Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Renewable Energy Push Is Strongest in the Reddest States - The New York Times

The Smoky Hills Wind Farm outside Lincoln, Kan. Last year, Kansas generated more than 30 percent of its power from wind. (Credit: Christopher Smith for The New York Times) Click to Enlarge.
Some of the fastest progress on clean energy is occurring in states led by Republican governors and legislators, and states carried by Donald J. Trump in the presidential election.

The five states that get the largest percentage of their power from wind turbines — Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and North Dakota — all voted for Mr. Trump.  So did Texas, which produces the most wind power in absolute terms.  In fact, 69 percent of the wind power produced in the country comes from states that Mr. Trump carried in November.

Renewable energy that produces no carbon dioxide emissions is not solely a coastal, blue-state phenomenon.  From Georgia to the Dakotas, business and political leaders are embracing clean energy sources even as the Trump administration pushes for more exploitation of oil, gas, and coal.

These red states are not motivated by a sudden desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Nor are they joining solidly Democratic New York, Washington, and California in defending the Paris climate agreement that President Trump walked away from last week.  Instead, their leaders see tapping the wind, and to a lesser degree the sun, as an economic strategy.

The clean energy push allows their utilities to lock in low power prices for decades, creates manufacturing jobs, puts steady money in the hands of farmers who host wind turbines, and lures big employers who want renewable power.

“We export lots of things, and in our future, I want us to export a lot of wind power,” Kansas’ conservative Republican governor, Sam Brownback, declared in a speech in 2011.  “We need more of it, and we need more of it now.”Mr. Brownback got what he wanted:  Since he spoke, wind power production in Kansas has nearly tripled, and the state is now an exporter of clean electricity.

Whatever the motives, the push in the red states does help to lower emissions, which means their goals tacitly align with those of blue states worried about global warming. 

So a question is coming into focus:  In an era when Washington no longer cares about emissions, could federalism — encouraging each state to pursue its own clean energy goals, for its own reasons — be the way forward for those trying to tackle the climate crisis? 

At the state level, you’re just much closer to democracy,” said Adam Browning, executive director of Vote Solar, a California group pushing clean energy.

Read more at Renewable Energy Push Is Strongest in the Reddest States

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