Governor Snyder didn’t make any specific policy proposals in his speech, but it was widely recognized by renewable energy and environmental groups as a promising sign for Michigan’s clean energy future. Snyder proclaimed he is “very excited” to decrease the amount of electricity Michigan draws from coal, calling it “not a preferred fuel for a variety of reasons.” Snyder also pointed to on-shore wind energy, already a fixture in the state, as a potential source of more renewable energy.
The speech made waves, in large part because Snyder is a Republican. But this is only one example of a much larger trend. Conservatives are supporting renewable energy in droves – and for good reason!
In fact, only two days before Snyder’s speech, a group of Michigan conservatives launched the Michigan Conservative Energy Forum, an organization dedicated to more renewable energy sources in Michigan. Right on cue, Mark Huizenga, who sits on the Leadership Council of the aforementioned Forum and serves as the Republican Mayor of Walker, MI, published an op-ed yesterday that makes the case for why “Conservatives Must Lead on Renewable Energy.” In his piece, Huizenga – a self-described free-market conservative – cites local green job growth, low costs, and market competitiveness as three reasons why pro-business conservatives should be supporting renewables.
Of course, it’s not only conservatives in Michigan that are lining up behind renewable energy. Much has been made of Barry Goldwater Jr.’s organization “Tell Utilities Solar Won’t Be Killed.” Goldwater, the son of the 1964 Republican Presidential candidate and a former Republican Congressman in his own right, was instrumental in protecting Arizona’s pro-solar net-metering policies. Explaining his support for solar, Goldwater said “Republicans want the freedom to make the best choice and the competition to drive down rates.”
Another influential pro-renewables conservative group is Georgia’s Green Tea Coalition. Formed by the founder of the Atlanta Tea Party, the organization makes the free-market argument for renewables. This year, the group successfully pushed Georgia Power to purchase electricity from solar panels owned by third parties and is currently working to eliminate Georgia’s strict restriction on third-party financing of photovoltaic solar installations - a mechanism that has proven incredibly popular in the many states that allow it.
Renewable energy is clearly not an issue that fits neatly into the red vs. blue divide that currently consumes American politics. Governor Snyder’s support for renewables, rather than an outlier, is instead just one more example in a long trend of pro-business conservatives supporting renewable, affordable energy sources.
For more information on the subject, check out Energy Fact Check’s most recent fact check dispelling the myth that “only liberals support renewable energy.”
Kyle McGuiness is a Communications Associate at ACORE