E&E News: New best friends-GOP governors and renewables

While President Trump sings coal’s praises, efforts to green America’s economy are receiving a boost from an unexpected quarter: Republican-held governors’ mansions.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval is fresh off a legislative session in which he signed nine bills aimed at supporting the clean energy sector. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott recently signed a tax exemption that solar installers say is essential to jump-starting the residential and commercial market in the Sunshine State. And in Iowa, where wind now accounts for 36 percent of the state’s electricity generation, newly installed Gov. Kim Reynolds recently finished an energy plan that calls for growing the wind, biofuels and solar industries.

“For years, our fields have fed the world. Now, they energize it. They produce products that fuel cars, and they host wind turbines that power our communities and businesses,” Reynolds said in her inaugural address last month. “And yet those fields are filled with untapped potential. Our energy plan will help us continue to lead the way in wind energy and renewable fuels. Working together, we can have the most innovative energy policy in the country.”

The growing embrace of renewables by Republican governors stands in stark contrast to the president.

. . . .

There is less need to spar with Republicans over the existence of climate change when GOP leaders are willing to endorse technologies that will reduce carbon emissions, they said.

That dynamic was on display in Illinois last year, when Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) signed a massive energy bill. The Environmental Defense Fund expects the law to slash the state’s carbon emissions 50 percent by 2030, by encouraging a combination of renewable development and energy efficiency.

Rauner was a latecomer to the legislative discussions surrounding the bill, and then he was primarily motivated by keeping two Exelon Corp. nuclear plants open. Environmentalists nevertheless achieved much of what they hoped for.

Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago, added, “If we all agree clean energy development is good for economic development and the environment, we don’t all have to agree on climate.”

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