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Time ripe for Atlantic wind, advocates say

Wind vital component to all-of-the-above energy policy, Oceana says.

By Daniel J. Graeber

WASHINGTON, March 11 (UPI) -- One of the main barriers to a diverse energy economy in the United States is an investment scenario that benefits oil and gas, an ocean advocacy group said.

"It's time for the U.S. to join many other parts of the world and invest in our clean energy future," Nancy Sopko, a campaigner with Oceana, told UPI in response to email questions.

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The European Commission this week announced some member states had already met their 2020 goals for renewable energy development. While solar power in the United States is gaining momentum, sectors like offshore wind have yet to reach commercial capacity.

With high bids totaling $448,000, the Interior Department in January doubled the total acreage available for wind energy development off the coast of Massachusetts in the fourth-ever auction of its kind.

The push for wind energy development off the eastern U.S. coast comes as oil and gas advocates call for more drilling in the Atlantic. The National Ocean Industries Association, an industry group lobbying for more offshore work, said about 1.34 million barrels of oil equivalent per day could be produced from the Atlantic basin by 2035

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U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-N.J., was joined by nine of his Democratic counterparts and two Independents in calling on Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to hold off on oil and gas work in the Atlantic Ocean.

"Offshore drilling anywhere in the Atlantic has the potential to adversely impact our states' fishing, tourism and recreation industries, our coastlines and our environment," they said in a Monday letter.

Oceana has countered the offshore wind energy sector could yield more economic benefits than oil and gas. For Sopko, offshore wind could provide an effective balance in the U.S. energy economy with the right policies in place.

"The biggest barrier to clean and renewable offshore wind energy is attracting investment," she said. "While the federal government continues to move forward with offshore leasing, Congress needs to also stimulate investment in the industry if we want to reap the direct benefits of offshore wind."

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