What will the election mean for renewable energy?

November 9, 2012 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

Tuesday’s election was a pivotal moment for renewable energy in America. During President Barack Obama’s first term, the amount of electricity generated through renewable sources doubled. On Tuesday the President was re-elected; Democrats increased their numbers in the Senate; and in many states Democrats won governorships and took control of state legislatures.

What will that mean for renewable energy?

The biggest thing is that the wind and solar energy industries dodged a bullet. Had Mitt Romney won, his administration would have doubled down on fossil fuels and ignore renewable energy. The wind production tax credit (PTC) would expire on December 31. Romney’s energy plan was drill now, drill everywhere, drill forever. He would have approved Keystone XL on day one.

Clearly under Romney, the green energy industry would have suffered the same fate it did when Ronald Reagan dismantled all the renewable energy programs began by Jimmy Carter. That set the industry back a generation, and allowed China and Europe to become competitors to the American-born solar industry. Romney lost so that Reaganesque bullet was dodged.

With Hurricane Sandy being fresh in everyone’s mind, the case for renewable energy may now be easier to make, and the audience is likely to be more receptive. Governors up and down the east coast are now concerned that the oceans in fact are rising. Mayor Bloomberg of New York City endorsed Obama because of his leadership on climate change and renewable energy. This coupled with the election gives new momentum to the renewable energy industry.

The Obama administration is still committed and probably more energized. Obama ran a campaign ad in Colorado, and maybe other swing states, featuring a former Vestas employee who lost his job because of Republican opposition to the PTC. The ad shows that the president is committed.

Despite all the attacks on Obama for his support of renewable energy, he won. His policies were vindicated by the American people. He now has a more favorable Congress than the last two years. These are the positive things.

There is still a huge obstacle and that is Republicans retained control of the House. Therefore, it will be difficult for Obama and Senate Democrats to pass any bills that big oil and big coal do not want enacted.

The first test will come up next week when the lame duck session convenes. That is the last chance to extend the wind credit. Unfortunately, it is the old Congress that will reconvene. Will Republicans have a change of heart and be more responsive to the will of the people, or will they continue to obstruct? We will soon see.

It is possible for the PTC to be buried whatever deal Congress passes to avoid the fiscal cliff. If that happens, there is hope for an extension to the credit. The president and Senate Democrats would support such a move. Failing in that, the credit will expire New Year’s eve.

Renewable energy got a big boost Tuesday night. It is likely that green energy can build on its gains over the last four years. It will require coalition building. Now is the time for the wind and solar industry and the climate change activists to redouble efforts and join forces in Washington and the states—particularly coastal states where rising oceans are now back in the news.

Voters vindicated renewable energy’s champion. That is good for the renewable industry and that is good for the nation.

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