Ain’t that America?

4 Jun

E&E News’ Climatewire (subscription) asks the question this morning, “Will the Midwest turn its back on addressing climate change?”  Using Michigan as a jumping-off point (at 14 percent unemployment, you’d be jumping off too…), the article suggests that gubernatorial changes could result in backsliding on climate initiatives like regional greenhouse gas accords, renewable investments, etc:

The Great Lakes region is facing a potential 180-degree turn on energy and climate, with the governor’s races in Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois ranked as tossups or “lean Republican” by analysts such as the Cook Political Report. Iowa, which abuts both Michigan and Illinois, also is in a too-close-to-call contest.

Couldn’t this phenomenon be better explained by the extremely tight budgets and skyrocketing unemployment in the Midwest, rather than party dynamics?  Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois are all well above the national unemployment rate of 9.7 percent.  On top of that, you have had many Republican and moderate Democrats also supportive of state climate initiatives, including Governor Schwarzenegger and former Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. of Utah, suggesting that the driving force is less partisan politics and more constituency demands. 

Furthermore, these heartland states, as hubs of manufacturing and other energy-intensive industries, have the most to lose under any regulatory program (whether regional, national, or international) restricting emissions. The Heritage foundation’s August 2009 analysis of the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill found that:

Because the distribution of energy-intensive jobs across the country is unequal, some states and congressional districts will be hit particularly hard. Notable among the most adversely affected states throughout the duration of the bill are: Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Carolina, Idaho, and Alabama. Some states, such as Wyoming, North Dakota, Colorado, and Nebraska are most adversely affected when the policy first takes effect, while other states, such as Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee, are among the hardest-hit states by 2035.

There seems to be a fair amount of overlap between the most-affected states and the states potentially backsliding on climate change- all it took was a recession to convince them.  More state-by-state evidence is available from the National Association of Manufacturers/American Council for Capital Formation’s 2009 study of cap-and-trade impact, which found the following potential reductions in economic growth by 2030 for the aforementioned states under Waxman-Markey-style carbon constraints:

  • Iowa: Up to $4.9 billion
  • Illinois: Up to $24.1 billion
  • Michigan: Up to $16.5 billion
  • Minnesota: Up to $10.1 billion
  • Ohio: Up to $18.9 billion
  • Wisconsin: Up to $9.3 billion



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