By Michael Brower
Last month, Ohio Governor Kasich signed legislation putting a two-year ‘freeze’ on the state’s proven, successful, and money-saving renewable energy standard. Doing so, he is moving Ohio backward as other states move forward, developing job-creating CO2-neutral/CO2-light, clean renewable energy.
This new state law freezes economic growth in a sector that employs 25,000 people in Ohio, while costing Ohio consumers plenty of their hard-earned money. This news underscores two important things: first, the power of incumbent fossil fuel interests to pass damaging, unpopular legislation, and secondly, just how out of step Ohio’s elected officials are with their own constituents.
A broad coalition of Ohioans came together to support maintaining the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. Honda and Whirlpool, the Ohio Manufacturers Association, labor groups, clergy and environmentalists united in their vocal support of renewable energy and energy efficiency. A poll of Ohioans found more than 70 percent of those surveyed favor renewable energy over traditional power plants, while 86 percent support utility energy efficiency programs. Shamefully, Ohio politicians instead stood up for incumbent special interests over their own constituents by supporting this costly legislation.
While advocates for greater energy choices should be upset at the way Ohio politicians were cajoled by the powerful fossil fuel lobby, they should take heart that Ohio is the exception. Nationwide, investments in renewable energy have helped states create new jobs and diversify their energy portfolios.
Iowa was the first state to enact a renewable portfolio standard. Today, Iowa is well on its way to producing 40% of its electricity from renewable sources. The state is home to more than 3,000 wind turbines and 4,000 wind industry jobs. Tens of billions of dollars have flowed into Iowa through investment in the industry and by direct payments to landowners for use of their land for operating wind farms. Now, Ohio is missing the boat.
In Nevada, the state’s goal of 25% renewable energy by 2025 helped create more than 2,000 solar jobs and drive more than $100 million invested in the state. Now, Ohio is missing the boat.
Ohio is not the only state that faced a vigorous attempt to roll back its smart investments in renewable energy. In Kansas, fossil fuel interested ran a similar campaign to roll back its popular renewable portfolio standard as recently as this past May. In just five years since it passed in 2009, Kansas’ investments into renewable energy have paid dividends. Kansas powers over 20% of its electricity using renewable resources. Investments in wind created a Kansas manufacturing renaissance, to the tune of 12,000 jobs. In fact, Kansas was able to land major investment from Mars Inc. because Kansas’ wealth of renewable energy resources will help that company meet its corporate sustainability goals. Now, Ohio is missing the boat.
These telling business-based facts are reasons why renewable energy is popular across party lines. Interestingly, each of these states – Iowa, Nevada and Kansas – all have Republican governors who are renewable energy fans.
Across the country, from regions as geographically and politically varied as Arizona, Oregon, Vermont and North Carolina, we’re seeing similar policy and regulatory progress on renewable energy because of the resiliency and broad bipartisan support for job-creating, clean renewable energy.
Not that it’s rocket science, but well-funded, special interest bought and paid for attacks on renewable energy are likely to continue. They are likely to continue because the dwindling opponents of renewable energy see the ship has sailed and desperate failures call for desperate efforts to try and reverse the tide – but, time and tide wait for no man. Renewable energy continues like a flood-tide to boost economic growth and lower the cost of energy. Ohio made a mistake this past month – let’s hope Governor Kasich is able to make things right again. Otherwise, Ohio will be still standing on the pier as the rest of the Midwest sails prosperously by.
About the Author: Michael Brower is the President and CEO at the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE), a non-profit organization dedicated to building a secure and prosperous America with clean, renewable energy.
Image: Columbus Ohio skyline via Shutterstock
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