More green maps

The growth in renewable electricity generation by US state.

The Geothermal Energy Association (newsletter, page 9) has made a nice pair of maps from recent EIA data – sorry about the resolution:

A little while ago I posted some NREL maps of the distribution of renewable energy resources. The new maps bear out I think some of my speculations on the political implications.

Two obvious inferences:

  • State action or inaction makes a considerable difference; in this area at least, federalism is alive and well. Renewable resources vary widely across the entire USA, but not so much between neighbouring states. Nebraska gets as much wind as Iowa, Arizona more sun than California, and don’t use them. Utah and Ohio are also outliers on the down side. (Kentucky’s nil score is more understandable: apart from hydro, not in the map, it only has coal.) On the up outlier side, California and Maine have been overtaken by Iowa and South Dakota, and joined by a swathe of other Western states (Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota, Minnesota).
  • There is now a geographically broad national political base in the US for renewable energy. The map does not correlate well with Red and Blue state governance. The set of supporters is the union, not the intersection, of climate realists, energy-independence nationalists, objectors to local fossil fuel pollution, curmudgeons who don’t want to hand over money to deadbeats from out-of-state, and the rapidly growing body of people whose incomes depend on the industry – installers, maintenance workers, plant owners, and landlords. Of course, fossil fuels have a parallel base; but it’s in some ways thinner, as the ideological rationale is purely negative, as well as low on facts, and the businesses involved are often less local in character. The battle is more even than in Washington.

Clean energy supporters are thus a wider group than climate realists alone, and include many naturally conservative voters. And it’s a lobby with the sort of local roots that naturally bear state-level political fruit. The national GOP’s war on renewables, incited by national fossil fuels lobbyists, is not quite as suicidal as its war on women, but still strikes me as profoundly stupid. This may be why Obama, after a long period of passivity on green energy, and a depressing “all of the above” public stance, seems to have decided to make it an issue in the presidential campaign.

* * * * *

Wonkish footnote: the map overstates the swing to renewables in the national energy mix because it’s not weighted by population, which is concentrated on the coasts. (Population-weighted cartogram here: Saul Steinberg would have loved it). However, the underpopulated centre is over-represented politically through the Senate and the Electoral College, so those big empty Western states regain significance courtesy of Madison’s war on democracy.
And of course, that’s where the energy is. Eventually they will catch up with Paraguay, with a renewable energy ratio of 160% or so: the Paraguayans can’t use their share of the output of the colossal 14 GW (!) Itaipu dam, and sell a third of it to Brazil.

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

One thought on “More green maps”

  1. The national GOP’s war on renewables, incited by national fossil fuels lobbyists, is not quite as suicidal as its war on women, but still strikes me as profoundly stupid.

    So it seems. But being against everything the Dems are for has payed off brilliantly. Even it puts them in a stupid place wearing soiled pants. Technically the Grand Old Plutocrats could compromise this away (ie: give up its stupid war on renewables) and get some tax concessions or another plum from the Obama Administration in return. Analogously: Imagine if the Dem Party was totally opposed to ALL Defense spending except VET benefits and the like. And that the Dems had total lock-step unison in that. And imagine they had their own TV network to broadcast the folly of Defense Spending every day of the year. Theoretically such a stupid position might give them some negotiating power to end a few boondoggles. Like that dumb ass trillion dollar jet plane…

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