Commentary: Voters want to hear a real discussion on energy

As published in Midwestern Energy News

Bumper stickers. Lawn signs. Those strangers at your door. And the phone calls. The phone calls seemingly never stop. Never.

As America begins the process of preparing for our quadrennial run-in with presidential candidates, what history has shown is that these campaigns begin and ultimately end in the Midwest. Iowa kicks off the primary process, and joins other Midwest battleground states like Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan to ultimately determine the next President.

The 2016 presidential campaign offers Midwest voters and businesses an opportunity to promote local clean energy policies on a national stage that will have a positive impact our economy and environment. Presidential campaigns are aware that the Midwest is undergoing an energy renaissance, and voters want candidates to be vocal about their support for the opportunities of clean energy resources.

Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES) was founded to promote the diversification of America’s energy production to include clean energy sources like wind, nuclear, and natural gas. As many Midwestern voters know first hand, we can create high paying American jobs, improve domestic manufacturing, increase trade, and protect our environment through pro-growth policies that unlock all parts of our domestic energy potential. Some of this might seem like common sense, but lets look at it in terms that Washington politicians can understand.

In 2014 CRES commissioned a national survey of voters regarding attitudes towards energy and environmental issues. This data revealed a broad – and growing – bipartisan electorate that wants to see our leaders engage in a serious and less rancorous conversation around energy, the environment and climate change. Despite the highly polarized manner in which we have become acquainted with these issues being framed, CRES data clearly shows a range of messages and motivators that appeal to all voters.

Overall, more than 8 in 10 voters (83 percent) believe that energy policy, specifically the exploration and development of both traditional and renewable energy sources, should be either a very high or somewhat high priority – a seven percentage point increase from a survey we commissioned in 2013. Moreover, 83 percent of voters agree that “our nation’s energy policy should provide incentives to clean energy sources like nuclear, natural gas, wind, solar and hydropower.”

As part of the national survey, we also surveyed Republican voters in the critical presidential primary and general election battleground state of Iowa. A strong majority of Iowans (84 percent) believe that energy policy, specifically the exploration and development of both traditional and renewable energy sources, should be a “very high priority” or a “somewhat high priority.”

American wind farms now provide enough power for more than 18 million American homes. In 2013, wind energy produced four percent of the nation’s electricity. Now it’s on track to double by 2020… and double again by 2030 according to the Department of Energy’s Wind Vision.

Some Midwestern states now produce more than 25 percent of their electricity from wind and nine states across the country rely on wind for more than 12 percent of their energy. Ohio’s wind energy capacity grew in 2011, increasing from less than 9 megawatts to more than 110 megawatts in 2012. Today, the Buckeye state has a potential capacity of nearly 55,000 megawatts. Wind power’s costs are dropping and the savings are being passed on to consumers. Affordable American wind power keeps more money in the pockets of people like you and me.

Clean and abundant natural resources, harvested in the American Midwest, are driving a energy renaissance across America. Midwestern businesses and families are already benefiting in the form of increased manufacturing, job creation, and additional economic stimulus. I encourage all voters to share these clean energy success stories with the candidates, and ask them how they plan to develop their own American clean energy agenda. It matters for our economy, our national security, and for the kind of environment we plan to leave future generations.

James Dozier is executive director of Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C.

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