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Planetary policies in action:
Missouri breathes easy with new Clean Air Initiative

by The Green A-Team

President-elect Obama wasn’t the only one to receive overwhelming support from voters on Election Day.  It seems the planet proved just as popular.

The Clean Air Initiative made the ballot in Missouri and was firmly approved 66% to 34%.  It has created a renewable electricity standard that requires utility companies to gradually increase their usage of renewable energy to 15% state-wide and requires that energy rates not increase by more than one percent annually.

Hans Detweiler of the American Wind Energy Association:

The requirement in renewable energy standards around the country has been demonstrated to be significantly more successful.  When you look at the states that have renewable energy standards, all of those states are the leading states for renewable energy development and wind energy development.

With 86% of Missouri’s electricity coming from costly and dirty coal-fired plants, this is a breath of much needed fresh air.

For more on this and other planetary policies, click here for the results of the winning and losing policies from the 2008 Presidential Election.

Photo by prettywar-stl.

For more insights from Hans Detweiler on wind energy, green jobs, and AWEA’s work with President-Elect Obama, click below.

Q: The cost incurred by state and governmental entities to impart this initiative is around $400,000. Does that get in the way of the mandate reaching it’s potential? And who pays for that ultimately?

A: We would not anticipate any of the costs associated with the ballot initiative itself being directed towards the cost of meeting the renewable energy standard.  Normally the government entities, the Secretary of State, handles the all of the costs associated with elections and those costs are completely separate from complying with renewable energy standards.

Q: Opposition to this policy came from Missouri utility companies directly, claiming they’d prefer to see a market demand for clean energy rather than a government mandate.  Is this a chicken or the egg scenario?  Which is more effective?  What companies stand to benefit from this decision?

A: What we saw with the Missouri ballot initiative was some of the utilities supported the initiative, notably Kansas City Power and Light a big utility in the Western part of the state, some of the utilities opposed the standard, notably Amaren a big utility in the Eastern part of the state,  and Amaren thought there would be other market mechanisms whereby their customers would choose renewable energy.  To us, that really doesn’t make any sense.  Amaren is a regulated monopoly in the state.  They are the only customer that is actually going out and buying power to pass on to their customers so they need to be directly procuring renewable energy and the voters totally agreed with that.  That’s why fully 2/3rds of the voters in Missouri in a complete landslide insisted that the electric utilities that are the monopoly should be required to purchase renewable energy.

Q: What impact will renewable energy have on Missouri and the rest of the country in the terms of new jobs created?

A: Wind energy is truly a bright spot in the national economy right now.  It’s an industry that’s been growing at 30-40% per year for each of the last several years so in 2008 even as though the economy was slowing down in other sectors, it was speeding up for renewable energy.  The Missouri ballot standard, our analasis is that it will create a market for around 4000 megawatts. That may not mean something to average listeners out there but that’s in the neighborhood of a 9 billion dollar investment.  A 9 billion dollar investment, that means something to people and if you’re gonna construct 9 billion dollars of wind turbine then you’re going to create a lot of different kinds of new jobs which are going to be very valueable in our current economic environment.  You’re gonna have people in the jobs of manufacturing the turbines, manufacturing the blades for the turbines, manufacturing the towers for the turbines. You’re gonna have all of the component suppliers that are manufacturing the smaller pieces, the bolts, the ball bearings and all of those kinds pieces.  Missouri does have a significan auto industry presence which has been suffering in this economic downturn as has much of the rest of the nation.  In addtion to manufacturing jobs, there are significant construction jobs that are involved in installing.  You’ve got significant local construction impacts, everybody from the gravel haulers to the concrete suppliers benefit.  And you’ve also got the long term operation and maintenance jobs that are associated with these facilities.  So you’ve got all those kinds of economic benefits which come from generating energy from wind production capacity and renewable energy, all of those dollars stay local. So unlike shipping your dollars outside of the country for imported energy sources, you’re keeping all of the economic development and benefit local.

Q: How does your organization, AWEA, plans coincide with Presedent-Elect Obama environmental policy going forward.

A: President-Elect Obama has a strong history of supporting renewable energy development and we really look forward to working closely to working with his administration.  When he was a State Senator in Illinois, he was one of the major sponsors of renewable energy standard legislation that when he moved to the US Senate, he continued to play a leading role in supporting renewable energy development of all types, a strong supporter of the production tax credit and federal renewable energy standards.  In one of the three presidential debates he also went to the extent of discussing the need for national transmission lines that if you’re going to really develop the renewable energy resources that wee have in this country, that we need new transmission lines in order to bring the wind energy from the states where it’s the most robust to serve the loads which are out on the coasts.  He saw a need for a Federal role in doing that more completely so we’re really looking forward to working with President Obama.  He’s also really looking at using renewable energy as a way to jump start the economy and so for instance, the idea of building national transmission structures to support renewable development, it’s really very consistent with the public works projects that FDR did in the New Deal, or Eisenhower with the construction of the state highways system, a long tradition of these kinds of public infrastructure investments to support economic growth.

Photo by Chad Johnson.

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