Over the last few years, it has become clear that our goals of reducing emissions and expanding the economy are not mutually exclusive — and they reinforce each other. Nationwide, figures from the past decade suggest the decoupling of energy use and GDP growth, and in the Hoosier State, a recent report from Indiana Advanced Energy Economy affirms that the number of clean energy jobs has increased at a rate four times higher than the state’s overall jobs growth last year.
Voters are getting behind the trend, including increasing numbers of politically conservative individuals. Recent polling by the Indiana Conservative Alliance for Energy found that a solid majority (57%) of Indiana Republicans favor political candidates who will increase the use of renewable energy, including wind (57%) and solar (71%). Among younger Republicans across the country, this trend is even more apparent: a poll released this summer by Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions Forum and the American Conservation Coalition revealed that over three in four (78%) millennial Republicans support the government taking action to accelerate the development of clean energy.
Our elected officials are listening. In particular, Indiana’s own Sen. Mike Braun, a Republican, has embraced responsible approaches to protecting the environment while supporting the economy and jobs. Indiana voters sent him to Washington not to perpetuate problems, but to solve them, and he has delivered most recently by co-founding the bipartisan U.S. Senate Climate Solutions Caucus.
Braun should be applauded for his leadership. With the creation of this caucus, he plans to spread practical, economically-sound clean energy initiatives that align with conservative principles and will be able to gain bipartisan support.
“In its current state, our national conversation on this issue is too polarized, toxic, and unproductive. In this environment, American leadership is sidelined, instead replaced by partisan bickering. To us, this is unacceptable,” Braun wrote recently in an op-ed he co-authored with Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware.
Braun knows that free-market solutions to clean energy development have worked well in Indiana and can work for the country as well. Last year, renewable energy accounted for over 6% of Indiana's net electricity generation, and the state is the now the fifth-largest producer of ethanol nationwide at roughly 1.2 billion gallons per year. This progress has taken place thanks to policies enacted under Republican-led state legislatures and Republican governors.
GOP leadership in clean energy is taking place in other states as well. For example, Republican Gov. Brad Little of Idaho acknowledged a changing climate impacts his state’s municipalities, agriculture, food processing, economic development and recreation. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert also signed a series of bills designed to promote clean energy development in his state and announced a large energy storage project.
Other Senate Republicans are also leading on clean energy innovation. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), and Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) introduced the bipartisan Better Energy Storage (BEST) Act; Sen. Lamar Alexander unveiled his New Manhattan Project for Clean Energy; and Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) introduced the bipartisan Launching Energy Advancement and Development through Innovations for Natural Gas (LEADING) Act, which would incentivize research and development of carbon capture technology. The Senate Climate Solutions Caucus will certainly help further similar initiatives in the future.
American innovation clean energy is common sense: reducing emissions gives us cleaner air and water. Conservatives also recognize that it is about growing the economy, creating jobs, and strengthening national security.
Braun has often said he was a conservationist long before he was a conservative. The Senate Climate Solutions Caucus will continue to put both philosophies into action by working together with Democrats to bring clean energy solutions to the American people. Indiana, with its leading agricultural and manufacturing sectors, stands to gain as much as any state, so conservatives here will certainly look forward to the exciting clean energy future ahead.