Time for conservatives to lead on clean energy in Ohio: Mike Hartley (Opinion)

For decades, conservatives led the way protecting our natural resources. From Richard Nixon’s establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency to George H.W. Bush’s push for a stronger Clean Air Act or Teddy Roosevelt’s designation of the national parks, Republican leaders have been at the forefront of the country’s most significant policies.

Yet, when it comes to our energy future, we’ve allowed the debate to be dominated by the left. Not only has this fueled the hyperpartisanship we see today, it also has failed to deliver a comprehensive energy plan that creates market and protects our economic and national security interests.

Nowhere is this paradigm more apparent than in Ohio right now. For too long the two political parties have been stuck on opposite sides of the debate. The state legislature continues to debate the fate of Ohio’s clean-energy policy with entrenched views from continuing the freeze or outright repealing of the old clean energy standards on one side to full reinstatement or even stronger standards on the other side – typically, along party lines.
The bill would freeze renewable-energy standards for three additional years.

Ohio’s clean-energy standards have been frozen for the past two years – thwarting investment and development across the state. Were the original standards arbitrary? Yes. Does the state face a different set of factors now than when the standards were first established? Absolutely. Does that mean we should abandon a path to diversify our energy portfolio? No. These are real challenges facing Ohio and we need a sensible path forward.

That’s why the Ohio Conservative Energy Forum (OHCEF) was established. We believe in a genuine “all-of-the-above” approach to Ohio’s energy policy – one that recognizes our history while also committing to advancing clean and renewable energy and energy efficiency. Moving Ohio toward an all-of-the-above policy will create jobs, expand our economy, increase national security through energy independence, improve quality of life and leave behind a powerful legacy for future generations of Ohioans.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich and his fellow Republicans in the state legislature are fond of talking about the need to create jobs. But their decision to at least temporarily freeze mandates that were designed to boost the use of renewable energy is actually costing us jobs and other economic benefits derived from a fast-growing industry. Where is the sense…

A comprehensive energy policy that diversifies our electricity will lower systematic costs.
The goal of OHCEF is to provide a vehicle for individuals, organizations and businesses to join the conservative conversation about Ohio’s energy future. We believe that a comprehensive energy policy that diversifies our electricity will lower systematic costs by increasing our commitment to develop homegrown clean energy resources.

On the presidential campaign trail, we heard Gov. John Kasich restate his commitment to reinstate the right clean-energy policy framework and stop attempts to hold clean energy back in Ohio. He further went on to explain the importance of innovating and protecting our economic and national security interests. His administration has been at he forefront of lower taxes, attracting investment into the state and creating jobs. We see a clear and predictable energy policy as a vital component to foster a healthy economy for the state.
Gov. John Kasich chose a New Hampshire town hall meeting to warn Ohio GOP lawmakers that if they try to permanently gut the state’s energy efficiency programs and wind and solar requirements, the state will return to its original even tougher standards because “I am not playing around with this.”

If the conversation about Ohio’s clean energy future is to progress, we need to go beyond the debate about either continuing the freeze indefinitely or just reinstating the old framework. We need a new path. We need a policy framework that fosters innovation, encourages new investment and sets the right market signals. If we’re successful in achieving this, we can have a new policy that establishes an all-of-the-above generation portfolio, lowers the cost of electricity, creates jobs and makes Ohio an even more attractive place for businesses.

This is a huge opportunity for Ohio. Companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google are looking to locate facilities in the state. These billion-dollar investments utilize a lot of electricity and these companies want to power these facilities with renewable energy because it makes smart economic sense. An Amazon official who testified recently in Ohio about the state’s current wind setback policy said the only thing holding the state back is its energy policy.  We can create the right market-based clean energy policy framework that will attract these cutting-edge tech companies, strengthen our economy, control electricity costs and protect our natural resources in Ohio.

We’re at an energy crossroads. We can stay stuck in the past and slowly start to see our competitive advantage diminish and lose out on attracting 21st-century businesses or we can chart a new path that will create a stable future for our economy and generations to come. From my perspective, conservatives stand ready to embrace the future.

Mike Hartley is executive director of the Ohio Conservative Energy Forum, founded in 2015 by conservatives favoring an “all-of-the-above” approach to Ohio’s energy policy.

http://www.cleveland.com/opinion/index.ssf/2016/06/time_for_conservatives_to_lead.html

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