Energy policy observers agree that one Cabinet member is almost sure to leave: Energy Secretary Steven Chu. While commended for some advances — such as the agency’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy — Chu has faced criticism on nearly everything in the Energy Department’s portfolio.
Environmentalists scored a victory in the New Hampshire governor’s race last night but lost one of the biggest state energy fights of the year over a renewable ballot proposal in Michigan. Meanwhile, the governor’s race in Washington — which could determine the status of proposed Northwestern coal ports and renewable policies — remained too close to call as of press time.
Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas Wind Systems A/S said it hopes to auction as much as 20 percent of a stake in the company, and it plans to cut its staff by 3,000 people over two years. Chief Financial Officer Dag Andresen said the company’s leaders hope an investor will help keep the company afloat amid decreasing turbine prices.
Victories by President Obama and congressional wind energy supporters from both parties have energized an industry fighting to keep a vital tax break from expiring at the end of the year. The American Wind Energy Association is feeling good about its chances of winning an extension of the production tax credit, which will expire Dec. 31 unless Congress acts. Continuing the credit has been AWEA’s top goal this year, and yesterday’s elections have the industry optimistic about its chances.
The most expensive election in U.S. history came to a relatively quick end this morning, with President Obama surging to re-election after a campaign that was marked by sharp divisions over how Americans should continue to power their homes and cars while protecting air and water quality. The president won a solid victory, prevailing in most of the hotly contested swing states, including Pennsylvania and Ohio, whose economies have benefited from new discoveries of oil and natural gas, as well as Colorado and Iowa, where support for renewable energy became a key campaign issue. In all, the president took 50 percent of the vote and 303 electoral votes, with only Florida’s 29 electoral votes still up for grabs as of early this morning. Republican Mitt Romney took 48 percent, and was sitting at 206 electoral votes.
Outside of policy debates over tax credits and carbon pricing, something much simpler may be holding back the spread of renewable energy: its novelty. For much of the country’s consumer base, new energy technologies like photovoltaic arrays and smart meters represent an untried frontier. Without knowledge of the benefits these technologies can bring, consumers are hesitant to embrace them.
A coalition of businesses and conservative state legislators is aiming to eliminate state-level renewable energy standards. The American Legislative Exchange Council last month approved a model bill that would end requirements that utilities generate a set amount of electricity from renewable sources, such as wind and solar. ALEC connects businesses and state lawmakers to push free-market legislation, and state lawmakers who are members of ALEC often introduce the model bills in their home legislatures.
HEADWINDS: The wind energy boom President Barack Obama touted as key to his energy strategy has hit a wall in an election-year dispute over taxpayer support for renewable energy.
The Obama administration today advanced a proposal to lease more than 1,100 square miles of federal waters off the coast of Massachusetts for offshore wind development. The Interior Department’s draft environmental assessment proposes developing a wind energy area about 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, excluding high-value fishing grounds and important sea duck habitat areas.
We won’t know until later this week who will hold the Senate energy gavel in the next Congress, but the two veteran lawmakers in line for the slot are pledging to preserve the panel’s bipartisan reputation, regardless of which party claims a majority in the upper chamber. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) expect to be the chair and ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee next year, although who claims what spot will be decided by voters in a handful of states likely to determine which party controls the Senate. Republicans need to flip three Democratic seats to gain the majority if former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) wins tomorrow, or four if President Obama is re-elected.