Bioenergy, Energy Efficiency, Geothermal, Hydropower, Solar, Wind Power

Elections Create A Volatile Atmosphere

In the nineteen mid-term elections held since 1934, only twice has the President’s party gained seats in both the Senate and the House. According to a national exit poll story that was written by the Associated Press:

Voters were intensely worried about the future of the economy Tuesday and unhappy with the way President Barack Obama and Congress have been running things. They didn’t hold a favorable view of either the Republican or Democratic parties, according to an Associated Press analysis of preliminary exit poll results and pre-election polls. Overwhelmingly, people at the polls were dissatisfied with the way the federal government is working, and a fourth said they’re angry about it.

While there have been some media references about the House Climate Bill having some election impacts, except in some isolated circumstances it doesn’t appear that climate or energy policy had any influence on election outcomes. The CA campaign to defeat Proposition 23 could have hurt the anti-climate candidates. But overall, it’s pretty common for the mid-term elections to increase the rival party’s Congressional seats, and clean technology issues weren’t in the forefront of the shift.

SEIA Rhone Resch immediately released such a view,

Solar is an industry that enjoys bipartisan support in both houses of Congress. It is worth noting that the solar investment tax credit, the most significant federal policy support ever for solar, was passed by a Republican Congress and signed into law by a Republican president in 2005. The eight-year extension of the tax credit in 2008 was supported by dozens of Republicans in Congress and signed into law by President Bush.

According to the Renewable Fuel Association (RFA) President and CEO Bob Dineen, “Tuesdays election netted more lawmakers favorable to ethanol than it lost.”  Dineen reportedly said that he was quite encouraged by the results and thinks the outcome bodes well for renewable energy policy going forward. We also said that he wasn’t sure what effect the newly elected Tea Party members, who campaigned on cutting spending, will have on renewal of ethanol tax credits.  However, he believes that once they see the positive impact of biofuels on the economy and the federal budget they’ll be supportive.

Some strong renewable energy advocates won: Senators Boxer (CA), Wyden (OR), Reid (NV). Losses of clean energy supporters Senators Feingold (WI) and possibly Senator Murkowski (Alaska) are lamentable.

The Republican leadership appears to be focused on budget and deficit issues and possibly healthcare, not energy. Yet on November 4th, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) was mentioned in an article that appears in The Hill:

Asked to name areas on which the GOP might agree with Obama and Senate Democrats over the next two years, McConnell named energy issues such as nuclear power, clean-coal technology, hybrid cars and auto emissions. He also listed spending cuts, debt reduction and aid to private businesses.

Obviously energy efficiency and renewable energy are not high on his agenda.

It is essential for ALL clean tech companies to visit their newly elected members of Congress as soon as possible. Your congressional representatives need to know your company exists and the issues you face. There is no time to waste, consider making contact this month. Your county or state republican or democratic chairman can probably help you get an early meeting.

We all need to head off an attitude by the new House leadership that green industries and green jobs were supported by President Obama and therefore do not deserve their support. Quite to the contrary.

Our industries have had support of leading Congressional Republicans from Carl Curtis of Nebraska to Charles Percey of Illinois (one of the cofounders of the Alliance to Save Energy), Mark Hafield of Oregon, and Senator Javits of New York (my former boss). It’s “our” job to help these political newcomers to understand we are not an industry of any one political party but rather an essential ingredient to our national security, our balance of trade and economic growth, our ability to make reductions of regulated and greenhouse gas emissions, and that with renewable energy we are less vulnerable to terrorism.

Thomas Edison, in a conversation with Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, in 1931, stated, “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy.  What a source of power!  I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”

That homegrown wisdom of 80 years ago still holds true for this great nation: the portfolio of renewable energy and high-value energy efficiency are the silver buckshot. And it’s our job to not become complacent but even more proactive. I hope you’re all dialing the phone as soon as your done reading this article to set up appointments with the new national legislators in your State.

Scott Sklar is President of The Stella Group, Ltd., a strategic marketing and policy firm for clean distributed energy users and companies and is an Adjunct Professor at The George Washington University teaching a multi-disciplinary sustainable energy course.