Taxpayers Deserve a Clean Energy Cut

Soon, if all goes as planned, taxpayers may start getting a fair return for renewable energy development on public lands. Let me give you a little background. Last year, the United States produced about 4 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity on public and private lands. About two-thirds of this energy came from burning coal and natural gas. Nuclear accounted for one-fifth, and renewable energy sources contributed just shy of 15 percent, with solar accounting for only 0.6 percent and wind about 5 percent. The share for renewables will grow in the years ahead. The Department of the Interior has already identified about 600 square miles of land in the Southwest best suited for large, utility-scale solar projects. But the Congress, ever slow afoot, has never given the department the authority to set up a leasing system for wind and solar projects like it has for other energy sources, including oil, gas and coal. This lack of direction has forced the agency to devise alternative approaches to developing these resources in a responsible way.

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