Senator Bernie Sanders is fast becoming a key voice for America’s growing renewable energy industry. Senator Sanders, an advocate against the multi-billion dollar subsidies that are rewarded to Big Energy industries (oil, coal and gas) every year, is criticizing Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney for Romney’s recent accusation that the federal government picks energy “winners and losers.” To give a bit of context, Romney accused Obama of picking energy winners and losers, through grants and loans, rather than letting the free market determine the growth of these industries.
In an article written for Think Progress, Senator Sanders remarked:
The government does pick winners and losers in the energy sector. What Romney has not told the American people, however, is that the big winners of federal support are the already immensely profitable fossil fuel and nuclear industries, not sustainable energy.
He goes on to criticize the $113 billion in federal subsidies that will be awarded to fossil fuel companies over the next 10 years, as well as the $95 billion in R&D support that was awarded to nuclear energy industries over the past 65 years. He also criticizes the lenient tax deductions that are habitually awarded for these top-profit companies, calling such exemptions as “outrageously strong federal support for Big Energy companies.”
What is important about Senator Sanders’ criticisms is that it doesn’t focus on the dangerous environmental unsustainability of these industries. He leaves such scientific and ethical arguments to the scientists. Instead, he decides to critique them where these Big Energy industries are (presumably) most secure: their wallets. For Senator Sanders, it makes no sense to award incentives and subsidies to these corporations that made in excess of $1 trillion over the last decade.
Instead, he believes that money is better spent promoting breakthroughs in the renewable energy sector, once more emphasizing economic responsibility rather than ethical responsibility. Growth in the renewable energy sector means growth in jobs, growth in energy output, and growth in profit. The wind industry alone now employs 75,000 working Americans, supplying residents with more than 50,000 megawatts of electricity (an output equivalent to 50 nuclear plants). Similar numbers are seen in the solar energy and weatherization industries – a testament to the vitality and potential of the renewable energy sector.
Senator Sanders ends the article with one key advice for Americans:
What is necessary to reverse global warming and create jobs is that we pick the right winners – the technologies that will transform our energy system and protect the environment.
What is perhaps most poignant about Senator Sanders’ parting lesson is how it’s already being followed by other countries. Other countries such as France, Germany, and Japan have all passed policies that progressively promote growth in their country’s renewable energy sector, each realizing the benefit of renewables and the disadvantages of fossil fuels. We can only hope that, with both national and international leaders relaying the same sound advice, America’s politicians will finally listen.