Continuing to position themselves as the unapologetic opponents of any policy direction with the word “clean” in it (clean energy, clean elections), the Republican Party has needled Democrtic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee for envisioning a clean energy economy for Washington and for supporting clean energy in his 2008 book, Apollo’s Fire. According to them, every eco-friendly company Inslee singled out in his book has failed.
It just so happens, however (big surprise here!) that it’s just not true. Today, the Seattle Times ran an article examining Republicans’ criticism:
“Throughout the book, Inslee highlights several different green-energy companies (each dependent on taxpayer subsidies) as evidence of how he believes green energy can ‘work’ for communities,” the Republican Party’s communications director, Meredith Kenny, wrote in one of a series of emails attacking the book. “Only problem is that each of these companies has since failed or is teetering on the brink.”
Actually, there’s another problem: Not all of the five companies Kenny calls into question are failing or teetering.
It turns out two are doing just fine, and one’s facing trouble because their federal funding been cut. When an industry is in its infancy, it’s not uncommon to see startups fail. That makes public sector support even more important for industries we value as a society. Despite attacks intended to shift public opinion against clean energy, eighty-three percent of Americans support the development of renewable energy. Throughout our history, we’ve seen important industries get started with public sector support and then grow into American success stories. Clean energy startups have the potential to simultaneously improve our economic security and reduce our environmental footprint.
Besides, it’s not like the government isn’t already “picking winners and losers”. Republicans, including Rob McKenna, often use this line to excuse their unwillingness to do anything substantial to help propel us towards a green energy revolution. Oil and gas companies receive about $41 billion annually in subsidies from the federal government. Different estimates exist on the exact cost of our oil consumption, with some estimates including the costs of protecting our oil transport system. President Obama has called to end some of these subsidies, but with the current Congress, it’s unlikely anything will happen.
Energy is something all firms and households needs. Energy powers our homes, our businesses, and keeps the economy moving. Transitioning to renewable energy will help our society, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, create jobs, and position the U.S. for a sustainable future. We have a stake in making sure that this transition happens. In the future though, we should be able to hope that the winner isn’t a holdover from the previous century.