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ALEC on a Collision Course with Air Force over Renewable Energy

solar panels at nellis air force baseThe ALEC story has been migrating from the lobbying group’s role in controversial voter ID and “Stand Your Ground” gun legislation over to CleanTechnica territory, with news that the organization has been planning to thwart renewable energy goals on the state level. That’s where things could really start to get interesting, because ALEC’s determination to undercut state standards for renewable energy puts it at odds with the energy security goals of the U.S. Air Force, and for that matter the entire Department of Defense.

ALEC and renewable energy

The news that ALEC has been lobbying aggressively against renewable energy will come as no surprise to regular readers of Clean Technica. More than two years ago, we noted that ALEC had recruited 90 state legislators to challenge the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions at the federal level. Partly as a result of that effort, the Obama Administration’s greenhouse gas initiatives ran out of steam and now the battle has turned to the states.

One gigawatt of renewable energy for the U.S. Air Force

Despite the pushback in the civilian sector, the U.S. military has been moving full speed ahead to break its dependence on fossil fuels. Just last week, the Air Force announced that it is on target to meet its goal of generating 1 gigawatt (1,000 megawatts) of renewable energy by 2016. Only about six percent of the Air Force’s energy comes from renewable sources right now, but by 2025 that is expected to jump to 25 percent.

Solar power, biofuels and the Air Force

Nellis Air Force base is an Air Force showcase for renewable energy, with a 14 megawatt solar array that is still the largest of its kind in North America. The base is also home to the legendary Thunderbirds aerial team, which has been showcasing the use of a high performance 50-50 biofuel blend at public demonstrations over the past year.

A military market for renewable energy

Like other branches of the armed services, most notably the Army, the Air Force plans to expand its use of renewables through partnerships with private companies, and that’s where ALEC could work some real mischief. For private companies to succeed, there needs to be a robust, growing renewable energy industry in the U.S., and in order for that to come about quickly and efficiently, there needs to be a predictable legislative framework.

For an example of how that dynamic has already begun to play out on the state level, take a look at Wisconsin. That state was thisclose to forging a  framework for wind power development that involved dozens of stakeholders working together for more than a year, when a new group of legislators swept into office and abruptly cancelled the effort. The result has been a withering wind industry in Wisconsin, while other states are forging ahead.

A renewable future for the U.S.A.

On the other hand, if there is going to be some head-butting between ALEC and the armed services, I’d go with the troops. The Air Force alone has 131 wind, solar geothermal and landfill gas projects under way at 56 different facilities, with another 50 well along in the pipeline and 21 more in the planning stages.

For that matter, a while back the Department of Defense estimated that its lands have enough geothermal potential to provide for all of its needs, with plenty left over for the civilian sector.

ALEC has been a powerful influence since its inception in the 1970’s, but perhaps this time the organization has bitten off more than it can chew.

Image: Some rights reserved by theregeneration.

Follow Tina Casey on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.


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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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