By The Bakersfield Californian
The results of the 2012 elections represent a paradigm shift in U.S. energy policy.
As the 18th-century English diarist Samuel Johnson said, "The prospect of a hanging concentrates the mind wonderfully." In the energy field, it was the oil shocks of the 1970s that first focused our attention on the peril of banking our future on fossil fuels alone.
Since then, policymakers, industry leaders and consumers have accelerated development of all energy sources, such as wind power, that help reduce our dependence on foreign energy, create new jobs that can't be outsourced, and boost local economies.
The result? Voters in the Nov. 6 elections endorsed candidates who support an "all-of-the-above" energy policy that promotes a diversified portfolio of energy resources, specifically wind energy and the extension of its primary federal incentive, the production tax credit, or PTC.
At the outset of the 2012 presidential campaign, the American Wind Energy Association partnered with Politico to convene an event series called "Energy and the Presidency." We brought lawmakers, energy experts and key reporters together to discuss how Americans benefit from an all-of-the-above energy strategy.
We convened these panels in Washington, D.C.; in Iowa as the caucus season got under way; and at the Republican and Democratic national conventions, to ensure that energy policy was discussed at the highest level of the current policy debate. And unlike so much of what we heard and read about during the election, these discussions have been truly bipartisan.
The wind industry's primary incentive, the PTC, has attracted as much support from both congressional Republicans and Democrats as any tax policy that's come before Congress this year. As former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said at the Energy and the Presidency panel at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, "Global clean energy is the future, and politics is not going to stop that."
Richardson shared some statistics to support this view. "By 2016, the global wind market will top $93.1 billion," he said. "Since 2006, 36 percent of new electric capacity in the U.S. has come from wind energy. And the cost of wind is expected to fall 12 percent in the next five years."
That's not politics -- those are facts. It's no wonder so many leaders on both sides of the aisle support vital steps toward energy and economic security such as extending the production tax credit.
Among the dozens of Republican wind champions re-elected to Congress, for example, were outspoken supporters Reps. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., and Steve King and Tom Latham, R-Iowa; and Sen.-elect Dean Heller, R-Nev.
Independent Angus King, a wind project developer since leaving the governorship in Maine, won his race for the open Senate seat there.
Swing states with numerous wind farms as well as wind factories went for President Obama, whose campaign took the position that the wind energy PTC should be extended. They included Iowa and Colorado -- where layoffs have struck wind energy factories because of uncertainty over when Congress will address the tax credit, which expires at the end of this year -- and Michigan and Ohio, states important to the wind energy supply chain, which also have untapped wind resources under development.
Another key backer of wind energy is Iowa's Republican governor, Terry Branstad. At the Energy and the Presidency panel during the Iowa caucuses, Branstad recalled that in 1983, he signed the first renewable energy standard into law, setting a precedent that has now been followed by 28 other states and the District of Columbia.
"Renewable energy is real important to our state," Branstad told us. "We're proud to be the leader in wind energy. Wind energy has opened up some great new manufacturing opportunities and also great job opportunities not only in the building of wind farms but also in maintenance."
As everyone knows who attended our Politico panels, or watched them streaming online, wind power can no longer be called "alternative," since it now is a mainstream source of American electricity.
That's why it's so important we don't turn back the clock on bipartisan support for investment in wind energy production. Why do so many Republicans and Democrats agree on extending the production tax credit? Because we all want the homegrown, affordable, clean and abundant energy that the power of wind offers. We also want American wind energy jobs to continue to grow as they have over the past several years.
Congress has embarked on a lame-duck session that will include action to renew the production tax credit until all energy incentives are on the table during the corporate tax reform debate expected next year. Failure to extend the PTC would cost 37,000 jobs immediately, and put the brakes on the progress America has made to diversify its electricity portfolio. Wind should not be the only energy source without any federal incentive, as it would be if the PTC is allowed to expire.
Elections are about choices, and it's clear that in 2012, the American people have chosen candidates who support renewable energy. We don't have to choose a single path toward our energy future. We can have it all -- all of the above.
Denise Bode is the chief executive officer of the American Wind Energy Association. She wrote this for Politico.