In a week full of crazy Republican extremism, a common-sense moderate feels like a breath of fresh air. One of those welcome breezes is blowing out of Michigan, where Governor Snyder has made it clear that threats of a Tea Party primary challenge won't distract him from doing what is best for his state.
That includes expanding renewable energy. Snyder has long been a supporter of clean energy investment, and said on his campaign website, "Michigan needs to be a leader in the innovative movement towards alternative and cleaner energy." He has repeatedly called for raising the standard that requires Michigan utilities to generate 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar power by 2015.
A new study has confirmed that Michigan can easily hit that mark and go far beyond it. State regulators released a report last week concluding that Michigan can meet a renewable energy standard of 30 percent by 2035.
Snyder could call for raising the standards once again. After all, clean energy solutions have been good for his state. More than 38,000 Michiganders worked assembling or building parts for fuel efficient cars in 2011 and 2,500 new jobs have been added to the list since then. About 1,000 new jobs have been announced in the Michigan wind industry since late 2011, and more will follow if the state increases the renewable energy standards.
Talk of wind power and clean energy standards doesn't sit well with most climate-denying Tea Partiers. But it makes sense to a growing number of Republican officials. Roughly 75 percent of installed wind power comes from Republican districts. Red-state stalwart South Dakota produced nearly 25 percent of its electricity from wind power last year. North Dakota got nearly 15 percent of its energy from wind.
Kansas built more wind generation than all states except for California and Texas--a push that helped generate 12,000 jobs and brought in $3 billion in investment to the state. When ALEC and other conservative leaders tried to repeal Kansas' clean energy standard, lawmakers beat them back because they know renewable energy projects are good for the state's economy and communities. The Republican governor of Kansas, meanwhile, joined Republican governors from Iowa and Oklahoma to call for extending a production tax credit for wind power last year.
Across the country, Republican officials are standing up for clean energy because they know it delivers real benefits. Some leaders will invite Tea Party primary challenges as a result, but hopefully they will take the path of Snyder and say: bring it on.
Snyder seems to want to take back the Republican Party from the radical fringe. Some of his positions have alienated extremists and inspired some to recruit challengers, but their influence appears limited and Snyder remains unfazed. Instead, he is betting that his brand of moderate Republican leadership will take hold. "Hopefully, I'm a reasonable model for people to look at across the country," he said in a recent interview.
Even with his support of renewable energy, it is critical that Governor Snyder also acknowledges the huge potential for increasing Michigan's investment in cost-effective energy efficiency. It is the cheapest, cleanest, fastest way to meet future energy needs, and in Synder's words, a "no regrets" investment.
Clean energy and energy efficiency offer Snyder a way to show how reasonable he is by championing a stronger clean energy standard for his state and smart clean energy policies for the nation. After all, investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency isn't a red or blue state issue; it's an American opportunity.