Sandy’s Mandate: Time to Get Serious About Clean Energy

from Wildlife Promise

In the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, it is more important than ever for Americans to rethink our energy choices.

Waves from Hurricane Sandy batter the Brooklyn coast. NASA photo.

Devastating extreme weather events are becoming far too common, with tragic consequences being felt along the coastlines of New York and New Jersey, and in communities all across the country as droughts, wildfires, and storms become more intense and severe.

It has been refreshing to see our leaders – from President Obama to Governors Cuomo and Christie – connect the dots and acknowledge that climate change is fueling these more frequent and intense storms, but investing in sea walls and storm response plans is  just not enough.

We need to aggressively cut carbon pollution and pursue clean, renewable sources of energy – including offshore wind – in order to protect future generations of people and wildlife from the dangers of climate change.

Offshore Wind Energy in Germany = Jobs, & Not Just Along the Coast

I recently had the pleasure of spending a few days with Senator Joachim Lohse from Germany, a global leader in renewable energy. Thanks to the Heinrich Boll Foundation, which fosters transatlantic dialogue on critical issues, Senator Lohse came to America to share the amazing success story of offshore wind energy development in his state of Bremen. National Wildlife Federation was honored to join the Blue-Green Alliance for a US tour with the Senator, bringing Germany’s story of offshore wind job creation to key leaders, government agencies, stakeholders, and the media in Washington DC, Maryland, and New York.

Headed into the White House Council on Environmental Quality. (L to R: Andreas Marcotty, BGA; Catherine Bowes, NWF; Senator Joachim Lohse, Bremen, Germany; Rebecca Bertram, Heinrich Boll Foundation, Mike Williams, BGA) Photo: BGA

Whether talking with Congressional staff, Governor’s offices, or labor leaders, the message was the same: offshore wind energy has been a massive economic development engine in Germany.

In Senator Lohse’s state of Bremen, Germany, new jobs in the offshore wind industry more than doubled over the last two years (See Lohse presentation).  There are currently just under 3,000 jobs in the offshore wind industry in Bremerhaven (Bremen’s port city), a number which is expected to reach 14,000 by 2020. Across Europe, over 300,000 jobs have been projected to result from pursuing the region’s aggressive offshore wind energy goal of 40 GW by 2020.

And these are not just coastal jobs - over 60% of the economic development benefits from offshore wind energy in Germany have rippled across the country for project development and supply chain manufacturing industries.

Jealous!

Everyone we met with over the course of the tour used the same word in response to hearing Senator Lohse describe Germany’s commitment to clean energy, where renewables currently make up 25% of the country’s energy mix:  Jealous!

The photos he showed of the buzzing port activity in Germany – including massive steel and concrete construction opportunities – left us all wishing we had the leadership here in America necessary to move us forward in harnessing our own offshore wind energy resource.

Offshore wind energy foundations ready for construction at the booming port of Bremerhaven, Germany. Photo: Joachim Lohse

Despite the great success creating clean energy and jobs from offshore wind overseas, we currently do not have a single turbine spinning off America’s shores.

At a time when the twin imperatives of advancing clean energy and revitalizing our economy could not be more clear, we simply can no longer afford to ignore the massive job-creating energy source sitting right off our shores.  A recent poll found that Americans prefer clean energy to investing in more fossil fuels by a 4 to 1 margin, yet renewable energy only makes up 4% of our energy mix. It is time to get serious about clean energy sources like offshore wind.

Take Action: Critical tax credits for wind energy expire at the end of this year. Click here voice your support for offshore wind energy!