In a real-life riff on Don Quixote, a group of military veterans has come to Congress not to tilt at windmills but to fight for them. Organized by the veterans clean energy coalition Operation Free, the group is lobbying for extension of the wind tax credit. Their support of wind power is based on the national security threat posed by oil dependency, a threat that is bound to intensify unless the U.S. gets serious about transitioning to more secure and reliable forms of energy. Most of the group’s members are also employed in the wind industry and they come with another equally important message for Congress about creating new jobs and easing the high unemployment rate for veterans.
The Wind Tax Credit, National Security, and Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
In a prepared statement, Operation Free spokesman Mike Breen explained the connection between wind, security, and employment:
“Wind-generated electricity diversifies our energy supply and reduces our dependence on fossil fuels, which strengthens our economic and national security. We are proud to stand with these Texan veterans who have traveled to our nation’s capital to help educate our members of Congress about the benefits of wind. These meetings provide a critical opportunity for veterans who found job opportunities in the wind industry….”
Operation Free, btw, is an initiative of the Truman National Security Project, an institute for progressive leadership on national security. CleanTechnica readers may recall that documentary filmmaker Roger Sorkin, a fellow at the Truman Project, is working on a new film that lays out the burden of oil dependency on national security and on soldiers, their families, and their communities.
Support Our Troops!
Along with supporting the wind tax credit, from the get-go, the Obama Administration has pushed hard to support Department of Defense initiatives that reduce oil dependency and create new jobs, by kickstarting the development of the clean energy sector. Solar power is already becoming ubiquitous at military facilities both in the U.S. and overseas, and new advances in radar technology will enable more wind power for military facilities, too.
Another early Obama Administration initiative was the Recovery Act, which focused millions of dollars on new job-creating clean energy projects in the civilian sector. For the wind industry, that has included federal support for a public-private partnership that trains military veterans for wind industry careers.
According to the Truman Project, veterans hold a “high percentage” of jobs in the wind industry, which currently stands at about 75,000.
The matchup of veterans and wind power makes sense when you consider the broad range of technical skills required of today’s geared-up military personnel. Depending on the job, some degree of physical stamina and training also comes in handy in the wind industry (just take a look at The Weather Channel’s “Turbine Cowboys” and you’ll see).
Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory
According to the latest reports, the U.S. wind and solar industries have been growing at an impressive clip. They are positioned for explosive growth, which could launch the U.S. into global leadership of the clean energy sector.
However, the lack of support for extending the wind tax credit by Republican leadership in Congress has already had a significant negative effect on the domestic wind industry in recent months, and it appears to be set for a free-fall if Congress fails to act.
It remains to be seen whether Operation Free can change some minds and snatch victory back from the jaws of defeat. By the middle of this week, the group had reportedly confirmed meetings with 32 members of the House and Senate, all but two belonging to the Republican party (here’s the list, and while they’re at it they might want to drop in on the Romney campaign office, too).
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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+.