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Summary:

Renewable energy advocates like to say their causes are bi-partisan because they are fighting for cleaner energy and job creation. Not for many Republicans. In fact, some already are working hard to weaken regulations for adding more solar, wind and others.

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Renewable energy advocates like to say their causes are bi-partisan because they’re fighting for cleaner energy and job creation. Maybe they say that to be diplomatic. But if you follow the events of the past few weeks, a group of Republican lawmakers are clearly moving in earnest to weaken the regulations that will add more solar, wind and other clean power sources into the national energy mix.

Earlier this week, the Missouri state legislature sent their governor a bill that would strip rules requiring utilities to buy renewable electricity and would allow utilities to buy renewable energy credits to meet a voter-approved mandate. That mandate, passed back in 2008, required utilities to get 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2021, and last year the state’s utility regulators created rules to carry out the mandate.

Elsewhere, lawmakers in Colorado, Montana and Minnesota have been fighting over efforts to cripple or roll back renewable energy mandates, reports Solve Climate News. Attempts in Colorado failed this week. More than half of states have such mandates, which have boosted project development for wind, solar, biomass and geothermal energy.

Nationally, Republican lawmakers in Congress are gunning for the Environmental Protection Agency, which has begun to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from major polluters. EPA Chief Lisa Jackson appeared before a House energy subcommittee yesterday to argue, among other things, the merits of the scientific findings on climate change. She debated over the issue of job creation as well, and told lawmakers that her agency’s action will prompt utilities to use new technologies that in turn will create 1.5 million jobs in the next five years.

Republican members of the committee claimed they, too, are all about jobs, and that the EPA’s move to regulate emissions will kill jobs in mining operations and others.

We can look forward to a louder debate over climate change science and jobs for at least two years. Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in Congress after winning seats last November. They also won big in state elections. In fact, there are more Republican governors and Republican-controlled state legislatures now (check out this map that shows the breakdown).

The shift in political dynamics means renewable energy votes will be tradable among lawmakers who seek compromises in energy and other legislation. Even though the renewable energy industry is creating jobs, the job numbers are still low compared with jobs supported by fossil fuel businesses.

The political fight on the state level is particularly worrying. Renewable energy companies, from solar panel makers to installers, have counted on renewable energy mandates to drive their growth. For clean tech companies, losing battles in state Legislature will only weaken the war in the nation’s capitol.

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Photo courtesy of Claudio Gennari via Flickr

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  1. This is a pure, unadulterated power-money grab.

    Oil’s days are numbered, period. The GOP (tool of the rich) and the Koch brothers are simply trying to squeeze all the $$$ they can from Oil-Gas, at the expense of the planet.

    This would be the equivalent of being against car development in the 1900’s – because it would put horse-buggy manufacturers out of business (while owning a buggy company).

    1. I agree, the fight is over money and power and not just from the fossil fuel industry. It’s from the renewable energy side, too. The issue, really, is how do you fight to win.

    2. Great analogy on the car and buggies. I am very thankful the government mandated purchases of automobiles and kept regulating people out of buggies and into automobiles otherwise the free marketplace would have kept us all stuck in horse carts.

  2. The current slate of Republican-controlled state houses and Governors would do well to look at who adopted the renewable electricity standards in the first place. Of the 32 standards or goals that have been passed by state legislatures (another 5 were adopted by ballot initiative or regulatory proceeding), 25 were either signed into law by Republican governors or passed by at least one Republican-controlled legislative chamber (See map at http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/solutions/renewable_energy_solutions/bipartisan-support-renewable-energy.html).

    The truth is renewable electricity standards have historically been a bipartisan policy. That’s because support for clean energy delivers benefits not only to public health and the environment, but also to consumers and local economies. These issues should be important to all sides of the political spectrum.

    1. Great background info, thanks Jeff. I know it’s not a black-and-white picture of GOP v. Dem when it comes to renewable energy. I’m curious about the importance each party and lawmaker assigns to various renewable energy issues. And in this current political climate, which issues will gain bi-partisan support and get passed and which ones will be used to trade votes.

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