More green election geography

A map connecting growth in green jobs to swing states.

Yours truly, blogging in January on the political geography of renewable energy, and particularly the wide distribution of its sources in the West, South, and Midwest:

If the Democrats play this right (especially ensuring that landowners and local communities benefit) and the Republicans wrong (following denialists rather than Schwarzenegger), the situation offers an opportunity for the Dems to erode Republican support in its heartland.

A recent report by Nancy Pfund and Michael Lazar of venture capital firm DBL on clean-energy jobs backs me up with an interesting map (h/t Climate Progress) of the states where green jobs have been growing fastest, based on Brookings data:

The six yellow states (CO, FL, NC, NM, NV, VA) are swing ones.
The rankings by absolute numbers, and by percentage of the labour force, are also supplied. Neither track the swing states so neatly, but they do confirm that red states are just as dependent as blue ones on green jobs. Overall these are now 20 times those in coal-mining: 2.7 million vs, 126,000. (To be fair to coal, you should throw in some tens of thousands of coal-dependent jobs in railroads and power plants, but that can’t invalidate the general picture.) The authors use a Brookings definition of green jobs that is narrower than the government’s.

My main beef is one I made in the post: for economic and political impact you must look at income generation through rents – which will flow for decades – even more than possibly shortlived installation jobs. Iowa doesn’t appear on the DBL map, but with 20% of its electricity now from wind farms, a lot of Iowan farm income and municipal budgets visibly depend on it. The same holds throughout the Great Plains.

The report highlights several Republican governors and ex-governors who have successfully pushed green jobs without allowing the heretical words “global warming” to cross their lips: Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Chris Christie of New Jersey, even Rick Perry of Texas.

This to me suggests a scenario – far from a done deal, but not a pipe dream either – for Obama to make progress on climate change in his now probable second term. These Republicans are likely to play a major part in the response of the GOP to the impending failure of Romney-Ryan, which they may well blame partly on the ticket’s vote-losing and reality-challenged anti-renewables plank. Maybe the Republican governors can get the Congressional GOP to see sense on this one issue, and make an exception to its “obstruct everything” strategy.

Author: James Wimberley

James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu Mendonça. The cat overlords are now three. I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naïf questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia. James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web

4 thoughts on “More green election geography”

  1. There are demographic and geographical reasons Oklahoma wind power will not have as much effect as suggested by the raw wind production.

    Geographically, optimal wind power is located only in the Third and the Western portion of the Fourth Congressional districts. Popular culture to the contrary, the rest of the state is too wooded and hilly for wind power. Woody Guthrie was not joking about the “Oklahoma hills”.

    Historically the Third was the most Republican portion of OK. Jenna Little Ryan’s family from this region. It is also the area that has been emptying since the Dust Bowl.

    Hispanics have moved into the Third district and the Chickasaw are a growing economic force in the Fourth. These trends will have as much to do with any party affiliation changes. Many do not realize that part of the OK “Sharia Law” farce was in reality an attack on native sovereignty, i.e. the rights under treaties.

    1. Thanks for the insights. You are getting into the trees here of the House races rather than the Presidential (for which Oklahoma isn’t in play). The effect will as you suggest surely be locally differentiated. The point is that the wind is blowing Obama’s way (or the sun shining on him) in political interesting regions. Obama hasn’t been very brave on climate change and renewables; but as this is one issue on which Romney/Ryan have been unambiguous, the contrast is sharp.

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