As extreme temperatures become more common, as air pollution rises and as global energy demands increase, the facts remain clear: Our climate is changing and, without bold action on energy, our future is uncertain.
Under previous administrations, we made great strides to reduce carbon emissions, but in the past two years, we’ve lost much of that progress. Many steps must be taken to turn things around, and one thing we must do is look carefully at our energy sources. We need sources that are resilient, sustainable and economically sound — offshore wind checks all those boxes.
Wind is a renewable resource that yields high amounts of energy, and offshore wind is readily available in coastal communities like mine in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. According to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), the total wind power capacity in the United States increases on average 30 percent per year, making wind our most abundant source of renewable energy. EERE suggested offshore wind alone can generate over 2,000 gigawatts of energy in state and federal waters along the coasts and Great Lakes. That is two times the combined capacity of all U.S. electric power plants, without the harmful emissions.
Wind technology is more than just a sustainable source of renewable energy — it creates jobs and stimulates our economy, adding nearly $20 billion to our economy annually, according to the DOE Wind Energy Technologies Office. The wind sector employed over 100,000 people in 2016, and it is poised to provide more than 600,000 Americans with jobs in manufacturing, installation, maintenance and support services by 2050. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that wind turbine technician is one of the fastest-growing jobs in the U.S., at a rate of 96 percent.
In San Luis Obispo, part of the district I represent in Congress, the upcoming closure of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant will significantly impact our economy and workforce. Because the plant can no longer compete in California’s energy market, 1,500 local jobs will be lost and the state will need to replace nearly 10 percent of its energy production. Across the nation, other states face similar circumstances. This presents a great opportunity for offshore wind as a renewable energy source to re-establish those jobs and fulfill energy needs in my home district and in places across our nation. We will always need energy workers. The smart thing — and the right thing — to do is help people transition into new, sustainable jobs that will last. Offshore wind makes that possible.
Over the years, we have seen steady development in renewable energy technology and battery storage, making options like offshore wind more viable. Since 2009, the cost of wind has decreased by 69 percent. These falling costs mean wind energy is competitive with, and oftentimes more affordable than, fossil fuel energy. Adding wind to our energy profile makes economic sense.
In Congress, I continue to advocate for offshore wind energy as a member of the House Armed Services Committee. I successfully included an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act to help facilitate the exploration of offshore wind. I’ve been communicating with the Department of Defense (DOD) to discuss leveraging renewable energy for national security, and I introduced the Energy Opportunity Zones Act (H.R. 5441) last Congress to advance renewable energy, incentivize job creation and protect our environment.
The push for offshore wind keeps gaining traction: Just last month, I met with Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment Robert McMahon to discuss the promise of wind power. We committed to working toward a solution that supports both our nation’s energy needs and our defense needs. In continued conversations with the Navy, DOD leaders like Secretary McMahon, the Bureau of Ocean Management (BOEM), energy producers, transitioning power plant workers, and other regional stakeholders, I have clearly seen that we have the skills, knowledge and resources to lead on offshore wind energy. It’s time to step up and do so.
Harnessing the potential of offshore wind is a strategic decision that will benefit our nation for generations to come. For our economy, for jobs and workers, and for our future, offshore wind is the smart choice. It allows us to commit to clean, renewable energy, strengthen our economy and remain a global leader. The winds of change are upon us and, when we choose to act, that change will be powerful.
Rep. Salud Carbajal, a California Democrat, is Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and serves on the House Armed Services Committee. and House Agriculture Committee.