Memo to Democrats: Get Behind Clean Energy. ASAP.

Andreas Demmelbauer/CC BY 2.0

Everybody loves clean energy except Congressional Republicans.
David Roberts has a must-read post up on Grist, "Clean energy is a wedge issue that favors Democrats". That title is an understatement. Clean energy isn't just an issue that favors Democrats—Democrats should own the issue altogether.

In case you haven't noticed, when it comes to energy, Congressional Republicans spend the vast majority of their time and effort propping up their benefactors in the fossil fuels industry. Sure, you might find a few notable Republicans, like Sen. Chuck Grassley, who are sympathetic to clean energy—especially if their states happens to be home to a renewable energy boom. But by and large, the energy platform the GOP pushes is still drill, baby, drill, and generally anti-renewable energy.

And it's simply because they're doing their best to act in the interests of Big Oil, Gas & Coal—who know that the cleantech sector represents a small but fast-ascendent threat, and they want to ensure that federal policy continues to favor fossil fuels. But they also know that people love clean energy—they love the concept, they love that it improves energy security, they love that it grows domestic jobs, and they love that it doesn't pollute. Which is why they tried to turn the genuinely unfortunate and embarrassing failure of a high-profile cleantech project like Solyndra into a scandal that represented the entire industry. But even that didn't work.

Here's Roberts, looking at a tracking poll that found that everyone but conservatives overwhelmingly approved of the clean energy language in Obama's State of the Union:

... the Republican attempt to drag clean energy into the culture war has reached only the conservative base. Independents outside the Fox-Limbaugh loop still favor it. In other words, this is a powerful wedge issue that favors Democrats.

Americans know that clean energy is the future. They want to embrace the future. They want to, well, win it. They certainly don’t want to fend it off for the sake of oil companies. Americans hate oil companies! (Almost as much as they hate congressional Republicans.) They don’t want to subsidize oil companies any more. Even Republicans support ending oil subsidies by a 2-to-1 margin.

Now, I realize that we at TreeHugger have a standing order to paint green issues in an apolitical bent, but there's just no getting around this one. As it has made crystal clear throughout its party-wide effort to make the failure of Solyndra a referendum on renewable energy in general, the GOP wants nothing more than to squash the aspirational cleantech sector and to keep their donors in the oil, coal and gas industries fat and happy. The only reason Republicans even pay lip service to clean energy at all is because it's so damn popular with Americans.

But believe you me—on a federal level, they'll do nothing to promote it unless absolutely forced to. Which is why Democrats have a huge opportunity, as Roberts notes, to take up an incredibly popular fight by rallying behind clean energy. They stand to reap major political dividends—and frankly, that's the way that we're going to start seeing inroads made towards better renewable energy policies. So pay attention, Dems. Bring this issue to the fore, make strong and repeated calls for more clean energy, and watch the GOP writhe while they attempt to justify favoring coal and oil.

Tags: Clean Energy | Congress | Oil

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