Green Jobs Growing Fastest in Red States

The debate over green job growth in Washington is highly partisan, but red states that are home to decisively Republican or swing voters are growing those jobs the fastest, says a new report.

Although the most populous states like California, New York and Texas have the most green jobs, 8 of the 10 states with the fastest green jobs growth are red or swing states, according to DBL Investors analysis, Red, White and Green: The True Colors of America’s Clean Tech Jobs.

From 2003-2010, green jobs grew fastest in: Alaska (98% growth), Colorado (47%), Nebraska (49%), Nevada (48%), New Mexico (50%), North Carolina (49%), North Dakota (58%) and Wyoming (53%).

Only two blue states are in the "fastest growing" group: Hawaii (56% growth) and New York (48%).

Smaller red states also lead on green jobs as a percentage of total employment: Alaska (5.1% of all jobs), Montana (3.3%), Tennessee (2.9%), Idaho (2.9%), Arkansas (2.8%) and South Carolina (2.8%).

The four blue states or districts with the most green jobs as a percentage of overall employment are Oregon (3.7%), Vermont (3.2%), Washington, D.C. (3.2%) and Washington State (3.0%).

The report defines green jobs as those that are tied to clean technologies or a low-carbon economy –  a sector of the economy that produces goods and services with an environmental benefit.

As of 2010, there were approximately 2.7 million US cleantech jobs, representing about 2.1% of the 130 million overall nonfarm payroll. That was up 27% from about 2.1 million reported in 2003.

Given the data, it isn’t surprising that some Republican governors have broken ranks with the party’s general hostility toward green jobs to launch supportive programs, including Haley Barbour (Mississippi), Sam Brownback (Kansas), Chris Christie (New Jersey), Bobby Jindal (Louisiana) and Rick Perry (Texas).

"Outside of Washington, DC, there is no controversy about the impact of the clean tech economy and its ability to generate jobs," writes the report’s author, Nancy Pfund. "Governors in red and blue states alike are working to attract and build clean tech businesses because they know the positive benefits these companies can bring for economic development and job growth. As a result, politicians who play political football with clean tech increasingly do so at their own risk, while those that promote green job growth score big points with voters and workers alike."

On Friday, House Republicans will vote on legislation (H.R. 3409) that would counter the Obama Administration’s supposed "War on Coal." Although it won’t pass the Democratically-controlled Senate, it’s part of their election year messaging, along with Solyndra. Obama has promised to veto the bill if it does get to his desk.

The bill would "protect coal jobs" by eliminating the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, block the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard; prevent it regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste; and limit its Clean Water Act authority, among other provisions. 

The facts are: the US coal industry employs 136,000 people; the number of cleantech workers in just three states far outweighs that number. And it wouldn’t help the US debt: it would reduce federal spending by about $245 million over five years, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

"This rarely acknowledged statistic suggests that we broaden the national discussion of the economic effects of environment policies," writes Pfund. "That discussion often emphasizes their impact on the coal industry, with the much-larger cleantech portion of the energy economy receiving proportionally less attention."

Where will this debate matter the most in the November election? Here are the top 10 states, ranked by total green jobs as of 2010:

  1. California (318,156)
  2. New York (185,038)
  3. Texas (144,081)
  4. Pennsylvania (118,686)
  5. Illinois (106,375)
  6. Ohio (105,306)
  7. Florida (102,967)
  8. New Jersey (94,241)
  9. Georgia (83,707)
  10. Washington (83,676)

The report concludes with three recommendations for policies that would help with future development of green jobs:

  1. Keep the solar income tax credit that provides a 30% tax credit for commercial and residential properties, which has helped the solar sector grow 76% since 2006; under current policies, the credit drops to 10% at the end of 2016.
  2. Rewrite tax legislation to be more favorable to financing mechanisms for clean energy projects such as and power purchase agreements or leasing, which are being used to back a growing number of projects; allowing solar real estate investment trusts
  3. Extend the wind production tax credit, where more than 37,000 jobs in wind turbine manufacturing and production are at stake.

Download the DBL Investors report:

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