Presidential candidates Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama aren’t talking enough about clean energy, according to a group representing business owners across the country.
Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy represents 240 local chambers of commerce in 47 states. The group wrote a letter to the candidates before their first debate earlier this week asking that both parties focus more attention on solar energy, wind and other clean energy alternatives as economic drivers.
“Chambers around the country believe in developing the clean energy economy,” said Diane Doucette, executive director of Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy. “They have seen the benefits and they want to make sure the candidates recognize it as an economic engine.”
The national chamber organization formed earlier this year and has seen rapid growth. Doucette said local business leaders are increasingly looking to the clean energy sector for new jobs and growth opportunities in their communities. And it’s working.
Nearly 500 facilities across 44 states manufacture equipment for the wind energy industry, providing well-paying jobs in states like Iowa, Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan. Another 100,000 Americans work in the solar energy industry, manufacturing solar panels, installing them and providing numerous other services related to solar energy development.
In addition to all of that, energy efficiency measures are saving businesses big. Cleveland, Ohio businesses saved $1.5 million in 2011 because of efficiency retrofits, Doucette said.
Several cities trying to find an edge in the slowly recovering economy are focusing on building their clean energy industry.
“Our local businesses are at the forefront of energy solutions, building smarter electric grids, cleaner cars, more efficient buildings, and cutting-edge renewable energy technologies,” said Aaron Nelson, President and CEO of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro (NC) Chamber of Commerce. “These are homegrown energy solutions that are strengthening our economy right now, and can help us grow into the future. For our local businesses and innovators, clean energy isn’t a partisan issue—it’s a growing market opportunity.”
Doucette said most local chamber leaders are wanting to make sure both candidates support continued growth in the clean energy sector and will bolster it with continued financial support for research and development as well as deployment.
“We want them to talk about it,” Doucette said. “How are we going to lead the global clean energy race? We don’t want to lose the opportunity to be a leader in clean energy and it needs to be part of our national economic strategy.”