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September 13, 2012 9:57 AM More Green Election Geography

By James Wimberley

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.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

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James Wimberley was head of the mutual assistance section of the department of education for the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, and secretary to the Councilís higher education and research committee. He is retired.