What Do Republicans Think About Renewable Energy?

What do Republicans think about renewable energy?

Republican views on renewable energy are complex and evolving. While historically, the Republican party has supported fossil fuels and been skeptical of climate change, there are signs that some conservatives are warming up to renewable energy. Factors like cost reductions, national security benefits, rural economic opportunities, and changing voter preferences have led to increased support for renewables, especially at the state level. However, skepticism remains among some Republicans at the national level. This article will explore the nuances of Republican perspectives on renewable energy.

Historical Republican Support for Fossil Fuels

Republicans have traditionally supported the oil, gas, and coal industries. The fossil fuel industry has been a major donor to Republican candidates and causes. According to Opensecrets, the oil and gas industry donated over $140 million to political candidates and groups in 2020, with 88% of those donations going to Republicans. This support has been largely ideological, as the Republican party has advocated for free market policies and criticized government efforts to regulate or restrict fossil fuel production and consumption. Many Republican politicians have also come from oil-producing states like Texas, Oklahoma, Alaska, and Louisiana, leading to close ties between elected officials and the fossil fuel industry.

This alliance with the fossil fuel industry has led many Republican lawmakers to support subsidies and tax breaks for oil, gas, and coal companies. It has also made Republicans vocal opponents of climate change legislation that would curb carbon emissions or incentivize renewable energy over fossil fuels. For example, Republicans overwhelmingly voted against carbon pricing bills like the 2009 cap-and-trade bill and criticized the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan to reduce power plant emissions. With their political futures often tied to fossil fuel companies, defending oil, gas and coal has become integral to the Republican party’s identity.

Skepticism of Climate Change

Many Republicans have expressed doubts about human-caused climate change. According to Pew Research (https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2021/07/23/on-climate-change-republicans-are-open-to-some-policy-approaches-even-as-they-assign-the-issue-low-priority/), only 18% of conservative Republicans say human activity contributes a great deal to climate change. Additionally, Yale research (https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/republicans-worried-about-global-warming/) shows that over half of Republicans are “dismissive” about global warming being caused by humans.

This skepticism stems from beliefs that climate change is part of natural fluctuations or scientific uncertainty. Many Republicans also view climate regulations as harmful to the economy. However, views are complex, as some Republicans recognize climate change while doubting human causation or policy solutions.

Concerns About Costs

Many Republicans have expressed worries that transitioning to renewable energy sources like wind and solar would be too expensive and drive up energy costs for consumers and businesses. There is a perception that fossil fuels like coal and natural gas are the cheapest options for generating electricity.

For example, a report from the politically conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation argued that excessive subsidies for renewable energy were leading to higher electricity prices in states like California [1]. Some Republican lawmakers have pointed to Germany and Denmark as cautionary examples of countries where residential electricity prices rose after investing heavily in renewable energy [2].

However, declining costs for wind and solar technology are changing the economics. In Texas, renewables lowered electricity costs by $11 billion in 2021 according to one estimate [2]. As costs continue to fall, renewable energy is becoming cheaper than coal and gas in many parts of the country.

State Level Support

Despite skepticism at the national level, many Republican governors and state legislatures have embraced renewable energy. This is especially true in states with abundant wind and solar resources like Texas, Iowa, and South Dakota.

For example, Iowa gets over 40% of its electricity from wind power, more than any other state. The expansion of wind farms in Iowa has largely been supported by Republican leaders like Senator Chuck Grassley and former Governor Terry Branstad [1].

The conservative state of South Dakota generates over 30% of its electricity from wind. Former Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard was a major backer of policies to grow the wind industry in the state [2].

In Texas, despite its oil history, wind generation capacity has skyrocketed under Republican leadership. Nearly 25% of the state’s electricity came from wind in 2020. Many Republican officials view wind energy as an economic opportunity and way to achieve energy independence [3].

The Rise of ‘Green Conservatism’

Conservative interest in environmental issues has been growing in recent decades, giving rise to a movement known as “green conservatism.” This seeks to apply conservative principles of fiscal responsibility, national security, and free enterprise to environmental challenges like climate change and pollution (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_conservatism ).

