Conservative Folly: How the Right's War on Renewable Energy Could Doom Red States
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Kansas led the country with wind projects under construction in 2012, according to the American Wind Energy Association's Annual Report.
And a 2012 report by Polsinelli-Shughart Wind Energy Practice and the Kansas Energy Information Network, which analyzed empirical data from the 19 wind projects in operation or under construction in the state, found that wind energy generation "is equivalent to, or in some cases significantly cheaper than, new natural gas peaking generation"; "has created 3,484 construction jobs, 262 operation and maintenance jobs, and 8,569 indirect and induced jobs for Kansas citizens"; "revenues of over $273 million for landowners"; and "revenues of over $208 million for community organizations and local and county governments."
The report, prepared for the Kansas legislature, also concluded that "the Kansas Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) has become an important economic development tool for attracting new businesses to the state."
Brownback is a founding member of the Governors Wind Energy Coalition, which describes itself as "a bipartisan group of the nation's governors who are dedicated to the development of the nation's wind energy resources to meet America's domestic energy demands in an environmentally responsible manner -- while reducing the nation's dependence on imported energy sources and stimulating state and national economic development."
The group truly is bipartisan.
Of the 23 governor members, nine are Republicans, including, in addition to Kansas, GOP governors from other conservative states that have realized the potential of green economic growth in wind power, such as North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Arkansas and Oklahoma.
Texas is not a member of the governors' group, but the American Wind Association's Annual Report ranked the staunchly conservative state second in the country, right behind Kansas, with wind projects under construction in 2012.
According to the 2012 Texas Renewable Energy Industry Report prepared by the Governor's Office, Texas leads all states for wind energy generation, with over 22 percent of the nation's installed wind capacity. The report states that if Texas -- which has had a renewable electricity standard since 1999 -- "were a country, it would rank sixth in installed capacity."
And a recent assessment by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) found that, when updated figures and real-world projections were used, wind and solar are more competitive than natural gas over the next 20 years.
"Having the standards is what enables the market to grow rapidly," said Robert Pollin, a University of Massachusetts economics professor and co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute. He said that if states were to overturn these renewable standards, they would be "shooting themselves in the foot" because wind is roughly already at cost parity with coal and "a huge market opportunity."
Deyette of the Union of Concerned Scientists agreed, saying, "There's certainly a lot of evidence pointing to state renewable electricity standards driving economic growth and jobs to places where the standards have been put in place, in terms of manufacturing as well as construction and operations and maintenance type jobs."
He went on, "You take any of these markets away, it would have an impact on both job growth and potentially loss of jobs as a result of eroding markets."
Deyette also noted that if a state like Kansas were to repeal its requirement, it wouldn't mean facilities there would just stop operating. Instead, he said, losing such a strong incentive to continue building more facilities in the state would have a negative "cascading effect" on all the industries involved in wind energy production in the state.
"So those construction jobs would go away," he explained, "but then anybody who's supplying components to the industry or maybe a small company, electricians who've been living off of going from major wind project construction in the state to the next one. If that market dries up, those jobs may go away, too, if they can't find an alternative place to get business."