Photo via NY Times
Two states have emerged as leaders in renewable energy, a recent piece in the New York Times notes--California and Texas. Historically, they're politically as different as night and day; one is dark blue, the other deeply red. But while California's liberal voter base has allowed it to pass aggressive energy efficiency laws and renewable energy standards, Texas is poised to leave California in the dust when it comes to renewable power. The state's secret weapon? It just might be its deep seated conservative values.As Green Inc explains, "Texans despise regulations, an attitude that has helped wind farms to flourish; California, by contrast, requires hefty environmental assessments for large projects." You may recall that some major projects have been held up or aborted in California due to wildlife concerns or national park considerations--so while rooftop solar has grown exponentially, large renewable plants are stalled by regulations and bureaucracy. That's not the case in Texas.
From Green Inc:
In 2006, that state's land commissioner, Jerry Patterson, talked to me about the wind boom in Texas -- and the fate of migratory birds in the Gulf of Mexico, where Texas has long ... sought to put offshore turbines. "There are going to be some seagulls popped," Mr. Patterson acknowledged. He then added, "After several generations, we'll have smarter birds."
Largely as a result of this attitude towards regulation, Texas produces three times as much wind power as does Iowa, the next closest wind power generator. Now, there's much to be said for properly surveying land to ensure habitats aren't damaged--but there's also the common, largely liberal mantra that we must act as fast as possible to reduce greenhouse gases to slow climate change (not that conservatives oppose renewable energy generation, of course). And that means more renewables, fast.
This attitude towards bringing renewable energy online, and making it profitable ASAP could be instrumental in sparking competition, deployment, and innovation in the clean energy sector. We're going to need that competitive spark if we're to compete with China and Europe in clean energy tech--but we're also going to need to pass a climate bill so such innovative energy companies can stand up to Big Coal.
Now, I wrote that headline partly in honor of the recent article Political Myth: Trappers, Hunters, & Fishers Are Against Strong Climate Legislation, which serves as a good reminder that climate and environmental issues are important to folks from political backgrounds of every stripe. There's more common ground out there than one might think--and it's worth noting that sometimes, conservatives do a better job of achieving liberal green goals than the liberals do.