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Matt Singer on April 3, 2006 - 12:07pm
Monday, April 3, 2006
Clean Power Alternatives for Energy Independence
The public is fed up. They know that every barrel of oil we import from the Middle East helps regimes who don't share America's interest. Every gallon of gas burned on America's roadways contributes to asthma for children. And every time we import our energy, we're creating jobs abroad instead of here at home. There are alternatives to America's current dependence on foreign energy supplies. But don't look to the federal government to solve them. Their response to America's energy crisis is to give tax breaks to multinational energy companies raking in record profits -- a solution that is as short-sighted as it is unhelpful.
But where D.C. has dropped the ball, states are picking it up with more solutions than ever. The solutions are also building new and unique coalitions in the state -- between conservationists worried about climate change, unions and contractors interested in building jobs, public health advocates who want cleaner air, and national security voters who want to see America less dependent on the Middle East.
So what are states doing?
One set of approaches includes regulations to encourage the use of renewable fuels and to promote conservation generally. Among the policies being considered and enacted are:
Other measures use the taxation and budgetary power to drive development of energy alternatives:
Finally, there are strategies that simply alter the energy market landscape to make energy companies friendlier to renewable development and encouraging entrepreneurship. All this takes is a little shifting of incentives from old ways of thinking.
The lesson in state-after-state is that all that is holding back renewable energy development is a lack of federal leadership and the limits of our own imaginations.
The Impact and the Opportunity: Broad Coalitions for New Energy Solutions
Pushing forward on the energy debate isn't just good policy. It's also great politics, as coalitions across the country are learning. In state after state, coalitions are building to suppoer America's clean energy future with alliances that include environmental groups, labor, agriculture, business, and religious groups.
One need look no further than the coalition of support behind the Apollo Alliance to see the strength of potential coalitions.
The coalitions for energy change can be huge, because demand for real solutions is so widespread. A few simple steps can keep those coalitions in place. With the right tax incentives, many local businesses see new opportunities to build home-grown energy businesses in their states as an alternative to imports. With a commitment to make sure those new in-state jobs pay a decent wage, labor is an enthusiastic backer for these policies. The key is to recognize that we don't have to choose between a clean environment and decent jobs -- they go hand in hand with the right policies.
Preventing the Right from Undermining Clean Energy
While many honest conservative legislators recognize the need for new directions in energy policy, the oil lobby continues to support a rightwing political movement bent on undermining any alternatives to the carbon economy, a point highlighted in Progressive States' recent report on state rightwing efforts.
They try to dress their opposition up in a lot of rhetoric, but the right knows that their position on energy policy is wrong and unpopular. Nothing made this more clear than President Bush's declaration in his State of the Union address that "America is addicted to oil." Of course, Bush's own record belies his words. He is about as interested in ending our addiction to oil as he is in exposing Jack Abramoff's activities.
The Bush Administration has increased our dependence on foreign oil, proposed cuts to renewable energy development, and proposed biofuel cuts. Amazingly, only hours after declaring to help cut back on the addiction, Bush sent out surrogates explaining that there was no real effort in place to cut back on the addiction.
Fortunately, the American public believes in progressive strategies on energy. Polling demonstrates more than 2/3 of Americans support increased funding for research into ethanol development. More than 3/4 support tax cuts for renewable energy companies (more than half oppose tax cuts to oil companies). And nearly 9 in 10 voters nationally express support for "an energy security program that would decrease oil dependence through higher fuel efficiency, more solar power, research and fuel cell technology." Support for a progressive agenda even cuts across party lines.
Who delivers the message does matter, however. Surveys show that voters see religious leaders, business leaders, and workers interested in better-paying jobs as some of the most effective advocates for these policies -- one reason clean energy coalitions including these groups have been so effective in recent years.
Research and Reports
Apollo Alliance New Energy for America: The Apollo Jobs Report
Apollo Alliance Interconnection and Net Metering
Organizations and Resources
In Today's Dispatch:
Also In This Issue
Sen. Steve Doherty - MT
Eye on the Right
To truly understand the difference between the modern American right and the modern American left, you need to understand the level of moxie that the right has. When Virginia Governor Tim Kaine nominated Daniel LeBlanc as Secretary of the Commonwealth, the legislature made an unprecedented move: they "denied a governor an appointee to his cabinet." The reason? LeBlanc is a former president of the Virginia AFL-CIO. Pro-worker cabinet secretaries are apparently too much for Virginia's conservative legislature. Meanwhile, President Bush's new nominee to head up the Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division is the same man hired by Wal-Mart to head off the largest class action employment lawsuit in history.
Three Steps Forward
Two Steps Back
Progressive States' policy department is looking for interns for Summer 2006. We're looking for students interested in public service with experience in policy advocacy or community organizing. For details, visit the Jobs & Internships Page.
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