Stateline’s recent piece, “Renewable energy industry shows surprising clout,” provides an interesting case in point about the potency of public and business community support for cleantech. On his way to winning his run for Ohio Governor, John Kasich suggested that, “as governor he might try to axe the state’s mandate that electric utilities expand their renewable-energy portfolios.”
That was before the Ohio business community made its stance known.
…two things happened after Kasich’s comments appeared. His opponent, incumbent Democratic Governor Ted Strickland, began traveling around the state with renewable-energy businessmen, hammering Kasich as a threat to clean-energy jobs. And Kasich himself heard from entrepreneurs and others, many of them Republicans, alarmed by his statement.
“Folks in that industry when those comments came out were very vocal, and they encouraged their customers to be vocal as well,” says Chris Montgomery, a lawyer in Columbus who helps run an association of energy firms, Ohio Advanced Energy. “He was receiving comments not just from solar and wind developers, but also word from farmers and businesses and others who’ve benefited from some of these renewable energy projects.”
Within days, Kasich’s campaign was letting it be known that he actually had no intention of repealing the state’s renewable energy standard. “He supports increasing renewable generation in Ohio in a way that expands our energy choices,” his spokesman said.
No one expects Ohio to emerge as a green-energy colossus after Kasich, who went on to win the race, takes office on January 10. As one newspaper reporter in the state says, “You’ve got quite a bit of loud resistance to the idea that we can do anything aside from using the carbon molecule to create energy.” But the fact that a conservative Republican backed so quickly away from angering the renewables industry says a great deal about the politics of state energy policy at the moment — and not just in Ohio.
The point is, businesspeople in rust belt states such as Ohio and Michigan are seeing clean energy and energy efficiency as economic winners, even when some elected officials are slow to see it as such. Hopefully, Governor Kasich can take up where Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger left off – a leading clean energy advocate among the nation’s governors.