These Red States Don’t Want Climate Targets—But They Do Want Green Jobs – Route Fifty

September 13, 2022 by No Comments

This story was originally published by Grist. You can subscribe to its weekly newsletter here.

This coverage is made possible through a partnership with Grist and WABE, Atlanta’s NPR station.

On a sweltering Friday this summer, a who’s who of Georgia political and business figures gathered under a large tent on a dusty expanse of vacant land outside of Savannah, sipping champagne. They were waiting for the governor to confirm the week’s exciting rumor: Hyundai was going to build electric vehicles here.

“It is my great honor to officially announce that Hyundai Motor Group will build their first dedicated electric vehicle manufacturing plant right here in this good soil in Bryan County,” Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, announced to whoops and cheers.

He went on to boast that 20 EV-related projects had come to Georgia since 2020, promising thousands of jobs and billions in investment. The state has actively pursued these companies, offering billions in tax breaks and other incentives to lure Hyundai, electric truck and SUV maker Rivian, EV battery maker SK Innovation, and others to Georgia. Kemp called the state “the unrivaled leader in the nation’s emerging electric mobility industry.”

And it’s not just EVs. Solar panels have been made in Georgia since Suniva was founded out of Georgia Tech in 2008, and the industry has expanded in the last few years. The solar manufacturer Qcells opened a plant in 2019 and announced an expansion this year, and last year NanoPV announced another plant in the state.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp speaks at a campaign event in May. Joe Raedle/Grist/Getty Images

This green manufacturing boom comes even as Georgia lags on climate policies that could spur the adoption of EVs, solar panels, and other green technologies. The state has no emissions reduction goals and charges EV owners an annual fee of more than $200. The state Public Service Commission, which regulates Georgia’s largest utility and therefore most of the state’s electricity generation, has mandated more large-scale solar in the last decade but sets no overarching emissions goal for power generation. The commission recently approved more gas-fired power and put off decisions on closing coal units and expanding rooftop solar.

Georgia isn’t alone in this disconnect. A December 2021 report by the Centers for Strategic and International Studies, or CSIS, found that many states without what it called “climate ambition,” like Texas, Louisiana, Wyoming, and South Dakota, are still pursuing the economic opportunities of clean energy. In Georgia, officials see a chance to attract new businesses that promise jobs and investment, while companies feel the lure of massive tax breaks and convenient ports to move their goods. It’s a deal that makes economic sense, regardless of climate policy.

“Just because a state does not have targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions itself does not mean it has no aspirations to sell its products to others that do,” the report found.

‘Jobs of the future’

For economic development officials in Georgia, pursuing clean energy and tech facilities is a simple matter of reading the writing on the wall. It’s where manufacturers are investing their money.

“We’re trying to make sure that every small town in Georgia has an opportunity to thrive and really reach the jobs of the future,” said Pat Wilson, commissioner of the state’s Department of Economic Development. “It’s imperative on us … that we go after the jobs …….



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *