Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) second-in-command made a surprising concession on Friday: states that emphasize green energy have a “competitive advantage” over states, like Wisconsin, that don’t.
During an interview with radio host Charlie Sykes, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (R) railed against a new regulation from the Environmental Protection Agency intended to curb the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from power plants. Kleefisch said the rule would hurt her state because Wisconsin has been slow to move away from carbon-intensive energies like coal, from which the state still derives “about 60 percent” of its electricity.
As a result of its heel-dragging, Wisconsin lags behind its neighbors in terms of clean energy, something Kleefisch said will hurt her state’s competitiveness.
“When I’m talking to my colleagues in the National Lieutenant Governors Association and they have already gotten online to different standards than what is traditional in our state, all of a sudden they have a competitive advantage,” Kleefisch conceded.
Listen to it (relevant portion begins at 2:10):
Kleefisch is correct that states that embrace clean energy will have a competitive advantage over those that don’t. Climate change is happening whether or not conservatives admit it, so governments that get a head start on converting to green energy will be far better equipped to take advantage of tomorrow’s energy production sectors. That’s why states like Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois are outpacing Wisconsin in their use of renewable energy.
In fact, even in carbon-heavy states like Wisconsin, converting to clean energy would actually bolster economic output. A 2013 Office of Management and Budget study found that over the past decade, environmental regulations had contributed as much as $640 billion in revenue to the economy, compared to no more than $45 billion in costs. Like Kleefisch, critics around the country and across environmental sectors regularly overestimate how much environmental regulations will cost, often drastically so.
Kleefisch seems to recognize the potential benefits other states have realized by shifting towards renewable energy, but inexplicably denies that Wisconsin could enjoy the same benefits. Rather than working to bolster their own clean energy portfolio — Kleefisch dismissed the notion that Wisconsin could catch up to its neighbors as “magic math” — Badger State Republicans are instead fighting national carbon regulations. Gov. Walker and Attorney General Brad Schimel (R) are currently collaborating on a lawsuit to gut the EPA’s carbon emission regulations, which are set to be finalized this summer.