It will be a long and winding road to energy independence and a stronger reliance upon renewable energy sources. Most agree that we need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and strengthen our use of renewable energy, but what are the perspectives in industry, political policy, and public opinion on the routes to get there?
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The Department of Energy (DOE) recently released an analysis concluding that a national Renewable Electicity Standard (RES) of 25 percent by 2025 is affordable and achievable. 25x'25 has become a rallying point for America to convert to 25 percent of our energy from renewable resources including wind, solar, and biofuels by the year 2025. Most states have already adopted similar standards, typically as a renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS) that applies to utility companies with varying targets. Now, a coalition of groups from the American Wind Energy Association to the Union of Concerned Scientists are advocating for a 25x'25 RES (www.25x25.org). The 25x'25 goal was part of the Energy Independence and Security Act, which was signed into law in 2007, and Congress is considering legislation that would implement steps to achieve the goal.
However, more than three-quarters of oil and gas executives say that energy independence is not attainable until 2030 or beyond, despite the emphasis on alternative energy sources in current and proposed government energy policies, according to a recent survey of 382 financial executives from oil and gas companies in April 2009 by KPMG Global Energy Institute. Overall, the fossil-fuel executives:
- Admit to the effects of global warming, but do not support regulation of carbon emissions by tax or cap and trade.
- View the coal industry to be the biggest loser under the policies of the Obama administration.
- View the wind industry as the biggest winner under the policies of the Obama administration.
- Doubt the viability to mass produce any alternative energy sources by 2015.
- Predict that wind energy will grow to only six percent of our energy generation by 2015.
The American public has a more progressive perspective. Three-quarters of voters favor a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) requiring utilities to generate at least 25% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025, according to a recent poll released by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA):
- RES support is overwhelming. 53% “strongly” favor a national RES, dwarfing the 16% total of those who oppose either “strongly” or only “somewhat.”
- RES support is bipartisan. 86% of Democrats favor the RES proposal, as do 71% of independents and 62% of Republicans.
- RES support is national, with 84% positive in the Northeast, three-quarters support in the Midwest and West, and 71% support in the South.
- RES is worth paying for. Only 32% of voters considered increased electric rates a convincing argument to oppose it.
“The American people support an RES because it will create jobs and reduce carbon emissions,” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. During a meeting of Midwest state governors at the annual AWEA conference in Chicago, Iowa Governor Chet Culver boasted of 2,000 wind turbines in his state; nine companies building turbines, towers or blades; and 2,300 new wind jobs. “Turn baby turn!” he exclaimed, in a twist of the phrase “drill baby drill.”