One of the best parts of covering local and regional politics is waking up to find out which genuinely idiotic idea someone will try to float next. That's what's happening in Nebraska right now, as one Republican is trying to legally re-classify wind energy as a non-renewable resource.
This bright idea comes from Nebraska State Senator Tom Brewer, who in an October opinion piece declared wind energy to be “a scam that hurts people and animals” and cited scientifically bogus theories that wind turbines cause migraines and other ailments.
Wind. We’re talking about wind. Even for a party that’s constantly attacking science and objective truth, this might be a new low. Only Don Quixote would think this was a good idea.
Here’s what’s going down.
ThinkProgress reports that Brewer’s new bill would restrict wind power development in the state and end the designation of wind power as “renewable.” But ThinkProgress’s Joe Romm points out that wind power is actually “one of the least polluting power sources available today,” and cheaper than running existing coal plants.
By now, we shouldn’t be shocked when Republicans ignore environmental science. But it is a bit shocking that Brewer would ignore big business on this issue.
After all, Romm points out, Facebook just agreed to build a huge data facility in Omaha, based on an agreement that the facility would be fueled by clean wind power from a new $430 million wind farm. The Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) opposed Brewer’s bill for this reason, and argued that the offer of clean power is attracting jobs to the area.
Brewer also seems to be ignoring the Farmers Union, which says wind power helps farmers economically in times when agriculture isn’t doing as well. Moreover, rolling back legislative provisions that have streamlined wind developments in recent years could make future projects unwieldy and discourage rural economic development.
So what’s the end game on declaring war against the wind?
“It’s not that we are trying to stop wind energy, what we’re trying to do is make it responsible,” Brewer told local news station KMTV. He said it’s about making sure the concerns of local landowners are being heard.
But, again, he’s going about this by entirely reclassifying wind energy in the law and declaring that it is no longer “renewable.” It makes no logical sense to do this — unless you’re trying to specifically target wind energy for extra regulations.
Brewer’s bill also seems like the latest ideological example of the GOP slamming any fuel source that isn’t fossil. The Trump administration recently imposed tariffs on the import of solar panels, despite nearly quadruple the number of American jobs depending on solar than on the coal industry.
But wind energy is cleaner and cheaper than sources like coal. A half-billion dollars is flowing into Nebraska because of a wind-farm.
There’s absolutely no reason to be partisan about this issue — but Brewer, like so many other Republicans, can’t seem to stop putting ideology ahead of the public interest.