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Clean energy investment, economic development go hand-in-hand

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For years, there has been a running narrative that conservatives are not committed to addressing our real and pressing climate challenges. 

That is, in part, because the conversation has been dominated by those on the far left who advocate for extreme environmental policies that fail to account for the harsh economic consequences that would inevitably result.

What we have heard less frequently are the conversations about environmental solutions that both drive clean energy innovation and support economic development.

But those conversations are happening every day here in Arizona, and those solutions are supported by a wide swath of Arizona voters, including conservatives.

Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, a conservative organization advancing clean energy policies, and The Western Way, a free-market conservation organization, recently released the results of a poll showing that a majority of Republican voters in Arizona believe climate change is a serious problem and strongly favor investment in the renewable energy sector.

Doran Arik Miller

Doran Arik Miller

Fully two-thirds of conservative voters in Arizona support accelerating the growth of clean energy in the United States, helping us become a world leader in green economic development. This growth has already begun in Arizona, where individuals and businesses large and small are demanding clean energy sources, our largest utility companies are making robust strides in clean energy production, and innovative companies developing clean energy solutions, like Nikola Corporation and Lucid Motors, are locating their headquarters here.

What’s more, support for clean energy spans age demographics, with both older and younger conservative voters in agreement about the importance of implementing clean energy policies. For example, older and younger conservative voters are in strong agreement about the importance of domestic energy production, energy independence, and cleaner sources of energy production: 100% of voters aged 18 to 29; 82% of voters aged 30 to 44; and 77% of voters aged 45 and above believe support for clean energy production is important when deciding on a candidate. Similarly, more than 70% of voters aged 18 to 44 support proposals to make the country’s economy carbon neutral by 2050; 60% of voters aged 45 to 54 agree.

And, Arizonans understand how to get us there. Unsurprisingly, Arizona voters strongly favor government incentives over government mandates — more than 70% of conservative voters in Arizona support incentives to drive clean energy production and adoption, as well as tax reform and streamlined permitting processes to encourage businesses and organizations to begin a shift to more sustainable energy options. These could include financial incentives to reduce the cost of energy efficiency improvements, and tax credits and matching rates for construction, which, in conjunction with permitting reforms, can significantly enhance the feasibility and appeal of developing clean energy projects.

Arizonans also understand the connection between investment in renewable energy infrastructure and economic development, and that increasing the number of rural renewable energy facilities in rural regions will help our local rural economies.

As COVID-19 continues to wreak economic havoc across the country, elected officials and policymakers are understandably focused on managing the present crisis. But they also recognize that we need to look to the future, and clean energy investment should be part of our effort to rebuild our post-COVID economy. As polling shows, Arizona voters agree:  When The Western Way surveyed conservative Arizona voters, respondents made it clear that they want to see elected leaders support policies that encourage energy efficiency and renewable energy in Arizona, and support research and development for new innovation in energy production, including things like nuclear, renewables, and battery storage.

When we talk about clean and renewable energy, it is important to recognize that clean energy investment and economic development are not mutually exclusive — in fact, to the contrary, the two go hand-in-hand. Conservative voters in Arizona place a high value on policies that benefit the economy and create jobs, but they also believe in the importance of protecting our natural environment and quality of life. That is why they overwhelmingly support accelerating the growth of the clean energy sector. Western states’ policymakers have long understood this balance, and these latest polls make clear that conservative Arizonans are looking for elected leaders to deliver commonsense solutions to address our pressing environmental challenges.

Doran Arik Miller is state director for The Western Way.

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