Why I Wanted to Be CEO of the American Wind Energy Association

I’ve supported wind energy from the outside for many years, as a promising source of clean energy for America and hope for our future. Now I’m excited to get the chance to lead the U.S. industry and its campaign to make good on that promise.

As some of you who’ve seen my earlier columns will have heard, I just completed 15 fulfilling years as head of the National Parks Conservation Association and started last week as CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

This latest move reflects a feeling I’ve had since childhood that I want to make the biggest difference I can to preserve the natural environment. I spent a large portion of childhood exploring the woods across the street from my house and then seized the opportunity in high school to take an environmental chemistry class. It was there I learned about acid rain, which inspired me to create a college major in Environmental Computer Modeling.

Years later, when I was a deputy of the Air Office in EPA working on the Clean Air Act, my four-year old son asked me what I did. I explained that I helped to get dirt out of the air. My son looked at me and simply replied, “You make the sky blue.”

While his statement was a “bit” of an overstatement, I have not wanted to disappoint him and have dedicated my life to leaving this planet healthy for our children and their children. Wind energy makes a significant contribution: it’s among the lowest-impact energy sources, and since it creates thousands of jobs and invests billions into our economy, it has bipartisan support.

Or simply stated, wind energy helps to make the sky blue.

For my entire career, I’ve sought to strengthen the ties between conservation and the American business community, because a strong environment and a strong economy go hand in hand.

Wind power has enormous potential to reduce humanity’s overall footprint on the environment and the planet. It’s also a major solution to the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change and threatening wildlife with extinction. Wind energy has already reduced U.S. power sector carbon dioxide emissions by 4.4 percent! If you believe as I do that climate change is one of the most critical issues facing our society, wind energy is one solution we want to maximize.

Wind energy has become a mainstream power source. Last year alone it attracted $25 billion in private investment and employed 80,000 American workers — not bad during a recession. And, it’s increasingly made-in-the-USA by more than 550 factories in 44 states manufacturing nearly 70 percent of the components of an average wind turbine. With predictable federal and state policies to create a stable business environment, it can do even more.

In recent years, anti-wind forces — often with funding support from competing energy industries — have circulated outlandish claims to try to discredit wind energy.

Although it’s a very low-impact technology (no air pollution, no water pollution, no mining or drilling for fuel, no water use, and no hazardous or radioactive waste), no energy source is zero-impact. Recognizing this, the wind energy industry has a long history of proactively working with government and conservation groups to be a good environmental citizen and neighbor.

The good news is that people and businesses are seeing through the urban legends being circulated against wind. Jobs from new wind farms are giving rural communities across America’s heartland an economic shot in the arm. Electric utilities are ordering more wind power. Attacks on state renewable energy standards are being defeated.

Wind power is clean, affordable and homegrown. The country needs us to succeed; the natural world needs us to succeed; and frankly, my children and your children need us to succeed…in making the sky blue.

This article was originally published on the Huffington Post and was republished with permission.

Lead image: Wind turbine via Shutterstock

Previous articleMore Insights Into Solar and Utilities: Large-Scale Integration, Self-Ownership, and Net Metering
Next articleAsia Report: Japan’s Solar Market Shifts Into Overdrive
Tom Kiernan began as CEO of the American Wind Energy Association on May 28, 2013. Prior to that he spent 15 years as President of the National Parks Conservation Association. Kiernan, a native and long-time resident of Arlington, Va., graduated from Dartmouth College in 1981 with a degree in Environmental Computer Modeling. He began his career with the Nantahala and Rocky Mountain Outdoor Centers, and in 1984, joined Arthur Andersen & Co. as a Management Consultant. Tom left the firm after three years to pursue his MBA at Stanford Graduate School of Business. While at Stanford, he also served as Assistant to the Director of Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality. Upon completing his degree, Kiernan moved to Washington, D.C., to join the Environmental Protection Agency as Special Assistant to the Assistant Administrator. A year later, he was promoted to Chief of Staff of the Office of Air and Radiation, and then in 1991 was appointed Deputy Assistant Administrator where he was instrumental in the Bush Administration’s efforts to implement the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. For his leadership role in negotiating consensus after 12 years of litigation on a $450 million pollution control project at the Grand Canyon, he received the Gold Medal – the Agency’s highest award for employees. At the conclusion of the Bush Administration, Kiernan co-founded the environmental consulting firm E3 Ventures, focused on working with private sector clients to expedite Clean Air Act implementation. In 1994, he was hired as Executive Vice President of the Audubon Society of New Hampshire. In this role, he was charged with managing the society’s operations, which included four nature centers, four stores, educational programs, field research, and the management of 8,000 acres of land. In 1995, he was named President, where he successfully led the organization to a balanced budget. In 1998, Kiernan was named as President of National Parks Conservation Association. He led the organization through dramatic growth of its field offices from 7 to 23, its members and supporters from 300,000 to over 800,000, and its net assets from under $5 million to over $60 million. He also led a successful five-year capital campaign that raised 108 percent of its goal and established NPCA as an effective political force in Washington.

No posts to display