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Tracking Down The Phenomenon: Why So Many Republican States In The U.S. Rely On Wind Energy

Donald Trump has long been one of the most prominent doubters on climate change. In the course of his tenure, he has repeatedly attracted attention with dubious decisions in this regard, including the US renunciation of the Paris Climate Treaty. Even with completely new tones from him in recent weeks, his Republican party continues to focus on conservative values. But looking at the spread of renewable energy in the US, it is striking that some of the leading states are Republican. How can this fit?

Image: AWEAImage: AWEA

Wyoming in the northwest of the U.S. is considered to be one of the most conservative federal states. Since 1964, there hasn't been a democratic presidential candidate. Mining is traditionally one of the leading industry sectors. Nevertheless, the country is high on the list with the greatest growth in wind energy in recent years, as a 2017 study found. In fact, Wyoming is a leader in per capita renewable energy development.

Texas, once the symbol of oil production par excellence, offers a similar picture. However, since the then Republican Governor Rick Perry promoted the expansion of wind energy in 2000, the country has undergone an unprecedented transformation. Today, Texas is not only the leading state in the U.S. in terms of wind expansion, while Rick Perry sits in Donald Trump's cabinet as Energy Minister. Even internationally, Texas can compete with various industrial nations with an installed capacity of over 23,000 megawatts. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the second and third largest states are Oklahoma and Iowa, also traditionally Republican states.

Texas has changed from oil to wind state (Image: Pixabay)

Europeans usually think of democratically shaped federal states like New York when it comes to renewable energy. Hardly anyone has an initial eye on the republican states.

A new study by Sarah Mills, project manager at the University of Michigan, tries to trace this phenomenon. She comes to the conclusion,  published in 'The Conversation', that conservative states promote renewable energies not primarily for reasons of human love or environmental protection. Rather she states that it is primarily economic reasons that make renewable energy popular with the Republicans.

Many communities in these mostly rural states see renewable energy as an economic opportunity. Landowners earn money by leasing their land for wind turbines or solar modules, especially as this is a relatively crisis-proof investment. Suddenly, drought or pests no longer play a role in securing the family's income. In addition, energy project developers often pay property taxes, which are used to finance government services such as public schools, making them welcome neighbors even among local politicians.

Traditional method of energy generation in the Midwest (Image: Pixabay)

National policies of the individual states with regard to climate protection, on the other hand, do not seem to play a major role for the Republicans, as various surveys show. Clearly, conservatives may like wind and solar energy, but they don't like the state to order them to use it. As soon as there are tax breaks to build energy projects though, conservatives will join in.

But for whatever reason, it's good for the environment.

Katrin Radtke
USA, climate change, wind energy, solar, conservative, Donald Trump, Republican, Democratic, federal state

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