**Originally published in The National Journal's Energy Expert Blog
By ACORE CEO and President, Vice Admiral Dennis V. McGinn
With the election behind us, let’s hope this is the end to an ugly era of polarization in American politics. Over the past few years, Americans have listened to political bickering across almost every spectrum of policy on the state and national level. Despite many differences between our two parties, bipartisan support for renewable energy is growing and policymakers should take note. Many different points of view are constantly being expressed on which programs and policies work best, but politicians should understand that Americans expect our government to bring more renewable energy to scale. If Congress extends the Production Tax Credit, one of the most notable renewable energy tax credits by the end of the year, this will be a valuable indication that Washington has the ability to work together to achieve bipartisan policies for the good of the nation.
As divided as Congress has been, the American people are very much united behind clean, renewable energy. New polling data conducted last week by the American Council On Renewable Energy shows that voters in swing states such as Iowa, Virginia, Ohio, and Colorado, see energy as an important presidential issue. These same voters are significantly more supportive of candidates who advocate shifting to clean energy sources than those who do not (Iowa: 80%, Colorado: 75%, Virginia: 72%, Ohio: 70%). Even more telling, majorities in all four states support continued government investment in clean energy (Iowa: 77%, Virginia 76%, Ohio: 75%, Colorado: 72%). In many red states, gubernatorial leadership has demonstrated that renewable energy is not a democratic or republican issue; it’s a pocketbook issue. And if Congress wants the best for American business – red or blue –they should know Americans –red and blue-- expect supportive policies from Congress to help their businesses grow.
Support for American industries such as solar, wind, and biofuels is vital for adopting an “all of the above” energy strategy that most Americans yearn for. Supporting the wind and solar industries with tax credits is no different than the way in which nearly all forms of energy have been subsidized in America for decades. Oil has a very long history of receiving government subsidies and will continue to be a part of our energy mix for some time, especially with the revelation that America will be a net exporter of oil by 2020. But this does not mean the U.S. should remain overly dependent on oil as a transportation fuel. Continued support of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) has received bipartisan support in recent years and should continue to do so. The RFS has allowed for a reduction of $1.09 per gallon of gas at the pump which helps families fill their tanks and reduces carbon emissions and our dependence on oil. With policies like the RFS, continued bipartisan support is just as important as creating new support for new legislation.
It is too early to know if our country will adopt a new, long-term energy policy. What is clear is that Americans want to continue moving toward cleaner sources of energy because of the environmental and economic benefits of renewable energy. By extending key tax credits for renewable energy sources, America is heading in the direction of adopting an “all of the above" energy strategy even if Congress doesn’t pass comprehensive energy legislation all at once. At least for now, it’s better that Congress takes smaller steps for energy and the environment than reversing many of the policies that have created economic growth and a viable path toward a prosperous, more secure and homegrown, clean energy economy.
Vice Admiral Dennis V. McGinn is the President and CEO of the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE). Vice Admiral McGinn is also co-chairman of the CNA Military Advisory Board and commanded the U.S. Third Fleet during his 35 year career with the U.S. Navy.