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Congress Needs to Follow the People on Clean Energy | Commentary

Harvesting power from the wind is about investing in long-term energy solutions that can benefit our families, communities and economy for generations to come.

However, there are some inside the Beltway who talk about renewable energy as if it were merely a pet cause of the left.

Clean, homegrown energy is not a liberal issue or a conservative issue. It’s an American issue. And as Congress moves past the Keystone XL pipeline debate and begins to look at the broader energy picture, it’s time for our elected leaders to move beyond scoring partisan political points and get on with the business of real energy reform.

Diversifying our nation’s energy portfolio to include homegrown renewable energy that can never run out is essential — it will grow the economy, strengthen national security and build a better future for our country.

Poll after poll shows a majority of Americans across the political spectrum and across the nation support renewable energy. For them, clean homegrown energy is not some strange, futuristic concept. It’s something they rely on every day.

The U.S. is blessed with abundant wind energy resources. Wind power now generates more than a quarter of the electricity in Iowa and South Dakota. The U.S. is also No. 1 in the world in wind energy production, with enough to power 18 million American homes.

Harvesting energy from the wind provides value to consumers. Wind power’s costs have dropped by more than half in just five years and wind energy is the lowest cost option for utilities in several parts of the U.S. Wind even saved consumers $1 billion over just two days across the Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic states during the 2014 “polar vortex.”

By building wind farms, American workers are making more of our own energy right here at home. With more than 500 factories in 43 states, American wind power has built a brand new domestic manufacturing sector and the wind energy industry supports more than 50,000 well-paying jobs. With policy certainty wind can support hundreds of thousands well-paying jobs by 2030.

Many homes, universities, churches and synagogues are powered by clean, homegrown energy. Farmers and ranchers call wind power their new “drought-resistant” cash crop. Businesses from Starbucks to DHL to the National Hockey League are running, in part, on renewables. Clean energy is one thing even Microsoft and Apple can agree on.

The military gets it, too. Our organizations are co-hosting an event at which Gen. Richard Zilmer — who served as the U.S. commander in al Anbar province during the “Anbar Awakening” — will talk about the importance of diversifying our energy portfolio on the battlefield and here at home, in order to build a stronger and more secure nation. In Iraq, Zilmer saw firsthand how over-reliance on fuel convoys turned his troops into targets.

We are also excited to hear an update on Congress’s plans from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., whose conservative state is home to more than 18 factories that manufacture parts for the wind industry, and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, whose state houses 63 such factories supporting thousands of jobs.

Whether it’s energy efficiency or leveling the playing field between fossil fuels and homegrown renewables, across America, it’s clear which way the wind is blowing. Our nation is an emerging leader in clean energy. American private investment in clean energy of all kinds is growing, giving us a slice of an international economic sector that is poised for tremendous expansion.

It’s time for our elected leaders on both sides of the aisle to follow the will of the people. Let’s make clean energy a priority — and build a better nation for us all.

Michele Combs is president and founder of Young Conservatives for Energy Reform. Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, is an alumnus of President George Bush’s administration.

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