“There is a different story here than people are imagining,” says Lindsey Walter, deputy director of climate policy at Third Way, a centrist Democratic group that is among the sponsors of the Decarb America project. “In today’s world, the states that have oil, gas and coal resources are the ones that have the most opportunity to play a role in energy production. But by 2050 every single state is playing a role in producing energy using the natural resources available in that state. That’s why you are seeing the opportunity for more states to benefit in this net zero carbon economy.”
The spread of clean energy jobs to more states, in turn, would enhance the industry’s political leverage to drive more policies through Congress in the years ahead to support the massive transition to a zero-carbon economy. The catch is that to set this process in motion, Biden and his allies in the clean energy industries must first find a way past the resistance of legislators from the heavy fossil-fuel-producing states, almost all of them Republicans, who have shut down discussion of virtually any legislation that would diminish the nation’s reliance on oil, coal and natural gas.
Fossil fuel states few but mighty
Smith, like many environmental groups and even energy industry analysts, argues that rather than resisting the clean energy transition, those states would benefit from embracing the opportunities it can create. “History is littered with stories of countries and states and communities that failed to see where we are going and got stuck in where we were,” Smith told me. “There’s a fundamental reality about a clean energy future, which is that it’s going to happen, and the United States, and states individually, can either lead or they can follow.”