The Center for American Progress has released a report indicating the massive potential for western states to generate renewable energy. Statistics released by the Bureau of American Labor in 2010 showed that there are already more than 527,000 clean energy jobs in these states.
According to the issue brief, “Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah—the ‘Four Corners’ states plus their western neighbors—are home to some of the best renewable electricity potential in the country. These states have consistently sunny skies for solar power, wind-blown plains and deserts for turbines, and underground heat perfect for geothermal energy. They also have incredible potential for smaller-scale technologies like rooftop solar panels and energy efficiency improvements.”
These southwestern states have been leaders in the renewable energy field, supporting new energy initiatives and developing innovative projects and technology to generate green energy. Industry experts expect this region to continue leading the way and moving forward on green technology, and predict that over the next twenty years the region will generate more than 34 gigawatts (more than 34,000 megawatts) of clean energy to 7 million residences and provide a $137 billion boost to the economy.
The Center for American Progress concluded that, in the next twenty years, nearly an additional 35,000 renewable energy jobs – in the solar, wind, and geothermal energy fields – could be created on government property alone and a total of more than 209,000 additional jobs in these six western states.
The organization reported that a 2012 poll of residents of western states conducted by Colorado College’s State of the Rockies program found that support for clean energy is high: 61 percent of those polled wanted states to encourage solar energy, while 49 percent favored wind energy; only 11 percent of respondents wanted states to push for oil and 9 percent for coal.
Besides becoming popular in residential areas, clean energy projects managed by the federal government are gaining traction as well. The United States Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management manages about 68 percent of all land in Nevada, 43 percent of land in Utah, and between 12 and 17 percent in Colorado, California, Arizona, and New Mexico. Dozens of green energy projects have been completed or are scheduled for development on government land in these states, leading the states to a goal of producing 20,000 megawatts of clean energy by the end of this year and closer to President Obama’s goal of running 80 percent clean energy in the United States by 2035.
The Center for American Progress stated that they support the president’s goal, but “also urge that the standard include a requirement that at least 35 percent of electricity be generated by wind, solar, geothermal, other renewables, and efficiency by 2035 to ensure continued investment in these technologies. This would help energy development on public lands by stimulating a strong market for renewable energy across the country.”
The Center for American Progress noted that, although clean energy projects on public land are a positive development, the organization would like to see portions of this undeveloped public land preserved or used for nature and recreational activities, such as fishing and wildlife.
These recent studies and reports show that the American West is quickly becoming a leader in producing renewable energy and, according to experts’ estimates, is on track to provide 34 gigawatts of clean energy to consumers in the next two decades. With effective and updated national and statewide standards for green energy, renewable resources, and reasonable zoning for clean energy projects, these six western states can help establish a future in which Americans don’t have to rely on foreign energy and outsourced jobs.
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