It’s time our elected leaders started listing to young Americans and started preparing the country for its long-term energy consumption needs.
There is consensus from the electorate to advance common sense energy policies: Recent polling by Target Point Consulting, the GOP microtargeting firm, found that more than 3 out of 4 voters – an equal mix of Democrats and Republicans – believe that energy policy, specifically the exploration and development of both traditional and renewable energy sources, should be either a very high or somewhat high priority. Perhaps surprisingly, the survey conducted for Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions showed that 40 percent of Republicans thought there should be more emphasis on “diversifying our energy sources to include renewable resources of energy like wind, solar and hydropower,” while only 20 percent said there should be less.
The public clearly wants our elected leaders to move forward with building consensus on energy and climate policies. However, we do not believe it should take the form of heavy-handed government mandates like those the president called for over the summer. Instead we should be encouraging free-market approaches that won’t stifle job creation. The role of government should be to reduce the burdens to innovation – not add to them — and encourage private sector investment in new energy technologies.
We are fortunate to have a handful of pragmatic leaders in Washington who are committed to finding bipartisan solutions to make real progress.
Reps. Peter Welch (D-VT) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) have introduced the Energy Savings Through Public-Private Partnerships Act, which would cut the federal government’s energy expenses by encouraging agencies to utilize energy and water conservation technologies. “The federal government is the largest energy consumer in the country. We have a great opportunity to use private sector innovation to reduce our energy consumption and save taxpayer dollars. And we can do it with the support of both Democrats and Republicans,” said Congressman Gardner of the bipartisan bill.
Under this legislation, federal agencies would enter into contracts with private energy companies in which the company is repaid through a portion of the energy cost savings it generates for the agency. This common-sense approach would save taxpayer dollars without any additional appropriations and is a perfect example of a public-private partnership.
In addition to conserving energy, it is essential that all forms of energy are free to compete on a level playing field that allows innovation to be driven by the marketplace, with smart government investment in new technologies like wind, solar, and geothermal.
Representative Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA) recently addressed this point when he introduced legislation to extend the Wind Production Tax Credit (PTC), saying, “It’s really important that we have a level playing field so that all industries in the energy sector can compete against each other, and it will be a fair competition. That’s really what will benefit consumers.” Fitzpatrick’s proposed six-year phase out of the PTC would provide predictability for wind producers and allow for long-term investments in the U.S. market.
Young Americans support the idea that government should focus on energy incentives and research, while adapting existing regulations to reduce burdens on the private sector. To enhance our competitive edge we need an all-of-the-above approach to energy diversification that is supported by a regulatory environment that facilitates increased production and efficient use of cleaner, cheaper, and reliable energy. This type of energy diversity is smart policy, but it also appeals to the American people and a new generation of voters. That makes it good politics as well.