Many green conservatives believe protecting the environment should be a core principle for conservatives, not just progressives. They see environmental stewardship as a conservative value, allowing people to conserve and preserve our common natural resources and heritage for future generations.

Groups like the Conservative Energy Network and republicEn advocate market-based solutions to environmental issues that align with conservative economic principles. They make the case that clean energy development, especially renewables like wind and solar, enhances national security by reducing dependence on foreign oil and gas. It also creates jobs, economic growth, and new opportunities in rural areas.

Prominent Republican politicians have increasingly embraced environmental causes in recent years. For example, Senators Lindsey Graham and Lamar Alexander have supported bipartisan climate legislation and emissions reductions. This reflects shifting attitudes, especially among younger conservatives, who overwhelmingly recognize climate change as a threat and support renewable energy development.

National Security Benefits

Renewable energy like solar and wind can provide critical benefits for America’s national security by increasing energy independence and resilience. As the House Republican Appropriations Committee notes, investing in domestic energy production including nuclear, solar, and wind strengthens national security by reducing reliance on foreign energy sources (House Republicans are Strengthening America’s Energy and National Security). Energy independence makes the country less vulnerable to global supply disruptions and price shocks.

In addition, distributed renewable energy generation can make the electric grid more resilient against physical and cyber attacks. Rather than relying on a few large centralized power plants, distributed solar and wind generation spreads energy production across countless small sites. This makes it much harder to disrupt a significant portion of generation capacity. Grid resilience is critical for national security, as the energy infrastructure powers vital systems for national defense, emergency response, and more.

Rural Economic Opportunities

Renewable energy development, especially wind and solar, can provide significant economic benefits for rural communities and economies. According to a Brookings Institute study, many fossil fuel hubs could transition to become renewable energy hubs, creating new jobs and investment. The renewable energy industry is more labor-intensive than fossil fuels, requiring workers for manufacturing, construction, operations, and maintenance. A report from Climate Power found that the top House Republican districts for clean energy jobs are in Nevada, New York, Georgia, Indiana, Ohio, and Texas.

Rural areas with open space, sunny days, and windy plains are ideal locations for large-scale wind and solar projects. Land lease payments provide farmers and ranchers new revenue streams. State and local taxes from projects fund schools, roads, and other public services. The diversification of rural economies with renewable energy jobs and revenue can offset the volatility of agriculture. As renewable costs continue to fall, rural communities stand to benefit substantially from the transition away from fossil fuels.

Changing Political Winds

Despite the skepticism some Republicans hold about renewable energy, there are signs that perceptions in the party are shifting. Some Republican-led states like Texas and Iowa have seen massive growth in wind power in recent years. According to the American Wind Energy Association, Texas produces over 30% of U.S. wind power and has over 14,000 wind industry jobs. Moreover, some Republican Members of Congress have begun proposing legislation to increase investments in renewable energy and clean technologies. The Lower Energy Costs Act, introduced by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), aims to promote energy efficiency, hydroelectric power, and expanded access to natural gas. It has the support of multiple Republican Senators. Additionally, the Advance Act, sponsored by Representative David McKinley (R-WV) would increase investment in carbon capture at fossil fuel plants while also providing funding for wind, solar, hydropower and nuclear energy [1]. While full Republican endorsement of renewable energy is still limited, these state and federal initiatives may signal early signs of shifting attitudes.


In summary, Republicans have traditionally been skeptical of renewables and supportive of fossil fuels. However, changes are occurring at the state level and among some conservatives who see economic and national security benefits of renewable energy. While significant hurdles remain, the political winds appear to be shifting as costs have declined and concerns about climate change and energy independence have increased. The future for Republican support of renewables remains uncertain but there are glimmers of hope from conservative states and politicians that attitudes may be evolving. With the right incentives and continued cost declines, renewable energy could gain broader acceptance even from some of its historical opponents.

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