Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

With Clean Energy Jobs Booming in Republican Districts, It's Time to Recalibrate Climate Politics

Climate
With Clean Energy Jobs Booming in Republican Districts, It's Time to Recalibrate Climate Politics

Many elected officials want to solve climate change for the same reason activists do. Rising global temperatures will be a terrible burden on our children, cost our economy trillions and cause dangerous changes to the natural world.

But winning enough votes in Congress for bold policy changes also requires raw politics—and on that score, there's an important, under-appreciated shift that may be improving our chances.

Photo credit: Dennis Schroeder / NREL

Look at the chart below, from Morning Consult. Clean energy jobs, in the form of utility-scale wind or solar facilities, are now mostly in Republican districts.

That's because sunshine and wind are abundant in places such as Kansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Texas. And rural areas, often represented by Republicans, have inexpensive land available for facilities like this.

Clean energy jobs, in other words, are no longer partisan or regional, if they ever were. Texas leads the nation in wind. North Carolina and Nevada are hot beds of solar energy.

Jobs Drive Policy, for Better or Worse

There are very few things politicians care about more than their constituents' jobs. It's not an exaggeration to say that job stability and growth are the lens through which they see nearly every issue.

Former Secretary of State James Baker once tried to build support in Congress for the first Gulf War by saying, of the main reason to act, “if you want to sum it up in one word, it's jobs."

In fact, claims about job losses were used to great effect against comprehensive climate legislation in 2009. Proponents of that argument seemed to forget the far larger economic damage from unchecked climate change, but their talking points had a big impact on nervous members of Congress.

In response, environmental activists and economists talked about the very real potential for clean energy jobs—but existing always beats potential in a political fight. And the “jobs argument" was used to increase the partisan divide on climate and clean energy issues.

But now things are changing—rapidly.

Next time Congress considers climate legislation, the terms of the debate may be different.

Nationwide, solar jobs have grown 20 percent annually for the last three years. There are now far more jobs in that industry than in coal mining and most new electric generating capacity added last year was renewable.

Red states and congressional districts, again, are on the receiving end of a large chunk of that growth.

It could be that next time Congress considers comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation, the terms of the debate will be different. This time, the “jobs argument" would come from a bi-partisan block of politicians representing clean energy workers with real jobs.

And that might just change the whole conversation.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Elon Musk: We Must Revolt Against the Unrelenting Propaganda of the Fossil Fuel Industry

Groups Sue EPA Demanding Stricter Fracking Waste Rules

'Apocalyptic' Inferno Engulfs Canadian Tar Sands City

Major Milestone: More than 100,000 MW Worth of Coal-Fired Power Plants Retired

Radiation-contaminated water tanks and damaged reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Feb. 25, 2016 in Okuma, Japan. Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

Japan will release radioactive wastewater from the failed Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean, the government announced on Tuesday.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Antarctica's Thwaites Glacier, aka the doomsday glacier, is seen here in 2014. NASA / Wikimedia Commons / CC0

Scientists have maneuvered an underwater robot beneath Antarctica's "doomsday glacier" for the first time, and the resulting data is not reassuring.

Read More Show Less
Trending
Journalists film a protest by the environmental organization BUND at the Datteln coal-fired power plant in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany on April 23, 2020. Bernd Thissen / picture alliance via Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

Lead partners of a global consortium of news outlets that aims to improve reporting on the climate emergency released a statement on Monday urging journalists everywhere to treat their coverage of the rapidly heating planet with the same same level of urgency and intensity as they have the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read More Show Less
Airborne microplastics are turning up in remote regions of the world, including the remote Altai mountains in Siberia. Kirill Kukhmar / TASS / Getty Images

Scientists consider plastic pollution one of the "most pressing environmental and social issues of the 21st century," but so far, microplastic research has mostly focused on the impact on rivers and oceans.

Read More Show Less
A laborer works at the site of a rare earth metals mine at Nancheng county, Jiangxi province, China on Oct. 7, 2010. Jie Zhao / Corbis via Getty Images

By Michel Penke

More than every second person in the world now has a cellphone, and manufacturers are rolling out bigger, better, slicker models all the time. Many, however, have a bloody history.

Read More Show Less