Arizona governor Jan Brewer is of two minds on the green economy. During her reign as governor she has both repealed and expanded the clean energy policies of her Democratic predecessor, Janet Napolitano. She campaigned on a platform that promised to pull Arizona out of any effort to cap its pollution. Once elected she made good on her promise by signing an executive order that withdrew her state from cap-and-trade as well as California’s clean car program. However, she could not ignore the value of solar power to provide jobs and grow the state’s economy.
In February 2010, Brewer pulled Arizona out of the Western Climate Initiative’s cap-and-trade program and in 2012 Brewer withdrew her state from California’s Advanced Clean Car program. Conversely, Brewer also supports tax breaks and other state subsidies for the solar industry.
Like other Republican governors she can not seem to resist the economic and employment benefits of renewable energy. According to a recent study by The Solar Foundation, Arizona now ranks third in solar jobs in the US, behind California and Colorado. In 2011, about 980 solar manufacturers, installers and vendors in Arizona employed 4,800 people, up from 3,800 jobs and 230 companies in 2010.
Since 2010, the state has budgeted $70 million per year for tax incentives to attract renewable energy companies to Arizona. Through such programs the state has attracted companies like First Solar, the world’s largest maker of thin-film solar panels, to build its second U.S. manufacturing facility in Arizona. The state also has three other massive solar power plants under construction, including a $1.4 billion desert solar thermal installation.
Last March, Brewer launched a solar energy task force to develop strategies to lower solar installation costs, open up public lands to large-scale solar plants and build new transmission lines to connect green electricity to communities.
Brewer may not be a friend of the environment, but she knows that government support for the solar sector provides jobs and grows the economy.
© 2012, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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