Clean Energy a Winner in Midterms

Clean energy was a winner in congressional and other races across the country Tuesday.

As Forbes noted, clean energy candidates for Congress won in states stretching from California to Florida, often replacing climate deniers in the U.S. House.

Similarly, pro-clean energy and environment gubernatorial and legislative candidates were big winners in many states — including Colorado, Nevada, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina and California.

Several clean energy business leaders ran on clean energy platforms and their records of creating jobs, stood out — and in vastly different parts of the country.

In Illinois, Sean Casten, co-founder of heat-to-power company Recycled Energy Development defeated longtime U.S. Rep. Pete Roskam.
In Michigan, Andy Levin, who founded clean energy finance company Levin Energy Partners, resoundingly trounced 9th congressional district Rep. Candius Stearns.
And in one of the most telling congressional races, environmental lawyer and clean energy advocate Mike Levin won the race to represent California’s 49th district, north of San Diego.
Mike Levin, a Democrat and newcomer to politics, is replacing one of the biggest clean energy naysayers in Congress, eight-term Rep. Darrell Issa.

Six years ago, Issa led an investigation into the Obama administration’s clean energy policies, during which he took to calling clean energy jobs a hoax, comparing them to unicorns and fairy dust.

Today, Issa’s district is home to nearly 20,000 clean energy jobs, some of the 3.2 million clean jobs across the country. Nobody, Republican or Democrat, claims these jobs aren’t real anymore.

As Levin points out, politics shouldn’t matter when it comes to clean energy and action on climate change

“This is not a partisan issue,” he told KBPS radio during the campaign. “Richard Nixon was president when the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act came into being and when the EPA was created. Somewhere along the line we lost sight of the importance of climate change, the importance of leading the world over on sustainability. And we’ve gone from a leader to a laughing stock.”

Levin’s campaign focused on increasing clean energy and creating more clean energy jobs, because “it will be a massive economic opportunity,” he told KPBS.

Beyond congressional races, clean energy initiatives had mixed results.

In Arizona, one of the sunniest states in the country, voters rejected a proposition to require utilities to get half of their energy from renewables after utility APS poured millions of dollars into a campaign to defeat the proposal. In Washington state, a ballot initiative that would have put a price on carbon pollution failed to pass.

But in Nevada, voters by a nearly 20-point margin passed a ballot initiative that could double the state’s renewable energy. Voters on Tuesday also elected Rep. Jacky Rosen, a clean energy champion in the U.S. House, as Nevada’s next senator.

Nevadans understand the economic benefits and jobs that come with clean energy better than most.

Three years ago, Nevada lawmakers rolled back commonsense net metering rules and other policies that made solar more affordable for homeowners, businesses and others. In doing so, the state put thousands of clean energy workers out of work. Solar companies that had been expanding in the state at breakneck speed suddenly closed up shop and fled.

Today, some of those clean energy jobs are finally starting to come back to Nevada, after state officials passed more favorable solar policies. About 30,000 Nevadans are now employed in clean energy.

Hopefully that’s just the start.

With policies like Nevada’s renewable standard, and newly elected members of Congress who understand first-hand the economic and environmental benefits of clean energy, America can keep clean energy jobs growing.

And that’s good for our economy, our environment — and our country.