A group of conservatives wants a seat at the table when it comes to the issue of alternative energy in Wisconsin, and, with former Gov. Tommy Thompson on board as a principal, it launched this past month the Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum, part of a national network. Executive director Scott Coenen says the new organization will be dedicated to changing the dynamics of the renewable energy conversation in Wisconsin.
He says the forum will work to involve conservatives in discussions about changes in energy markets, including the development of clean and renewable energy resources, energy efficiency technologies, and the impact those projects can have on jobs and economic development.
According to its website, the goal of the Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum is to spur a dialogue and provide a vehicle for individuals, organizations, and businesses to join the conservative conversation about Wisconsin's energy future.
"We believe that an 'all of the above' energy policy, with an emphasis on stimulating our economy, lowering costs, and protecting our national and grid security, must be pursued by increasing commitment to developing 'Wisconsin-grown' clean energy resources and expanding energy efficiency," the website states.
What they believe
On its website, the forum lays out the beliefs that inform its goals and mission.
"When conservatives retreat from issues due to partisan polarization and fail to engage in debate, we lose a seat at the table, allowing the Left to drive policy decisions," the website states. "In the past, Wisconsin conservatives have led the way with proactive and forward-thinking small government solutions."
And, the group says, they believe they can do so again by providing a long absent voice for conservatives in the energy debate, by reminding their conservative friends and colleagues that sound, free-market clean energy policies are well within the scope of conservative principles, and by promoting conservative support for an 'all of the above' energy policy that honors the conservation past and embraces innovative clean and renewable energy solutions of the future.
The group says conservatives have a duty to be good stewards of the environment.
"Conserving our natural resources, and decreasing energy waste through energy efficient technologies is conservative," the group states. "Utilizing energy sources like bio-digesters and agriculture/solar farm hybrids that preserve farmland, increase crop yields, and help lower energy costs for America's Dairyland are just commonsense."
The forum asserts that domestically produced clean energy will increase national security by reducing dependence on foreign oil - which it says the U.S. often obtains from countries that are hostile to the nation's way of life.
"Innovations in energy production can also improve our energy grid and protect it from disruptions or attacks," the website states. "A diverse and increasingly renewable energy portfolio is the way to ensure we have abundant and affordable energy for decades to come."
Then, too, the group states, renewable energy has an enormous positive impact on the state's economy.
"In fact, in 2015 the economic impact of clean energy in Wisconsin was nearly $6 billion, and our state had 2,281 businesses employing more than 24,000 workers in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and related jobs," the forum states. "Wisconsin can and should be a national leader in the development of innovative technologies that will revolutionize our country's energy production."
The national Conservative Energy Network was launched in 2016 by conservatives to support and connect state-based conservative clean energy and energy efficiency organizations throughout the nation. The group says they work in about 20 states.
The national group bemoans the loss of political ground on the issue.
"Despite a strong tradition of conservative leadership on clean energy policy exemplified by Presidents Teddy Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan, over the past few decades conservatives have allowed energy and conservation issues to be co-opted by the Left," the national website states. "The time is now to depoliticize the issue and for conservatives to once again lead on energy policy, offering solutions that encourage innovation, economic development and the utilization of homegrown renewable energy."
In the wake of last year's election, CEN conducted a post-balloting survey of 1,000 people, including 400 cell phone users, to gauge public opinion about energy issues. Public Opinion Strategies conducted the polling.
Among the key findings, CEN stated, voters overwhelmingly said it was important that a candidate for political office share their opinion on energy issues.
In addition, while only 5 percent said that more than half of their state's electricity currently comes from renewable sources like wind, solar, hydro, and biomass, fully 40 percent said that more than half should.
The survey also found strong majority support for the U.S. placing more emphasis on producing domestic energy from wind, solar power, and hydropower. There was majority support for less emphasis on coal, CEN stated.
What's more, there was majority support for more emphasis on wind, solar, and hydro in all eight regions of the country, and majorities of base Republicans backed more emphasis on natural gas, solar power, and hydropower.
Then, too, overwhelming majorities of voters across pary lines supported their state pursuing an 'all-of-the-above' strategy, including 69 percent of base GOPers and 79 percent of soft GOPers.
CEN also found strong, bipartisan support for taking action to accelerate the development and use of clean energy in the United States. Base Dems were more focused on conservation, the poll found, but, with the exception of base GOPers, a majority of voters across party lines said they would be willing to pay a little more.
All in all, the poll found, when Republicans hear the phrase "clean energy" they think of solar and wind power.
"They say it is non-polluting and leads to clean air and renewable energy," CEN stated. "There is some concern about the cost and government regulations, but that is outweighed by the positives."
Richard Moore is the author of The New Bossism of the American Left and can be reached at www.rmmoore1.com.
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