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Independent Voters Can Help Make Reliable Energy a Campaign Issue

by Bob Morris, published

The electrical grid in the U.S. needs upgrading, not just because it’s aging but also so it can handle increasing amounts of renewable energy. As a country we are transitioning away from coal and towards renewables, with natural gas temporarily filling the void left by coal plants that are shutting down. Nuclear energy can produce prodigious amounts of power. But more than a few nuclear power plants are way past their prime or experiencing serious problems. Where will our new energy come from? We need a national discussion about this brought to the forefront yet it is unlikely to happen because the two parties are so polarized. However, independent voters can and should make energy a major issue for both presidential candidates.

General Electric is a major manufacturer of wind turbines. They expect many of their suppliers will go out of business due to the expiration of production tax credits at the end of this year.  This will hurt the wind energy industry badly and thousands of jobs will be lost. GE expects to go from two hundred suppliers to three in their attempt to stay ahead of this implosion in wind energy.

The US is supposed to be a leader in renewable energy. However, as a country we lurch back and forth between championing renewable energy and attempting to kill it. Our energy policy is a victim of the hyper-partisan politics affecting the entire country that dictates if one side is for something then the other must automatically be against it. Our politics of energy are so divisive and fluctuate so often that it’s difficult to discern just what our policy actually is. You can’t encourage renewable energy with years of tax credits under presidents of both parties then stop the credits abruptly without serious repercussions.

The emergence of independent voters as a force to contend with hopefully signals an end to the endless bitter fighting that afflicts our politics. America needs arrive at a genuine consensus on energy then move towards implemention. Scotland has mostly done this and expects to be 100% renewable energy within a decade. We could certainly do that here too, but first the quarreling needs to end. Independent voters working together can help end the divisiveness because they are not captives of either party.

More than anything else, electricity keeps the country operational. If the power goes out, then everything stops until it comes back on. We need steady, reliable power. Even agriculture and or water supply depends upon it.

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation just released a report saying that California, Texas, and New England could face reliability issues this summer, with the possibility of rolling blackouts. The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in California went offline indefinitely a few months ago, which means 2 gigawatts of power will need to be found someplace else. Reserve margins are low in both Texas and California. New England has interconnect problems.

Given that the US has a bipolar energy policy veerly madly from one extreme to the other and our grid badly needs upgrading, energy should be a major campaign issue for both presidential candidates. But it isn't. We need real, genuine discussion of the power problems facing us. Independent voters are not beholden to either party and can lead the way by demanding that both presidential candidates discuss energy in a meaningful way.

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