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Republican Heroes of Renewable Energy

Words by Hannah Miller
Energy & Environment

The loan default of Fremont-based solar company Solyndra, Inc. has been beaten like a dead horse by Republican Congressional leadership this fall in the runup to the 2012 presidential elections.

The "No More Solyndras" Act, passed by the House earlier this month and then ignored in the Senate, would have halted applications to the Department of Energy Loan Guarantee Programs and instituted more accountability measures.

These programs aren't exactly radical environmentalist experiments, funding as they do two nuclear reactors with faulty designs and $8 billion worth of fossil-fuel projects. However, as much Solyndra-bashing as there has been by Washington Republicans, their counterparts at the state and local level have been champs. A recent study by VC firm DBL Investors find that Republican support for cleantech is high, especially with some governors of deep-red states.

Governor Haley Barbour, Mississippi

Gov. Barbour, the former chair of the Republican National Committee, focused on cleantech and solar in his 2011 efforts to attract 1,800 new jobs to Mississippi. His efforts included a $75 million incentive package for Silicor Materals, a silicon and aluminum manufacturer for the solar industry, and a $100 million package for the biomass and biofuels company Virdia.

The two facilities are projected to bring 1,751 new jobs with average salaries of $40,000 and $65,000, respectively.

Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey

Last year, Gov. Christie signed into law a bill mandating solar purchases by state utilities; partially as a result, the state surpassed California as the largest solar market in the country. Gov. Christie has pushed renewables (and particularly solar) as a bipartisan issue. This summer he signed a law mandating that the state double its production of solar power; the same emphasis on renewables is a part of his office's 2011 Energy Master Plan.

Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas

Gov. Brownback has been a very public and active supporter of wind energy in his home state, advocating for the extension of the Production Tax Credit. He gave the keynote at the American Wind Energy Association's annual conference, saying that "more than 1,200 new, high-paying manufacturing jobs have been announced in Kansas in the last two years directly related to renewable energy."

...and that's the point. According to DBL's report, titled Red, White, and Green: The True Colors of America's Clean Tech Jobs, this boom is really taking off in red states.

Of the ten states where clean tech is growing the fastest, eight of them are red or swing states: Alaska, Wyoming, North Dakota, Nebraska, North Carolina. Red states are also leading in clean tech as a proportion of the workforce (including Arkansas, South Carolina, and Tennessee).

The findings go towards explaining the differences in policy; the report ends by wondering if this political cognitive dissonance can go on too much longer.

"Numbers like these suggest we are entering an era in which politicians who unfairly criticize or otherwise ignore clean tech run the risk of alienating a bedrock constituency: job holders, most of whom vote," advised the authors of the report. "We all need to understand that green jobs and clean tech are not merely the idle dreaming of a small group of partisan insiders and activists, but a source of livelihood for millions of Americans, literally in all parts of the country."


Hannah Miller

Hannah Miller is a writer, ecologist, and adventurer living in Colorado. She is interested in everything, but particularly in creative sustainability practices, the Internet, arts and culture, the human-machine interaction, and democracy. She's lived in Shanghai, New York, L.A., Philadelphia, and D.C., and taught English, run political campaigns, waited tables, and written puppet shows. She definitely wants to hear what you're up to. You can reach her at @hannahmiller215, email at golden.notebook at gmail.com or at her site: www.hannahmiller.net.

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