based not on absolute numbers like such rankings always are, but on relative installation numbers (i.e. per capita, per GDP, and relative to electricity production). Unfortunately, what that showed is that, while the US is #4 and #5 in absolute terms for newly installed solar power (2011) and cumulative solar power capacity (end of 2011), respectively, it is far down on the list when compared to these other important metrics (i.e. #31 and #22 for new and total solar power per capita, #23 and #26 for new and total solar power per GDP, and #23 and #22 for new and total solar power relative to electricity production). Hardly a world leader.
As one commenter noted, “Considering that PV panels are a brain child of the US, it’s embarrassing, to say the least, to be so far down on the list. With our political-economic system controlled by those who seek to exploit the last drop of oil it’s no surprise, but shameful none the less. Truly disheartening.”
Yes, truly disheartening.
We need to regain our footing, lift our heads again, and look to the future, as generations before us once did in this country. We need to regain leadership, true leadership, in the fast-growing industries of the 21st century. And the bottom line is: politicians tied to the purse strings of old, rich fossil fuel industries aren’t going to help us with those things. Check the source of your political representatives’ funding, and consider well who you help to put into office in this coming election season. This is a big one. I would hate to see us fall further behind in this critical time due to there being too many politicians in office who think flying kites is environmental extremism, and supporting wind and solar energy is radical.
Update: apparently, a Republican Virginia lawmaker has also determined “sea level rise” (a pretty straightforward technical term) a “left wing term” and omitted it from, get this, a study on the impacts of climate change on Virginia’s shores. Oh, and “climate change” and “global warming” were also omitted. You can’t make this stuff up.
I'm the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular clean energy website in the world, and Planetsave, a leading green and science news site. I've been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and I've been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, bicycling, and wind energy for the past few years. You can also find my work on Scientific American, Reuters, Think Progress, GE's ecomagination site, several sites in the Important Media network, & many other places. To connect on your favorite social network, go to: zacharyshahan.com