Clean Energy Blurs Political Lines (Despite What You Hear on TV)

, Senior energy analyst | October 4, 2012, 12:12 pm EDT
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If all you did was listen to political rhetoric about the green economy, including statements we heard during last night’s presidential debate, you would probably conclude that support for green jobs is divided along party lines. However, a new report released by DBL investors proves that this is not true. Outside Washington, governors and mayors from both traditionally “red” and “blue” states are recognizing the potential of the clean economy to bring jobs to their states.

Redder states lead clean tech job growth

The report’s authors demonstrate that between 2003 and 2010, eight of the 10 states with the most rapid clean tech job growth occurred in “red” or swing states. (For this report, the authors use the Brookings Institution’s definition of a green job, which is any job created in a sector of the economy that provides goods and services with an environmental benefit.)

The report also notes that green jobs have grown throughout the country and at a faster rate than most other sectors of the economy. The solar industry alone grew almost ten times faster than the overall economy between August 2010 and August 2011.

Bipartisan support for clean energy is more common than you think

The media would have you believe that only one political party is supportive of clean tech policies, when in reality the issue is not that red or blue. In 2011, Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi announced an incentive package that included $75 million to attract a silicon and aluminum manufacturer for the solar industry. This July, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey signed a law requiring that solar power generation double in his state.

Support for renewable energy policies in traditionally “red” states is not uncommon; in fact, most of the renewable energy policies established by the 35 states that have such standards were enacted with the support of a Republican-controlled House, Senate, or governorship. (To learn more about these states, take a look at the blog and map created by fellow UCS’er Jeff Deyette.)

Keep calm and carry on

The clean tech sector has been one of the brightest spots of our economy in recent years, putting people to work and providing cleaner ways to supply goods and services. For these reasons, many agree that supporting clean tech is good policy. This report reminds us that supporting clean tech is also good politics. It’s clear to me that we need to resist the temptation to brand clean tech as “red” or “blue,” and instead focus on maintaining the momentum of the clean tech economy. We’ve seen some refreshing examples of leadership from both sides of the aisle, but it needs to happen more.

For instance, the Production Tax Credit (PTC), which has been an critical catalyst for the wind industry, is set to expire at the end of 2012 despite some bipartisan support. UCS is mobilizing members and activists to urge Congress to reauthorize the PTC before it expires, and you can show your support for the wind industry by clicking this link.

The residents of Michigan will also have an important opportunity to grow clean energy in their state, through a ballot proposition that would require 25 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewables by 2025. (I’ll likely be blogging more on this later as the election approaches.)

Support for a clean tech economy does not have to be political. It’s hard to argue against an industry that bring us jobs and provides goods and services that cause less pollution and negative impacts to our natural resources. Let’s hope that our clean energy leaders can rise above the political bickering that will inevitably continue as the election approaches.

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