Step Aside California, the South Could Become America’s Green Hub – InsideClimate News
Wind turbines are viewed at a wind farm on January 21, 2016 in Colorado City, Texas. Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Republicans have hardly been vocal supporters of renewable energy or electric vehicles. Yet the U.S. South, a region where the politics lean red, is now primed to greatly benefit from the broader effort to turn America’s economy green.
While Texas Sen. Ted Cruz called it “a gift to radical environmentalists,” and Tennessee Rep. Chuck Fleischmann said it was “a continuation of Democrats’ radical policies” that have “decimated our economy,” both of their states will likely receive billions in climate-related spending from the Inflation Reduction Act. The Democrats’ $739 billion spending package and signature climate legislation, which President Joe Biden signed into law last month, dedicates roughly $370 billion to fighting climate change, largely through federal tax incentives for electric vehicles, clean electricity and building efficiency.
Yet despite not a single GOP lawmaker voting for the legislation, some analysts now think the South could soon become America’s new green hub, boosted by a fresh injection of federal dollars aimed at expanding the domestic manufacturing of batteries, solar panels and a host of other key components for the clean energy transition.
Several states in the region already lead the nation when it comes to renewable energy development and electric vehicle production. Last year, Texas came in first for new solar and wind energy installations, surpassing even California, with Oklahoma coming in third. Wind energy alone made up a whopping 41 percent of Oklahoma’s total electricity generation in 2021, according to the Department of Energy.
Southeast states in particular have seen a boom in clean energy industry activity. North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia and Alabama, are all producing—or will soon be producing—large quantities of electric vehicle parts, including the batteries that power them. Some experts believe that industry, which has already gained a solid footing in the region, will only grow further as federal dollars begin flowing to states and consumers.
“The Southeast by far is becoming the EV hub of America,” Bob Keefe, executive director of the nonpartisan clean energy advocacy group E2, told CNN this week. “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.”
Besides requiring that electric vehicles be made with parts manufactured in the U.S. to qualify for EV tax credits, the spending bill also provides billions in tax incentives to boost clean energy production in the U.S. That includes $10 billion in tax credits for new solar manufacturing facilities and $30 billion for expanding production of clean energy parts, as well as the processing of minerals needed for long-life batteries.
Those incentives appear to be working. Several companies, including major automaker Honda and global battery manufacturer LG, have announced plans in recent weeks to expand their operations in the U.S., with a focus on Southeast states.
In mid-August, shortly after the House passed the spending bill and sent it to Biden’s desk, Korea-based solar panel manufacturer Qcells said the legislation could allow it to expand its U.S. operations even further than its current commitments. In May, the company announced it was spending $171 million to grow its facilities in Georgia, a move expected to bring the Republican-led state nearly 500 new jobs.
First Solar, another major solar panel manufacturer, took an even stronger position. The …….