by Michele Combs and Angel Garcia
As the Young Republican Leadership Conference brings young professionals from across the country to Washington, Young Conservatives for Energy Reform is on hand to talk about a crucial issue—and a winning issue– for our party and our nation: energy reform.
Advancing homegrown energy and embracing efficiency boosts economic growth, increases national security, and protects clean air and clean water. This dovetails with conservative values. It’s time for conservatives to lead the way on energy reform.
Our nation is dependent on foreign oil, which limits our ability to act on the world stage and makes us weaker. Stepped-up domestic production doesn’t completely solve the problem, because we remain vulnerable to price gyrations on the international oil market, which whipsaw our economy and leave businesses and families struggling to balance the books and plan for the future.
Using energy more efficiently and beefing up our cleaner, made-in-America energy options makes us more energy independent and less vulnerable on the world stage. It also means cleaner air and water, which translates into healthier families and lower healthcare costs.
It’s also an economic opportunity. Across the country, entrepreneurs and manufacturers are hard at work on innovative energy technologies and services. They are creating American jobs in every state in the country.
Clean energy is no longer a fringe issue. Consider wind energy, for example. Every single state has a wind power facility, a wind-related manufacturing facility, or both. And Republicans, take note: over 81 percent of all U.S. wind power capacity is in House districts that were represented by Republicans during the 112th Congress, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
Now solar power is coming on strong. Last year, almost 22 percent of the new electric generating capacity installed in the U.S. was solar. The only source to top it was natural gas, which is a key domestic energy option, as well.
And Americans want options. A Zogby Analytics poll found 69 percent of homeowners want more choices in how their homes are powered. And the vast majority of Americans—including 80 percent of Republicans surveyed—say they do not want utilities blocking homeowners’ effort to install solar power panels on their own property. This is a growing issue as prices for solar generating technology continue to drop.
Of course, the cheapest energy of all is the energy you never use. Efficiency is an energy resource, as businesses, families, and institutions across our nation are finding out. This is another area where new technologies and services continue to develop, and new business opportunities continue to crop up.
As long as we’re in D.C., we’ll point out that energy efficiency is also a front on which Congress can act, by passing the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act. The bipartisan bill, sponsored by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), is a common-sense approach to cutting government waste by saving energy, and helping businesses and families across the country save money through efficiency. During previous efforts to pass it, the bill earned support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and other business groups, and it should become law.
There’s often a disconnect between the way energy issues are discussed inside the Beltway and outside the Beltway. In state after state, we at Young Conservatives for Energy Reform are hearing from the rising generation of conservatives that energy reform—including a serious commitment to efficiency and homegrown clean energy—is an issue of critical importance. And they want Republicans to lead the charge. Embracing energy reform will make our party– and our country– stronger.
Combs is the president of Young Conservatives for Energy Reform (YCER) and a former “Young Republican of the Year.” Garcia is president of the Chicago Young Republicans and Midwestern Regional Director for the Young Republican National Federation. He is representing YCER at the Young Republican Leadership Conference this week.