On the Blogs: A ‘Robust, Enduring Strain of Bipartisanship’ in Support of Renewable-Energy Industries
David Roberts for Vox:
On Monday, a bipartisan group of governors sent President Trump a letter touting the benefits of renewable energy. Among other things, the letter pointed to the $222 million a year that wind farms pay to rural landowners and the $100 million a year renewable energy businesses invest in low-income areas. It asked Trump to help modernize the grid, support offshore wind development, extend renewable energy tax credits, and increase renewable energy research.
The letter came from the Governors’ Wind & Solar Energy Coalition, which boasts 20 state members. It is signed by chair Gina Raimondo (Democratic governor of Rhode Island) and vice chair Sam Brownback (Republican governor of Kansas). Along with the letter to Trump, the duo sent a second letter to all 50 governors, boasting about recent renewable energy wins at the state level and encouraging further investment.
The letters themselves are not that big a deal — the coalition has been around for several years and sent many similar letters to Obama — but they are evidence of a robust, enduring strain of bipartisanship on this issue (one that, unlike the carbon tax, commands support from more-than-zero Republican officeholders).
The difference is simple. Climate change is, to most people, entirely an abstraction, a matter of tribal positioning. Some states and cities are beginning to face practical effects of warming, and of course all of them ought to be planning for it in coming decades, but in practice, very few individuals or elected officials feel it as an immediate concern. There’s little cost to ideological posturing.
Renewable energy is different. It is a burgeoning business, attracting both white collar and manufacturing jobs, channeling investment to parts of these states that haven’t seen much economic development recently, and reducing electricity rates.
For politicians at the state and local level, it’s an immense practical benefit to their constituents. In such matters, ideology tends to fall by the wayside. (For evidence, see the recent bipartisan energy bill in Illinois or Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich defending the state’s clean energy standards.)