Republican Goal: To Weaken Clean Power Laws

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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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