Commentary: Clean energy unites conservatives, young and old

Michele Combs, pictured here with Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, is the founder and chairman of Young Conservatives for Energy Reform.

Michele Combs, pictured here with Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, is the founder and chairperson of Young Conservatives for Energy Reform.

Across the country, young conservatives are working to advance clean, efficient energy. They believe it’s in the best interests of the Republican Party, and, more importantly, of the nation.

In the Midwest, young conservatives are finding common ground with some old political hands. As we at Young Conservatives for Energy Reform (YC4ER) found out when we co-hosted a Conservative Clean Energy Reception honoring Congressional leaders, energy reform is a great way for the Republican Party to grow by reaching across the generational divide.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said it was good to talk with young people about energy issues. “I used to be called the father of the wind industry,” he joked. “Now I’m the grandfather.”

Grassley championed America’s first-ever wind energy production tax credit, which Congress approved back in 1992.  His goal was to build a more level playing field on which wind power could compete against coal-powered electricity and nuclear energy, which enjoyed favorable tax treatments and other government incentives. Grassley’s efforts are credited with helping launch wind energy as a serious power source in the United States – and with making his state a national leader in wind energy.

Today, Grassley’s state of Iowa gets a whopping 31 percent of its electricity from wind energy – a higher percentage than any other state in the country. That’s providing farmers, ranchers, and rural communities a much-needed source of income, while keeping energy bills in check for Iowans, and providing good jobs. It also dovetails with the senator’s conservative political philosophy.

Conservatives believe in free enterprise and fair access to markets, Grassley said at the reception, which was co-hosted by the Christian Coalition of America and the American Wind Energy Association.

Other Republican senators at the event agreed. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who thanked the crowd for welcoming him as someone who remains “young at heart,” talked about the need not only to generate clean energy, but also to use it more efficiently.

And Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) spoke about the importance of talking about clean energy to a new generation of voters who are growing up in a greener country. Like YC4ER, Graham believes clean energy is a winning issue for the Republican Party – and one that can make the GOP more attractive for younger voters.

For Graham, supporting clean energy is also about the deep faith that unites so many conservatives. God has charged us all with being good stewards of Creation, Graham said. Renewable energy cuts down on pollution, and is easier on the Earth and its inhabitants than fossil fuels.

Importantly, Graham also called for a plank in the Republican Party platform about clean energy at the reception and said he’d push for it at the convention.

At YC4ER, we know from experience that young conservatives in the Midwest and across the country understand that homegrown renewable energy strengthens national security. According to high-ranking military leaders, America’s over-dependence on fossil fuels poses a serious and urgent threat to our national security – economically, militarily and diplomatically. Homegrown renewables promote energy independence, and lessen that threat.

Young conservatives also understand that homegrown renewable energy grows the economy and creates local jobs that cannot be exported to other countries. It promotes a cleaner environment, and a healthier future for American families.  And when homeowners, businesses, and institutions have the ability to put solar panels on a roof or a wind turbine on a farm, clean energy enhances individual liberty and property rights.

For all of these reasons, embracing clean energy will help the Republican Party attract young voters – a powerful and energetic constituency that the GOP needs. We hope Lindsey Graham’s quest to include clean energy in the Republican platform is successful. And we’re grateful for leaders like Senators Grassley and Portman for their leadership, and for acting on the belief that homegrown, renewable, efficient energy is a winning issue for our party—and a winning strategy for America.

Michele Combs is the founder and chairperson of Young Conservatives for Energy Reform.

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