Energy Legislation Stalled in Washington

Over the last year, we organized to build support for renewable energy legislation to spur investment in wind and other new energy generation. Investing in renewables makes sense for rural communities, where we stand to benefit from new jobs in manufacturing, construction and maintenance and additional tax base to support our schools and local services.

A recent report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that reaching a goal of generating 20 percent of the nation’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030 would create nearly 25,000 permanent jobs in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska and the Dakotas and nearly seven times that many short-term jobs in construction.

But legislation to address this issue is stalled in Washington. To push it forward, rural people concerned about the future of their local communities must demand action.

Support for action is strong in the countryside. We commissioned a poll in Nebraska and Iowa and found staunch support in both states for legislation requiring large utilities to get 20 percent of their power from renewable sources. The support cut across all demographics and all regions. In western Nebraska, the most conservative part of the state, two-thirds of Republicans voiced their support.

When the Nebraska Legislature held a hearing on wind legislation, a group of residents drove 500 miles to give impassioned testimony on how, for the first time in decades, their county has hope of a better future. And when we hosted a townhall meeting on wind development in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, 90 people packed the room.

We witnessed similar enthusiasm in South Dakota when we held six meetings across the state, and polling in Iowa showed strong support across both Democrats and Republicans and in all regions of the state.

But bipartisan support across the country has not translated into action in Washington. Instead, partisans in our nation’s capital are more concerned with scoring political points ahead of the November election than they are with doing the business we sent them there to tackle.

To break the logjam, we have to redouble our efforts. Many of the swing votes on critical energy legislation are from Midwest and Plains states with large rural constituencies. That means our collective voice – as rural people – is amplified in this debate.

We need a well organized effort including local citizens, businesses and rural development organizations calling on our elected officials to take action and advance policy that will bolster our communities and our energy security.

We expect our elected officials to govern in Washington, and on issues with broad bipartisan support among their constituents, inaction is simply unacceptable. The current effort may be stalled, but this issue is not fading away.

Contact Brian Depew at briand@cfra.org or 402.687.2103 x 1015 for more information.