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Guest column: Renewable Energy Standard: Act now or pay later
by Joe Baker, Acciona Windpower CEO · Op-Ed · August 04, 2010


The energy bill finally introduced this week by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) lacks a strong renewable energy standard (RES), among other things.
Reid indicated the necessary votes did not exist to have a RES included in the legislation. A national RES would set binding targets for using more clean, renewable energy to diversify our energy mix, reduce pollution, conserve water and save consumers money. It also will create hundreds of thousands of American jobs.

Part of Reid’s reasoning was that he believed a more modified version of the energy bill has better chances of passing through the Senate before Congress breaks soon and legislators begin focusing on the upcoming mid-term election. Reid has a point – a watered down energy bill will have a better chance – but at what cost? Just this week, the American Wind Energy Association released upsetting industry numbers that paint a grim picture for the future of the wind industry if we continue down this path. In the second quarter of 2010, wind power installations dropped by 57 percent, bringing the industry down to the level it was in 2007, with only 700 MW installed. When it comes to the industry, it seems as though the U.S. is in a quick race to the bottom and we can’t get there fast enough. Just last year, the U.S. wind industry added nearly 10,000 MW of new capacity. What happened? Fingers can be pointed at all parties involved, but there’s no point in looking back and placing blame. We can only move forward and that’s what we at Acciona intend to do.

We believe it’s not too late to have an RES amendment included in this bill. Many from the labor and environmental community, renewable energy trades and the utility sector agree. So does former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D), a past majority leader, who has publicly indicated he believes the votes do exist in the Senate for the passage of this measure. Furthermore, it’s clear that there is bipartisan support for a national RES. Republican Senator Sam Brownback from Kansas has indicated he will propose an amendment to the bill that will include a national RES.

Since the 1970’s oil embargo, Americans—and their representatives in Congress—have been talking about the need for a new energy policy. It’s time to stop talking and start acting. A recent study projected that a national RES will create an additional 274,000 jobs in the U.S., including construction, operations, and engineering jobs—and more than 50 percent of those jobs will be in manufacturing. Other studies have confirmed that increased use of wind and other renewables can drive down electricity costs. And there is no doubt that replacing some older power sources with wind and other renewables will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Acciona is joining Democrats, Republicans, environmental groups, labor unions and companies across the country to let our voices be heard that America needs a RES because it’s essential for creating hundreds of thousands of American jobs, reducing carbon emissions, and increasing American independence from foreign oil. We hope the residents of West Branch will join us. Here is what you can do:

• Let Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin know we are not ready to give up the fight. The people of West Branch still want to see an RES included as an amendment to the energy bill. Contact them directly or use the Web site, www.powerofwind.com, which automates and guides you through the process.

• Visit www.awea.com, the online site of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and sign the AWEA RES petition.

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