Twenty years ago, it would have been difficult to find a single wind turbine looming over the hills and plains of the United States. Things have changed since then — and dramatically so. Thanks to a series of tax credits from Congress as well as ambitious state-level mandates, wind power has taken off. Thousands of turbines now dot the landscape in states such as Texas and California. Last year, wind power generated 3 percent of the country’s electricity. The industry now employs roughly 75,000 Americans, in jobs like steel manufacturing or mechanical assembly.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers will join military veterans at a Wednesday event pressing Congress to extend a wind energy incentive. Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.), along with Reps. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) and Steve King (R-Iowa), will tout the wind industry as a job creator. The lawmakers also will present a petition signed by veterans across the country asking Congress to extend the credit.
Another priority should be to harden and modernize the transmission systems that carry high-voltage electricity from large power plants down to the local distribution level. Modernization includes increasing the use of high-voltage direct-current (DC) transmission lines, which are less prone to failure than the alternating-current (AC) systems used throughout the country. DC lines can be buried underground or underwater, as is the Cross Sound Cable between Connecticut and Long Island, helping to enhance their reliability.
Though her résumé says otherwise, Denise Bode has been lobbying Congress since she was 13. It started when Bode, now the American Wind Energy Association’s top lobbyist, visited Washington with her Bartlesville, Okla., Young Democrats chapter. That’s when she learned girls could not be pages in the House or Senate. Upon returning to Bartlesville, she commissioned her father to help write a petition to change those rules.
Tesla’s risky vision for the car of the future is putting Detroit to shame. The Silicon Valley-based electric carmaker run by Elon Musk is racking up some prestigious awards for its new sedan. On Monday, Motor Trend became the third respected industry publication to bestow the Model S with a 2013 Car of the Year gong. That’s better than Motown, European or Japanese manufacturers managed.
“Weather varies too much and has too many drivers to attribute any particular event to a single cause like climate change, but there is a clear pattern of crop loss and property damage from increasingly frequent events such as flooding, drought and dangerous storms,” said Dave Courard-Hauri, chairman of Drake University’s Environmental Science and Policy Program, at a press briefing. “We don’t face a choice between our economy and the planet. The choice is between addressing the causes and effects of climate change or spending ever more money cleaning up from events like we’ve seen in the past several years,” he said.
In coming weeks, state policymakers, environmental advocates and energy industry representatives will realign their priorities as state legislatures convene for new sessions, but particularly in those nine states — Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon and Wisconsin — where the balance of power shifted in state House or Senate chambers, or both.
Texas has hit a wind power record, the state’s grid manager reported last week. The growth of the wind sector has stalled lately as developers wait to see whether Congress will renew the production tax credits that attract investment in wind energy nationally. Texas is still home to the nation’s largest wind power industry and is a major manufacturer of wind equipment, and supporters are hoping state leaders will encourage Washington to act on the tax credit extensions.
Environmental advocates have expressed frustration with the lack of discussion of climate change in the presidential race this year, a reticence that persisted even after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. On Wednesday, in his first post-election news conference, President Obama offered his most extensive remarks on climate change in months. They did not particularly thrill environmentalists.
The push to extend a key wind industry tax break maintains solid bipartisan support in Congress, and a new group launched this week wants to make sure it stays that way. John Feehery, a Republican strategist and former spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert (Ill.) and Majority Whip Tom DeLay (Texas), is leading the new organization, which aims to reinforce the arguments of Republicans who support an extension of the wind production tax credit and to win more GOP lawmakers to the cause.