The Trump administration has had a remarkable impact on the U.S. energy policy over the past year. The number of policy changes and administrative actions in such a short timeframe is unprecedented.
In the Western U.S., the reversal of certain Obama-era energy policies was welcome news. People often forget that 93 percent of federal lands are located in 13 western states. In these states overly restrictive federal energy policies has real life impacts — people lose jobs and communities lose critical tax revenue necessary to fund basic services.
However, the Trump administration’s rapid energy policy improvements have created a fascinating secondary narrative in these western states. While the Trump administration has opened back up traditional energy sources, the West is thriving by supporting an “all of the above” energy economy that maximizes each energy resource.
Whether it be utilizing new technologies to make extraction of traditional fossil fuels more efficient or adopting renewable energy resources that are becoming increasingly cost-competitive with traditional sources.
This balanced energy portfolio approach became a priority for western states years ago. Several western states rely heavily on traditional energy production to fuel their economy and shrewdly identified new energy markets as a sound economic diversification effort.
Fast forward several years and these new energy policies have harvested real economic gains, particularly in rural communities. For example, a Colorado rural economic development association recently studied the impact of renewable energy production on the local economy. Their results were surprising, showing the renewable energy industry was driving economic and job growth in rural areas desperately needing an economic boost. The report found that $5.4 billion in wind and solar projects have been built in eastern Colorado, with construction and operation of renewable energy power plants generating an estimated $2.7 billion in direct economic impact on Colorado’s rural counties.
And today, the positive economic impacts from the new industry are multiplying. Talk with county commissioners in rural Colorado and they will point to renewable energy development providing a consistent and predictable flow of tax dollars for critical local services. Talk with the farmers or ranchers who hosts wind turbines on their land and they will share just how important consistent lease payments are to supplement an unpredictable agricultural operation.
Just like the recent tax reform will come into better focus after more people see their actual tax liability go down, the “real life” economic impacts of renewable energy development are causing a sharp increase supporting an all-of-the-above energy policy.
A recent poll conducted by The Western Way, a conservative think tank focused on western states, showed that a whopping 80 percent of conservative voters throughout the West support an all-of-the-above energy policy that develops more renewable energy resources. Nearly two-thirds of these voters support more wind power in their state’s energy portfolio. If there was once a political divide on the issue of supporting new energy resources that debate seems to be well settled.
The takeaway for policymakers, regardless of party or ideology, should be that western states are clearly on to something. A balanced “all of the above” energy model enhances domestic energy production, creates new industries and new jobs, and drives economic development in rural communities where there is critical need for diverse economic opportunities.
President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver dead at 77 Biden, Democrats losing ground with independent and suburban voters: poll Bipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law MORE has unshackled traditional energy resources and new energy resources are thriving. Now is the correct time to support a well-balanced national energy policy that maximizes production of all energy sources in a responsible manner. This policy will lead to a stronger U.S. economy, environmental improvements, and domestic energy independence.
Washington would be smart to take a close look at the “all of the above” energy model thriving in the West in settling on a smart and sustainable national energy policy.
Sarah E. Hunt is the director of the Center for Innovation and Technology at American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). She leads the Center’s Energy Innovation Project. Her policy work focuses on free-market solutions for the energy future.
Bob Beauprez is a rancher and former congressman from Colorado. He also serves as the chairman of The Western Way, a nonprofit urging Western conservative leaders to deliver efficient, pro-market solutions to environmental and conservation challenges.