Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Two Sides of Michigan's GOP Gov: One Green and One Not

Republican governors like Michigan's Rick Snyder try to walk the tightrope of acceptance and denial. Snyder both supports and resists green initiatives. Climate denial is a defining feature of the GOP and de rigueur for any Republican seeking the presidential nomination. Although he cannot afford to be identified with efforts to combat climate change, Snyder cannot afford to ignore the jobs and economic development that the green economy provides.

The media commonly lambastes Republicans for their climate change ignorance. The National Journal wrote, “The GOP is stampeding toward an absolutist rejection of climate science that appears unmatched among major political parties around the globe, even conservative ones”.

Even denialists like Fred Hiatt, the Washington Post‘s Editorial Page Editor are now publishing op-ed pieces accusing the GOP of being "lost in never-never land,” on climate change.

To appeal to his base and provide jobs, Snyder both rejects and embraces green initiatives. Although he has been known to describe himself as a "good green Republican," he came down against green tax subsidies.

Snyder continued some of the clean energy policies enacted under forward thinking governor Jennifer Granholm and he supports the state's renewable portfolio standard (RPS), which requires utilities to source 10 percent of their power from cleaner sources by 2015. Snyder has also offered low-interest loans to green manufacturers. However, Snyder does not offer any new tax breaks for clean energy, and he has indicated that he will not extend Granholm's subsidies when they expire.

Snyder may not like it but as governor he knows he is expected to create jobs and Granholm's policies have lured companies with state tax breaks for green manufacturers and cleantech research grants. according to a 2011 study by the Environmental Law & Policy, Michigan now employs more than 10,000 people in the wind and solar industries.

To appeal to his base, Snyder changed the state tax code to ensure that all business sectors in Michigan are eligible for tax breaks, not just clean energy companies. This is a position that is more appealing to conservative Republicans who say governments shouldn't use taxpayer money to favor green energy.

Regardless of whether you are a feckless Republican or a savvy Democrat, it is hard to resist the jobs provided by the green economy.

© 2012, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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