Republicans in Congress unanimously opposed Democrats’ $750 billion climate and health law, deriding it as a payout to “elite” and “liberal” states. But the states those Republicans represent will soon see a financial windfall in the form of billions of dollars to decarbonize the country, experts told CNN.
Republican rhetoric decried the law as one that would kill energy jobs, but clean energy jobs are booming in red states. Texas, Oklahoma, Indiana and Ohio are some of the states that saw the biggest growth in clean energy jobs last year, as companies there invested in building electric vehicles and cheap zero-emissions energy like wind, solar and batteries to store it.
More than $370 billion of the law will go to tax credits for clean electricity, vehicles and energy efficient appliances. And that money will trickle down to Democrat- and Republican-controlled states alike, said Bob Keefe, executive director of nonpartisan clean energy group E2.
“It’s going to be harder for red states to say clean energy jobs are bogus and that it’s something for California when it’s something that’s happening in their backyards,” Keefe told CNN.
The law goes far beyond financing for solar and wind energy. There’s also money for hydrogen fuel and funds to incentivize power plants to capture their planet-warming emissions before they hit the air. It also contains billions of dollars to fund a new program that will crack down on the fossil fuel industry’s methane emissions – a powerful greenhouse gas that scientists say must be controlled.
Experts told CNN all of this translates to a windfall for traditional energy states, even those with state and federal officials who opposed the bill.
“At the end of the day, a climate bill has to be an energy bill, and Texas is an energy state,” said Joshua Rhodes, an energy researcher at the University of Texas Austin. “I think it has the potential to super-charge an industry that’s already running hot in the state.”
‘A gift … to rich, liberal elites’
As lawmakers were debating the climate and clean energy bill, Republicans from states including Texas and Oklahoma described the legislation as an expensive boondoggle that would raise prices and kill jobs.
The bill “could put more than 100,000 American jobs at risk and inflict a severely disproportionate economic impact on natural gas producing states, like Oklahoma,” Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma said in a statement explaining his “no” vote.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz called the bill “a gift to radical environmentalists and to rich, liberal elites,” while fellow Texas senator John Cornyn said it would “drive energy costs through the roof.”
CNN reached out to the offices of all four senators in Texas and Oklahoma and asked if they thought the people and businesses in their states should not take advantage of the funds. Only Cornyn’s spokesperson responded, referring CNN back to his floor speech opposing the bill.
Despite the rhetoric of Republican leaders in Texas and Oklahoma, the states are already have booming clean energy industries that are poised to get much more funding and investment from the climate law.
Oklahoma, the state with the third-most installed wind capacity in the country, recently installed a massive wind farm that will generate close to 1 gigawatt of energy alone – powering hundreds of thousands of homes. Wind is generating close to 40% of the electricity in the state, and nearly 60% of the electricity in Iowa.
Earlier this year, CNN spoke with Oklahoma farmers who chose to lease their land out for wind turbines, and many said they appreciated the extra source of income.
Texas has the second-largest number of clean energy jobs in the nation behind California, and its clean energy sector is growing faster than California’s, according to analysis from E2.
“The [Republican] political sentiment is this is bad, but actually a lot of money is going to flow to Texas,” Michael Webber, a professor and energy resources expert at the University of Texas, Austin. “The biggest most obvious one that people will notice is the growth of wind and solar.”
Texas has far and away installed the most wind energy capacity of any state; 36.8 gigawatts, followed by Iowa and Oklahoma. Nonpartisan clean energy nonprofit RMI showed that Texas’ wind capacity is more than many major countries – save for China, the US, Germany and India. Even before the climate law was passed, Texas had over 20 new wind projects in the pipeline to be installed from 2022 through 2024.
Texas is also second behind California in US states that produce the most solar energy. That renewable energy has helped keep the power on and energy prices low during heat waves earlier this year, Rhodes said.
Beyond wind turbines and solar farms, Texas’ massive oil and gas sector will likely be impacted by parts of the climate bill including a program to clamp down on excessive methane emissions. Republicans have opposed the fee oil and gas producers will have to pay on excessive emissions, but the program was also designed with more than $1 billion in incentives, grants and loans for companies and communities to tighten up leaks and offset the cost of the fees.
It will ultimately be up to state officials to decide whether to accept federal money for the methane program. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s office did not respond to a request for comment on whether they’re planning to accept or reject the funding.
The methane fee is “game changing,” said Dave Allen, an engineering professor and natural gas expert at UT Austin. And it will also push companies to make sure they are not wasting product they can sell.
“You’ve just made that economic inventive enormously greater,” Allen told CNN.
America’s new EV belt
States all over the country will see benefits from new investment in Democrats’ climate bill, experts said. East Coast states are investing aggressively in offshore wind, while others in the Midwest and Southeast are seeing a boom in electric vehicle manufacturing.
“When you look at what was the hottest growth area for clean energy jobs last year, it was hands down EVs,” Keefe told CNN.
While some of that growth is happening in traditional automaker states like Michigan and Ohio, there’s massive EV investment from companies happening in Republican-controlled states like Georgia, Tennessee and Texas.
CNN reported Monday that Honda and Korean battery giant LG Energy Solution will together build a $4.4 billion US factory to build batteries to power its electric vehicles, though it hasn’t yet announced the factory’s location. Ford is building a massive plant in Tennessee and another one in Kentucky to build EVs and batteries, Mercedes Benz is manufacturing EV batteries in Alabama, and Hyundai is building a Georgia battery plant as well.
All these announcements paint a picture: “The Southeast by far is becoming the EV hub of America,” Keefe said. “Certainly, we’re going to see growth in the auto industry generally as every automaker shifts to electric vehicles.”