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Harnessing the Winds of Bipartisanship

Rare is the occasion when Democrats and Republicans share a common interest to resolve any particular issue. But wind energy has garnered large bipartisan support lately as proponents of the Production Tax Credit fight for its extension before the end of the year, when it is scheduled to expire.

Wind energy is a dichotomy of sorts. While Democrats are generally the stronger supporters of renewable energy, wind power is a green technology that is best suited in states with a strong wind resource – many of which traditionally vote Republican. Here in my home state of Oklahoma (the state in which all 77 counties voted against President Obama in both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections), an impressive majority of folks are supporters of wind energy growth.  In fact, Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, is an Oklahoman and served as our Corporate Commissioner for 12 years.

And while I’m slightly leery of any poll conducted by the Sierra Club, it’s worth mentioning that a Sierra Club poll released in September found that nearly seven out of 10 respondents believe that Oklahoma utilities should invest more in wind power. Oklahoma ranks eighth in wind generation capacity, according to the Department of Energy.

Oklahoma’s Republican Governor, Mary Fallin, is in support of an extension to the PTC. She joins a newly-formed bipartisan group of 28 governors rooting for wind energy and the PTC extension. The Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition said in a Nov. 13 letter to Congressional leadership that “[w]ithout a PTC extension, it is estimated that the U.S. economy will lose 37,000 wind industry jobs and the opportunity to leverage over $10 billion of private investment. Our states are already seeing these impacts.”

Another member of the coalition, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, said during a Nov. 13 press call that his state has invested nearly $3 billion in wind energy this year. However, “all of those numbers go to zero next year. We have virtually no new wind investments going into next year.”

Meanwhile, another coalition formed this week in support of wind energy: The Red State Renewable Alliance., led by John Feehery, a Republican strategist and former spokesman for Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and Majority Whip Tom DeLay. “The Red State Renewable Alliance will work to promote wind energy and extend the wind energy production tax credit to maintain America's leading position and to save American jobs associated with the industry, many of which are in traditionally conservative Congressional districts,” according to a news announcement released by the alliance.

In the end, what should matter the most to all Americans – regardless of political party affiliation – is continuing to grow our economy into one that will be prosperous for us and our families for generations to come. The wind energy sector has just taken off in the last decade, and to leave it at this stage without the support it needs to become an even more thriving industry would be a detriment to renewable energy development in the U.S. and the economies of numerous states, both blue and red.


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