Obama Seeks to Jumpstart Slumbering Offshore Wind Industry


Photo Credit: Slaunger via Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo via MSNBC

While there's good reason for concern that the US is fast losing ground in the global renewable energy market, there's one area where we haven't even broken ground: Offshore wind. The most famous offshore wind project in the United States, the delayed-for-decades Cape Wind project, is far from even beginning construction. And it's one arena where industry in China and Europe have wasted no time in moving in. The Obama administration recognizes this deficiency, and recently drew up a report focusing on how the nation could get 54 gigawatts of power from offshore wind plants, and create tens of thousands of permanent jobs in the process.From Climate Wire:

If politics and economics align, the United States is well-positioned to build massive wind farms off of U.S. coasts and in the Great Lakes to meet a substantial amount of the nation's electricity needs, according to the Department of Energy.

In a 240-page study of the potential and barriers for building 54 gigawatts' worth of offshore wind capacity, DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that doing so means the creation of at least 43,000 permanent jobs. Potential exists for $200 billion in economic activity, and government analysts predict 20 jobs would be created for every megawatt produced off of U.S. shores.

That's if politics align -- there's a reason the author used that language in the lede of his article. Offshore wind projects are notoriously prone to NIMBY concerns and legal squabbling. Furthermore, the political attitudes towards clean energy investment plans are relatively hostile, thanks to the insurgent right wing Tea Party, whose ideology seems dead set against sponsoring clean energy, and whose 'grassroots' organizations are sponsored by coal and oil interests.

But we would be remiss to miss out on offshore wind -- China, and especially Europe are surging ahead, and look set to dominate what will soon be crucial markets. Here's Climate Wire again:

The Obama administration appears big on the idea of jump-starting a dormant U.S. offshore wind industry. With the best-known offshore project, off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass., mired in a decadelong regulatory morass, the United States trails Europe and China in the development of projects.

Big interests are also at play. Electric utilities want U.S.-based wind turbines to help them replace dirtier forms of energy, the government has an interest in creating new jobs, and the world's biggest turbine maker, U.S. industrial conglomerate General Electric Co., stands to gain in a U.S. market.

In other words, there's nothing but opportunity here: To create jobs, stimulate private investment, cut our reliance on fossil fuels, and set up sustainable energy sources domestically. Perhaps this outline for offshore wind is one of the "chunks" of Obama's newfangled clean energy agenda he plans on cobbling together without a sympathetic Democratic majority in the House and an incoherent Senate.

Hopefully -- but something is going to have to be done to attract that investment in the first place. There's no climate law here, obviously, as there is in Europe, to dampen the risk of investment, and no central government keen on forging ahead with massive funding as there is in China. Tax breaks and loans, I suppose, will have to carry the day -- but I doubt that will be enough. Too bad Obama missed his chance for good, comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation.

More on Wind Power and Obama
Obama Promotes Wind Power on Earth Day (Video)
Stimulus in Action: Wind Farm in Illinois to Power 30000 Homes ...
Guide to the Green Projects in Obama's Stimulus Bill

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