Swimming for Wind Power in America
CANCÙN -- Denise Bode is like a salmon swimming up a dam-laden river.
Bode is America's leading wind energy advocate and all the conversations she's hearing in Cancún are about exciting wind projects across the globe -- except in America.
At a GreenSolutions panel this week, the CEO of Spanish wind energy giant Acciona talked about Mexico skipping over the U.S. to become Acciona's second biggest wind customer. The secretary general of the Global Wind Energy Council spoke of how, for the first time in history, wind energy installations in developing countries this year will outpace those in industrialized countries.
"The notion that wind power is only for rich countries has been proven wrong," said GWEC's Steve Sawyer, pointing to China, India and Mexico as examples.
Bode, who heads the American Wind Energy Association, bubbles with enthusiasm about the U.S. wind industry. Last year, a record 10,000 megawatts were installed, more than any other electric power source. The industry is providing 85,000 good-paying jobs. In all 50 states.
But she cannot hide from 2010.
Climate policy gridlock in Washington, along with tight credit markets, is killing the industry. Policy equals certainty. Its absence equals the opposite, and as a result U.S. wind energy installations this year will be half of last year's. Now, there's talk of dropping a hugely popular renewable energy tax credit program that was not included in President Obama's new tax cutting package.
"We're going in the wrong direction," Bode told an audience in Cancún.
Bode says it makes her skin crawl that money is going back into coal and other higher-polluting power sources. "For the first time in many years (in the U.S.), we're looking at 70 percent of new power generation this year coming from coal and other fossil fuels," she said.
She also chafes at exorbitant fossil fuel subsides in the U.S. and elsewhere. A recent International Energy Agency report estimated these subsidies at $312 billion in 2009, mostly in developing countries, compared with $57 billion in subsidies for renewable energy.
Bode is an optimist by nature, though, and her shining light is the states. At the GreenSolutions panel, she heaped praise on the governors in California, Colorado and Ohio for enacting policies that support renewable energy and clean energy jobs.
"In Ohio, by changing their tax policy treatment of wind power, we're going to increase capacity from 7 megawatts to 1,100 megawatts (in the next two years)," she said.
In other words, don't count Bode out. She's still swimming.