Fall 2011

On the Road: A Bright Future for the Heartland | Catalyst Fall 2011

On the Road

A Bright Future for the Heartland

The author expresses her thanks to Dovetail Solar and Wind President Al Frasz after their meeting with legislators in Columbus, OH.

The Midwest has long served as an economic engine for the United States. It is also home to some of the best renewable energy resources in the world. Yet the region is struggling to recover from the recession, and its reliance on coal power not only threatens public health and the environment but also leaves consumers vulnerable to volatile energy prices.

Our report A Bright Future for the Heartland, released in July, shows that increasing clean energy development in the Midwest could bring economic prosperity, job growth, and a healthy environment to the region. As a Midwesterner myself, I was excited to share these findings with local decision makers in Columbus, OH.

Jobs for the Buckeye State—and Beyond

Jobs and the economy are important issues no matter on which side of the political aisle you stand. I met with leaders of both major parties, and they were all impressed by the detail and thoroughness of our report.

Governor John Kasich’s energy policy advisor agreed that clean energy is already creating jobs in Ohio, and I explained that stronger policies could create at least 14,000 additional new jobs in the state. Al Frasz, president of the Cleveland-based installation company Dovetail Solar and Wind, joined me in these meetings and told his personal success story: how he started his company just a few years ago and now employs 38 people, with projects statewide.

Political support is not the only key to securing strong clean energy policies—we must reach out to key business interests as well. Several of these groups were willing to meet with me—and I was pleased with the response.

Finding Friendly Faces in Unexpected Places

While some members of the Ohio Farm Bureau do not accept the existence of climate change and believe government has imposed too many regulations on farmers, its staff was interested to learn that stronger clean energy standards could provide $320 million in new income for Ohio farmers and rural landowners (through lease payments for wind turbines and income from leftover agricultural waste products). At the end of our meeting, they agreed that regulation can be beneficial to the agriculture community.

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce has similarly opposed government regulations, but when I focused on the economic benefits of clean energy standards, we were soon speaking the same language. Their representative especially appreciated our finding that increased clean energy development could bring Ohio an additional $170 million in local tax revenues, and save residents $7.4 billion on their utility bills—money that would then be spent in the local economy.

I even managed to find common ground with Duke Energy, a large electric utility that generates most of its electricity from coal. Duke agreed that energy efficiency should be a part of Ohio’s energy mix, and that investments should be made in renewable energy.

Based on the similar success my colleagues reported, we have set the stage for future collaboration with, and greater support from, an important group of nontraditional allies that could help us build the clean energy future America’s heartland deserves.

LuCinda Hohmann, Midwest outreach coordinator

Read the report A Bright Future for the Heartland .