National Clean Energy Week and its Importance to Conservatives

Clean energy has come a long way in a very short period of time. Once thought of as unnecessary and infeasible, especially given the domination of fossil fuels in the U.S. energy mix, the renewables industry is now experiencing impressive growth and is characterized by innovative technologies and unbelievable diversity. As we celebrate National Clean Energy Week, we should emphasize the significant role that clean energy plays in diversifying our economy and protecting our environment.

In 2017, renewable sources accounted for approximately 11 percent of U.S. energy consumption. While this indicates that work remains to be done to promote clean energy, recent developments – like significant declines in renewable prices – suggest that upward trajectory will only continue and intensify.

Positive trends in clean energy usage are largely attributable to market forces and shifting consumer and corporate attitudes. Hundreds of prominent corporations are prioritizing clean energy in response to increasing consumer concerns with sustainability, and this bottom-up approach has proven extremely effective in popularizing these alternatives.

Promoting growth in the renewables sector is best accomplished through an all-of-the-above energy approach, which allows for a smooth transition in the energy mix and avoids creating price shocks and job losses that often result from ineffective mandates. This approach establishes markets ripe for innovation and compensates for jobs lost in fossil fuel industries as reliance on clean energy continues to grow.

The connection between markets and innovation in the clean energy sector is evident in areas all across the country. In Texas, a limited regulatory environment has facilitated the development of longer transmission lines for wind turbines, and energy production in the state has skyrocketed as a result. Meanwhile, the capacities of energy storage systems have expanded tremendously in the past few years thanks to corporate investment from tech giants like Tesla and GE.     

This approach to clean energy aligns closely with long-held conservative principles of limited government and free markets, and yet some Republicans still choose to ignore the issue. Fortunately, hostility towards clean energy is becoming a thing of the past for Republicans, as polling consistently indicates that more in the party are realizing its ineveitability and the advantages that come with this shift.

The warming up to clean energy within the GOP is evident according to an analysis of 2016 campaign contributions by solar and wind companies, which for the first time swung in favor of Republicans. This is no coincidence; many elected Republicans, and particularly those in renewable-heavy Midwestern states, are realizing the economic benefits that clean energy provides, and are embracing it as a result.

In addition to approaching clean energy from the perspectives of free markets and business leadership, Republicans can and should categorize it as an issue involving national security and energy independence. In his 2006 State of the Union address, President George W. Bush stated that “America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world.” National security and energy independence have been cornerstone issues of the Republican platform for years, and prioritizing clean energy accomplishes these goals in the same way that increasing fossil fuel production does.  

Beyond the many conservative-friendly approaches to these issues, at its very core, Republicans should prioritize clean energy because it is our ethical responsibility as human beings to preserve and protect the planet for future generations. The root of the word conservative is in fact ‘conserve,’ so we should hold true to our principles and continue the tradition of Republican-led stewardship that has spanned from Teddy Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan.

As we celebrate National Clean Energy Week, we should reflect on the immense value that clean energy brings to our society. Conservatives should place a special emphasis on this week by recognizing the great economic benefits and opportunities that clean energy provides, and more importantly, by accentuating the moral responsibility that we have to promote a healthier planet.

Ronnie ThompsonComment