We can generate clean energy while protecting our natural beauty
Published: September 21, 2012 at 10:10 am
Like most elected officials, I’ve had to balance demands from diverse constituents over the years. No one ever seems completely satisfied, but I always tried to find policies that served the public need and were cost-effective. Of course, it is best when policies enjoy broad popular support, an especially difficult task in today’s polarized politics.
Happily, during the years I served as Arizona’s attorney general, and as Phoenix mayor before that, I found that large majorities of voters support clean energy. The popular support for solar and wind was apparent across our state, from visits to every corner of Arizona and countless letters and email messages. Our residents spoke clearly:
they wanted clean and affordable energy and they also wanted to maintain the spectacular natural beauty that drew many to Arizona in the first place.
It turns out these Arizonans are not alone in their support for clean
energy: a poll conducted early this year by Republican and Democratic polling firms shows that voters across the West, from every shade of the political spectrum, support clean, renewable energy development.
Plus, in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, solid majorities view parks and public lands as essential to their states’ economy. These residents also support upholding and strengthening protections for clean air, clean water, natural areas and wildlife.
From Tea Party supporters to those who identify with the “Occupy”
movement, the poll reported that voters in the West want more clean energy while protecting our public lands. Importantly, those all- important swing voters are among the strongest supporters of clean energy and public lands in the West.
According to the poll, “swing voters across the West…nearly unanimously agree that public lands such as national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas are ‘an essential part’ of the economies of these states. Four in five Western voters view having a strong economy and protecting land and water as compatible.”
What’s more, the poll reports that “two-thirds of Western voters say America’s energy policy should prioritize expanding use of clean renewable energy and reducing our need for more coal, oil and gas.
Even in states like Wyoming and Montana, which are more often associated with fossil fuels, voters view renewable energy as a local job creator.”
As an elected official, I drew inspiration from the many Arizonans who told me about their deep support for clean energy and for protecting our state’s stunning natural beauty — from the young suburban mother who wants her children to grow up in an unspoiled environment, to the tribal elder who sees our state’s beauty not just as pleasing to the eye, but as a sacred trust.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has a critical role to play in Arizona’s transition to a modern, efficient and clean-energy economy.
I urge him, and other federal policymakers, to reflect the sentiments of Westerners young and old, conservative and liberal, who seek a clean, stable and prosperous energy future.
Leveraging our inexhaustible, cost-competitive and home-grown clean energy and working together, Arizona and the West can, and must, forge a clean energy future while maintaining our unmatched natural beauty.
— Terry Goddard served as Arizona attorney general from 2003 to 2011. He serves as a senior counsel at SNR Denton US LLP and a senior adviser to Treliant Risk Advisors.