Our nation is reaching a consensus on the importance of clean energy. Across America, mayors, state legislatures, governors, and even elected members of Congress from both parties, extol the economic, national security and environment benefits associated with accelerated clean energy development. Nowhere was this sentiment more prevalent than during the recent inaugural celebration of National Clean Energy Week.
Republicans control the levers of power in Washington and a sizeable majority of state capitals. Their electoral successes hinged on the promises of job creation, streamlining government regulations, and a platform of rolling back excessive government overreach during the Obama era. Democrats, who continue to occupy high-profile governorships, including in New York and California, along with 48 seats in the U.S. Senate, contextualize America’s energy debate through the lens of climate change and reducing our carbon footprint. There is merit on both sides, but all too often they talk past one another, each using rhetoric for political point scoring as opposed to looking for opportunities to find common ground.
National Clean Energy Week was organized to facilitate collaboration and pragmatic solutions between energy advocates and partisans when it comes to energy policy. This year’s inaugural celebration brought together a steering committee comprised of thirteen clean energy groups promoting innovative policy approaches to growing our nation’s solar, wind, natural gas, nuclear, hydro, biomass and energy storage and distribution footprint. More than 40 other groups labeled as participating organizations included clean technology incubators and energy advocates based in more than 25 states across the country also took part in recognizing the week.
It would have been easy for many of these groups, some of which have diametrically opposing points of view on regulation and subsidies, to balk at joining forces. Instead they brought together Cabinet secretaries, Democratic and Republican Members of Congress and nine governors to recognize the potential for progress through new methods of market development, policy change, and technological innovation. After all, it should not be too difficult a task seeing that this is exactly the kind of action voters desire.
A recent poll sponsored by Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions Forum, found that 75 percent of Americans favor the federal government playing a role in the development and advancement of newer, cleaner, and more reliable energy sources; including 65 percent of Republicans. Getting large majorities of Americans to agree on any single topic is extremely rare, but when it comes to investing in affordable clean energy, voters are looking for progress.
Given that fact and the reality of our growing energy demand, an “all of the above” approach to energy policy has been increasingly embraced as a commonsense solution to most people, especially when it comes jobs and economic development. More than 600,000 American workers are involved with clean power generation today. Advanced transportation, like hybrid, electric, and fuel cell vehicles, supports an additional 200,000 jobs. In total, more than three million people are employed in America’s clean energy sector. These are jobs that were not available even a decade ago.
Americans’ individual views on climate change may vary, especially in terms of its precise causes, severity, and impact. Regardless, almost everyone understands that diversifying the nation’s energy portfolio is in and of itself a good thing that is driving a clean energy renaissance that creates jobs, strengthens our national security, and preserves the quality of our air, water and natural environment.
It’s important that we take advantage of the bipartisan agreement that exists among voters on energy issues and make the most of it. National Clean Energy Week helped to advance the cause of clean energy development within government and across America, and it’s clear that it will continue to drive conversation for years to come. The effort, however, will only be as successful as the sum of its parts, so I encourage all participants to continue their efforts to seek out and forge new opportunities for collaboration.
Kelly Ayotte is a senior advisor to Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions and former U.S. Senator from New Hampshire.