The Voice of Conservatives Is Important in Renewable Energy Policy Discussions

October 1, 2021

Although partisan politics is in overdrive these days, the bipartisanship involved in the creation of policies that enhance the development of clean energy is growing. Those who advocate for no- and low-carbon fuels and other energy solutions come from across political parties – Democrats and Republicans – and from all along the spectrum of partisan views – from liberals to conservatives.

The spread of support across the aisle comes at a critical time in our nation’s approach to the challenges faced from a changing climate, including drought, wildfires, tropical storms, flooding and other harmful phenomena. It is a welcome growth of backing for renewable solutions, including bioenergy offerings like biofuels and biopower, given the increasing occurrences of deadly, climate-related disasters.

A practical example of such bipartisanship is evidenced by the Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2021, a measure overwhelmingly approved in the Senate in June with broad support from both sides of the aisle as evidenced by a vote count of 92-8.

The legislation aims to break down barriers for farmers and foresters interested in participating in carbon markets so they can be rewarded for climate smart practices. The act creates a certification program at USDA to help solve technical entry barriers that prevent farmers and forestland owners from participating in carbon credit markets.

The measure could jumpstart a market for carbon retained in the soil by farmers. It is a big policy step forward in enabling agriculture to provide solutions to climate change and represents real progress in designing and advancing a practical and pragmatic approach to enable and reward farmers who deliver climate solutions.

Another example is the Clean Energy Network (CEN), a national coalition of 23 state-based organizations focused on promoting clean energy innovation “rooted in conservative values.” The CEN notes that the energy industry is shifting away from “the traditional model of using fossil fuel generation managed by centralized monopoly utilities to a system that prioritizes the use of advanced emerging technologies, environmental sustainability, market competition, and customer choice to fuel the economy.”

Earlier this week in Charleston, S.C., SfL Board member Ray Gaesser spoke at CEN’s Conclave XI, where he shared SfL’s vision and efforts promoting agricultural renewable energy solutions. He also discussed the work of SfL and the North America Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture (NACSAA), which is supported by SfL, on the international stage. That includes participation under official “observer status” at the upcoming United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP 26 in Glasgow, Scotland. There, SfL delegates will share examples of effective climate smart agriculture systems and practices and network with others who embrace agricultural solutions to global challenges.

Gaesser said the conservatively political energy group also was receptive to his discussion of SfL’s promotion of circular agriculture, an approach growing in acceptance by farmers, ranchers, forest landowners, academics and policymakers. The construct of circularity in agriculture and food systems holds a great deal of promise. It helps farmers think about and experiment with solution pathways and tactics as intersecting and linked systems that concurrently produce agricultural and food products, while also protecting and renewing ecosystems to provide multiple services and benefits to the farm enterprise and to society. It is a way of going forward that focuses on reducing external inputs, closing nutrient loops, regenerating soils and minimizing agriculture’s impact on the environment. Conservatives, liberals – policy makers of all persuasions – are welcome in the frontline efforts to stem climate change through the promotion and optimization of renewable energy. That growth in support underscores the need for Congress to stay the course in its support of renewable fuels and other energy sources that provide high value and shovel-ready climate solutions.

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