Red Governors, Green Jobs: Could 2013 be the Turning Point for Clean Energy?

If it seems like you can’t open a newspaper anymore without reading about some terrible, weather-related calamity, don’t worry. It’s not all...

If it seems like you can’t open a newspaper anymore without reading about some terrible, weather-related calamity, don’t worry. It’s not all in your head. Between reports that 2012 was the hottest year in U.S. history (and somehow still one of the coldest worldwide in the 21st century), photos of a lightless post-Sandy lower Manhattan, and a heat wave that killed 32 senior citizens in Sao Paulo, Brazil, it is getting harder and harder for citizens, lawmakers, and businesses to ignore the impact of an ever-warming planet. And while companies large and small have begun to embrace sustainability as part of their business model, it seems like there is always a fight to enact legislation to protect the environment.

But despite the rhetoric during the national election (see, for instance, Mitt Romney’s statement that climate science “does not dictate a particular policy response” or his energy plan that doesn't even address clean energy sources like wind and solar), clean technology is not the partisan issue it was framed to be. In fact, some of our country’s most well known Republican politicians are also the most vocal supporters of green energy. Below are three totally red, but still super green, governors who are working towards creating a viable, sustainable, clean energy future.

Rick Perry, Texas.

He may publicly disavow global warming science, but former Republican presidential contender Rick Perry’s support for wind power, biorefineries, and nuclear energy helped create Texas’s more than 144,000 green jobsthat’s more than any other states besides New York and California. Under Perry’s leadership, the state has already met the renewable energy targets it set for 2025. Other Texas lawmakers see the urgency to be environmentally conscious as well. After enduring a devastating drought, the state legislature has built bipartisan support to revamp the state’s water infrastructure to handle a booming population and a lagging water supply.

Sam Brownback, Kansas.

He might have made himself a conservative darling in the 2008 presidential election, but as Governor of Kansas, Sam Brownback has tirelessly supported the wind industry, whether by penning Op-Eds touting wind energy’s growth opportunities, addressing the WINDPOWER 2012 Conference, or urging Congress to extend the wind-energy tax credit during the fiscal cliff talks. And his efforts have certainly paid off: last year Kansas saw more wind farm construction than any other state, adding 1,000 megawatts of capacity (enough to power 300,000+ homes), and creating more than 12,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Bobby Jindal, Louisiana.

Another Republican star (and potential 2016 presidential candidate), Bobby Jindal has made himself a true friend of clean energy technology. Under his leadership the Louisiana Workforce Commission predicted a surge in green jobs over the next decade, with the growth far outperforming other industries (13.8 percent in green jobs compared to 8 percent overall). “Green fever” has spread beyond the governor’s office. Jindal has welcomed a range of clean energy jobs, from manufacturing wind turbines with Blade Dynamics in Michoud, Louisiana to producing biomass pellets made from sustainably managed forests with Drax Biomass in Baton Rouge.

So will we see our country’s red states turn green in 2013? The greenest states are undoubtedly still also the bluest—with California, Oregon, and Massachusetts rounding out the top three, according to clean-tech research and advisory firm Clean Edge’s 2012 State Clean Energy Index. But the tides may be turning. Ron Pernick, Managing Director of Clean Edge and co-author of Clean Tech Nation: How the U.S. Can Lead in the New Global Economy, considers the strong Republican support for extending the wind industry Production Tax Credit—which Mitt Romney wanted to eliminate—a good sign. “If you’ve got Karl Rove calling for the extension, you know there are a whole bunch of [Republican] governors who care about it too,” he says.

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