Romney Disses Green Jobs, But Republican Governors Love Them

9/11/12Follow @wroush

If you only listened to the speeches of candidates running for federal office, you might think that there’s a stark partisan divide over federal support for cleantech innovation, and that all Republicans see the idea of “green jobs” as a mirage concocted by the Obama Administration.

And you wouldn’t be misreading the campaign statements: Mitt Romney’s own website bluntly asserts that “’green’ technologies are typically far too expensive to compete in the marketplace.” It goes on to claim that “for every ‘green job’ created there are actually more jobs destroyed.”

But the rhetoric doesn’t match the the reality in many states, at least according to a report released this week by DBL Investors, a cleantech-focused venture fund in San Francisco. While Republican candidates continue to use Solyndra’s implosion as a bludgeon against President Obama—arguing that it’s wrong to steer federal energy investments toward “politically favored approaches,” to use the Romney campaign’s term—many GOP governors and mayors are working as hard as they can to bring green jobs and federal energy dollars to their regions, the report finds.

“It turns out that some of the leading Republican governors are very pro-cleantech,” says Nancy Pfund, managing partner at DBL Investors and co-author of the report. “The governors didn’t get the memo that said cleantech is really controversial.”

One part of the puzzle may be that cleantech provides thousands of real jobs in many Republican-dominated states. Pfund and Michael Lazar, a Yale MBA candidate who was a summer associate at DBL this year, compared state-by-state data on green jobs from the Brookings Institution with voting data from the Federal Election Commission. They found that of the 10 states with the fastest growth in green jobs, eight are either red states or swing states.

Map of the top 17 U.S. states in green job growth

The top 17 states in green job growth. Red = Republican, blue = Democratic, yellow = swing state.

Alaska led the way in adding cleantech jobs, showing a 98 percent increase between 2003 and 2010. (Green jobs in the 49th state increased from 8,439 in 2003 to 16,682 in 2010. The Brookings study defined green jobs as those that produce goods or services with an environmental benefit; the category includes jobs in industries such as organic farming, energy efficiency, waste management, pollution reduction, and renewable energy, but does not include jobs in areas such as shale-gas extraction or “clean coal.”) Also among the top 10 green-jobs performers were North Dakota, Wyoming, and Nebraska, which all went Republican in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections, as well as swing states like Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and North Carolina.

Republican-leaning states, especially small ones, are some of the most dependent on green jobs, the report notes. In Alaska, green jobs make up 5.1 percent of all jobs; in Montana, 3.3 percent, Tennessee, 2.9 percent. Among the 10 states where green jobs make up the largest percentage of total jobs, six are both red and small (at least population-wise): Alaska, Montana, Tennessee, Idaho, Arkansas, and South Carolina. Interestingly, the report points out that the coal industry employs 136,000 people nationally. Three states employ more people than that in the cleantech sector alone (California has 318,000, New York has 185,000, and Texas has 144,000).

Pfund says the partners at DBL Investors were inspired to take a closer look at state-level support for cleantech after Mississippi governor Haley Barbour arranged an attractive loan package for one of DBL’s portfolio companies, Milpitas, CA-based Soladigm. The offer persuaded the maker of energy-efficient windows to … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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  • B Wilcox

    You do a real service in reporting inconsistencies in public discourse. Politicians survive by making themselves visible, and journalism serves a vital function in democracy when you disseminate context alongside their trumpeted pronouncements.

  • warcaster

    Yikes. So much for the “free market” principle of the Republicans. To Romney it’s all about who donated money to him in the campaign.

  • djatl

    You should disclose what classifies a job as a “green” job. I’d heard that the term is being misused.