Republicans in the US ‘battery belt’ embrace Biden’s climate spending | Renewable energy End-shutdown

GRAMGeorgia, a state once known for its peaches and peanuts, is fast becoming a melting pot of clean energy technology in the US, leading a group of Republican-led states enjoying an investment boom. in renewable energy that has been accelerated by Joe Biden’s climate agenda.

Since the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in August, billions of dollars in new clean energy investment has been announced for battery, electric and solar vehicle manufacturing in Georgia, taking them to the forefront of a swath of southern states that are becoming a so-called”battery belt” in the economic transition away from fossil fuels.

“It looks like all roads lead to Georgia right now, it’s really benefiting disproportionately from the Inflation Reduction Act right now,” said Aaron Brickman, a senior director at RMI, an energy research nonprofit. Brickman said the $370 billion in clean energy incentives and tax credits in the bill are a “complete game changer.” Frankly, we’ve never had that before in this country. The IRA has transformed the landscape in an amazing way.”

Georgia is part of a pattern in which Republican-led states have claimed the lion’s share of new renewable energy and electric vehicle activity since legislation, and Republican-controlled congressional districts are home to more than 80% of all batteries and utility-scale wind or solar farms. projects currently in advanced development, according to a analysis by American Clean Power.

States blessed with abundant wind and sunshine, along with significant rural and industrial communities, such as those on the Great Plains and the South, appear to be best positioned to capitalize on climate law. Texas, already a stronghold of wind power, could see $131 billion in IRA-linked investments this decade, Florida could see $62 billion and Georgia $16 billion, according to a RMI analysis.

The irony of this bonanza, which comes despite the fact that Republicans did not vote for climate spending, which Biden alluded to in his recent State of the Union address. “My Republican friends who voted against it still ask me to finance the projects in those districts as well,” said the US president, to the ridicule of some members of Congress. “But don’t worry, I promised you that I would be a president for all Americans. We will finance these projects and I will see them at the inauguration.”

Beeswarm bubble chart of states’ IRA climate investments

A mixed political innovation took place in Georgia in October, when Brian Kemp, the Republican governor, what champagne by a robotic dog before ceremonially shoveling dirt alongside Democratic Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff to inaugurate Hyundai’s first dedicated EV plant in the US.

The $5.5 billion facility in Bryan County, which will create about 8,000 jobs when it opens in 2025, arose because “we heard this administration’s call for action to accelerate the adoption of new electric vehicles and reduce carbon emissions.” According to José Munoz. , Hyundai Global President.

Ossoff told The Guardian that he had long had a vision that Georgia “should be the center of advanced energy manufacturing and innovation for the US. Help convince Hanwha Qcells, another South Korean company, to commit $2.5 billion for two new solar panel factories in the state in January.

Hyundai CEO with Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Jose Muñoz, Hyundai Global Chairman, in Ellabell, Georgia. Photographer: Richard Burkhart/AP

“This specific legislation was by no means a foreign conclusion, but passing it opened the floodgates in Georgia,” Ossoff said. Democrats have touted the bill not only as helping tackle the climate crisis, but also as a way to wrest the initiative from China, which has so far dominated the manufacturing of parts for clean energy systems and electric cars.

Georgia’s adoption of clean energy technology was well underway before the IRA, with Atlanta, bolstered by leading renewable energy research at Georgia Tech, increasingly seen as an innovative foothold. In 2021, Freyr, a Norwegian company, Announced a $1.7 billion battery plant for Coweta County, south of Atlanta, while SK Battery, another South Korean-owned company, said last spring will hire another 3,000 workers at its battery factory in Commerce, northeast of the Georgia capital.

Meanwhile, Rivian, the electric car company, is interested in building a Extensive $5 billion facility east of Atlanta, although he has faced opposition from some residents of the small town of Rutledge, who have south to stop development.

Solar panels on parking spaces at the QCells solar panel manufacturing plant in Dalton, Georgia.
Solar panels on parking spaces at the QCells solar panel manufacturing plant in Dalton, Georgia. Photographer: Bloomberg/Getty Images

But last year’s IRA, with its extensive tax incentives for emissions-reducing technologies, has made the environment even more attractive. Scott Moskowitz, Qcells’ head of market strategy, said Georgia has been a “great home” since 2019, but the IRA is “one of the most ambitious clean energy policies passed anywhere in the world” and gave The Hanwha-owned company is certain to triple capacity at its Dalton site, which already produces about 12,000 solar panels a day, and create a new complex in Cartersville that will manufacture ingots and wafers, the basic components of solar panels, made from polysilicon.

“There is a tone of opportunity and excitement in [the] clean energy sector right now,” Moskowitz said. “We’ve always had strong support from both sides of the aisle, even if there hasn’t always been agreement.”

Map of newly announced clean energy projects in Georgia

Barry Loudermilk, a Republican congressman whose House district includes Cartersville, denied that the spate of investments is politically uncomfortable for the GOP and accused Biden of an “elementary school level response” to the issue in his speech on the state of the union

“I’m not against this industry and I’m all for bringing in new technology, but it has to be market driven,” Loudermilk told The Guardian. “When the government heavily subsidizes something, it rises and then falls because the market hasn’t matured.

“We are not ready for this (full EV and clean energy adoption). This is just subsidizing one industry over another and just throwing taxpayer dollars at something that usually only leads to failure and sets you back a decade.”

Georgia is attractive to businesses because of its relatively low tax rate, transportation connections, including the busy Atlanta airport and Savannah Deep Harbor, and a diverse and skilled group of workers, according to Loudermilk. “The days of the country townspeople are a thing of the past, we have a skilled and educated workforce,” he said.

It’s unclear if Loudermilk will be at the Cartersville inauguration, nor will Marjorie Taylor Greene, the right-wing extremist who represents the neighboring congressional district that includes Dalton. Greene has previously called the IRA an “energy disaster” and wrongly said global warming is “really healthy for us,” though she has said she welcomes any new work in Georgia.

Meanwhile, Kemp has offered statewide incentives for businesses to set up shop in Georgia, while denouncing Democrats for “picking winners and losers” with the national climate bill. The governor recently introduced his state as a destination for clean technology investment in Davos and has denied any hypocrisy in his position.

“Georgia is a destination state for all sorts of new jobs and opportunities despite, not because of, bad policies coming out of DC,” a Kemp spokesperson said. “Businesses are choosing Georgia over places like New York and California because they know they will find success here, not because of the IRA.”

Even if the causes of renewable energy investment are disputed, the trajectory of the transition is increasingly undeniable. Like the cost of renewables keep going to plummet and more Americans turn to electric carsThanks in part to the “unprecedented scale” of the IRA, partisan divisions on the issue may soften, according to Ashna Aggarwal, an associate at RMI, the energy research nonprofit.

“This is a win-win bill and it actually benefits people the most who weren’t necessarily in favor of the bill,” Aggarwal said.

“I think what’s really exciting about the economics of clean energy is that party lines don’t really matter here. There are more opportunities for red states and I hope that Republican lawmakers see that and really think this is good for the people who live in our states.”

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