Wind energy decision carries political impact

By Joseph Weber, The Washington Times

With a tight-lipped President Obama facing both a political dilemma and a critical deadline, the nation’s offshore wind energy industry is about to find out which way the breezes are blowing.

After nine years in the government regulatory mill, backers of the Cape Wind project off the shores of Massachusetts’ Cape Cod will learn by April 30 whether Mr. Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will let them proceed, with potentially far-reaching consequences for the industry if the project is quashed.

Mark Rodgers, spokesman for Cape Wind developer Energy Management Inc. of Boston, said that the project is being closely watched because it is the first of its kind in the United States, with a number of other projects being eyed along the Atlantic coastline. Given the length of the regulatory approval process, it will likely be the only one built during the Obama administration.

“If it doesn’t get approved, it will have a big impact,” said Mr. Rodgers.

Beyond being a setback for the industry, Mr. Rodgers said a rejection by the administration will be “a real market signal.”

“Stakeholder investors will really be looking to see what’s happening,” he said.

Since taking office 16 months ago, Mr. Obama has made renewable energy a top priority – vowing to double the country’s output in three years, supporting wind turbines along the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf, and putting more than $800 million in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for such clean-energy initiatives as solar and geothermal power.

In a move that pleased many conservative critics, the president last month gave his support to expanded offshore exploration and drilling for oil and natural gas. But Mr. Obama has yet to tip his hand on the pending Cape Wind project that would put 130 turbines in the Nantucket Sound within sight of the Cape Cod shoreline.

Cape Wind poses a particular dilemma for the administration. It was bitterly opposed by Mr. Obama’s close friend and political mentor, the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, even though backers say the completed project could supply well more than half of the cape’s power needs.

White House spokesman Ben LaBolt declined Thursday to discuss Cape Wind’s place in the administration’s renewable energy agenda, and referred questions to the office of Mr. Salazar, who had direct responsibility for approving the Cape Wind application.

To read more, visit: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/apr/19/wind-energy-decision-carries-political-impact/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter_politics-government

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