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Blue states pass landmark climate plans, while red states want green jobs without the legislation

a man installs sollar panels on a rood in the day time in a black and white image
Image credit: Wix

New Jersey and Minnesota both recently passed ambitious plans for 100% clean energy by 2035 and 2040 respectively. New Jersey’s plan, which was originally set for 2050, sets the third soonest deadline in the country, bested by Rhode Island’s 2033 ambition and the capital city’s 2032 plan.

The plans come as states and nations are competing for climate businesses with tax incentives. After all, that’s the core of the European Union’s new industrial policy: to compete with clean energy incentives in the United States Inflation Reduction Act.

However, there’s also competition within the 50 states, as red states like Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, Wyoming, and South Dakota are vigorously pursuing economic opportunity in clean energy because of the incentives (and succeeding) while avoiding the climate ambition of New Jersey, Minnesota, and the other 12 districts in the “100% club.”

These states include California, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington with laws for requirements, as well as Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. Maine and Nevada also have laws with 100% goals rather than requirements.

Separately, New Jersey, Michigan, and Wisconsin have 100% clean energy executive orders, which while strong, do not have the same durability as a law.

Still, with the new executive order, New Jersey will soon make plans to electrify existing buildings, including 400,000 residential spaces and 20,000 commercial spaces, retrofit new buildings, electrify transportation, change natural gas-burning utilities, and follow California’s lead in requiring all new cars sold to be zero-emission by 2035.

It will also provide $70 million of new grant funding toward electrifying heavy-duty vehicles, targeting overburdened communities, and putting the brakes on emissions from school buses and garbage trucks in the places that need it most.

On top of all that, Murphy announced that the state will be moving forward with the next step for the “Protecting Against Climate Threat” or PACT rules: land use rules for construction that take into account sea-level rise and other climate impacts for projects seeking permits. Ideally, these rules will have a large impact because as Politico reports, some of New Jersey’s fiercest political fights are over land use.

With the order, Murphy says the new clean electricity standard will “ensure that every kilowatt of electricity that is sold in New Jersey comes from a clean source,” according to his office.

These actions are each a part of the six environmental measures the Governor plans to take. This come after, after as the USA Today publication reports, Governor Murphy lost his title as the nation’s Greenest Governor.”

According to Politico, environmentalists throughout the state including the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters recently became disappointed with the Governor’s waning aggressiveness on setting and meeting climate change goals.

Once a leading climate champion, efforts from other governors like J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, new-elect Wes Moore of Maryland, and Kathy Hochul of New York, are slowly “eclipsing” New Jersey’s efforts. With these actions, Governor Murphy hopes to earn his title back.

However, Minnesota Governor Tim Waltz may be gunning for that title. Unlike New Jersey, Minnesota’s new climate ambition is now signed into law. Setting a standard for 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040, the bill will enhance the already green state.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, more than half all the existing electricity in the Land of 10,000 Lakes is carbon-free with renewables and nuclear energy. Wind, solar, and hydropower make up 29%, the largest share, of the state’s power supply.

Acc​​ording to an analysis by Clean Energy States Alliance, Minnesota’s move represents one of the most aggressive state plans to eliminate reliance on fossil fuels in the country. While the bill is indeed a landmark legislation, it underwent a lengthy process that faced multiple roadblocks from the state’s Republican politicians, who have dubbed it “The Blackout Bill,” for their lack of faith that it will keep the power on.

Minnesota gained Republican votes, but passing the bill was a close call. It represents a larger trend throughout the country that is much bigger than keeping a “Greenest Governor” title: Republicans want to benefit from the manufacturing boom of clean energy without passing equally enterprising climate ambitions.

In 2021, when Virginia became the first (and only) state in the south to set a 100% clean energy standard, it broke this trend. Dubbed the Clean Economy Act, the law aims to totally decarbonize the grid by 2045 and develop a fleet of clean energy jobs with an emphasis on employment in onshore and offshore wind.

Virginia was quick to embrace the benefits brought about by the IRA, especially due to key opportunities in clean jobs, lower energy costs, domestic manufacturing for crucial green assets, and rural opportunities.

As Bill Holland, vice president of state policy and advocacy at the League of Conservation Voters, put it via The Washington Post’s Climate 202, states that embrace clean energy will ultimately benefit the most from the IRA, and while states like Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas are already benefiting as the three are becoming the biggest supplies of materials for solar panels and electric vehicles, Holland argued that legislative action would increase those benefits.

When New Jersey passed its initial 2050 plan in 2018, it was one of only 6 states to have a 100% clean energy plan on the books. In a few short years, states have made major progress, but Nevada and Virginia are the only Republican-led states with 100% zero-carbon ambitions.

According to Holland, Minnesota’s legislation positions the state “to reap the lower costs and good jobs from the Biden administration’s climate plan,” contrasting with states like Ohio currently deepening their ties with fossil fuels and rebranding natural gas as green.

Southern states like Georgia, Texas, and Louisiana may not be undergoing the same drastic rebrand as Ohio, but as Grist reports, they, and many other states in the south, are expanding their clean energy manufacturing production for jobs without the climate ambition to match.

Prior to Governor Murphy’s executive order, Inside Climate News said that New Jersey, Maryland, and Michigan are all states to watch for who will join the 100% club next. It makes sense, as Michigan is looking to dominate America’s EV supply chain with help from the IRA, and Maryland’s newly elected governor, Wes Moore, campaigned on “re-establishing” Maryland as a clean energy leader and getting the state 100% clean energy by 2035.

While Georgia may lead the southeast in EV charging stations and is number two in the region for EV sales, it lags behind the rest of the country. Unlike Ohio, Georgia does not have skin in the oil game, Stan Cross of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a nonprofit advocacy group, said via Grist, making the case for a climate policy in Georgia to spur the transition and allow the Peach State to keep up with the rest of the country.

Red states are becoming key clean energy suppliers, but as other states establish rigorous climate ambition, priming themselves to reap more benefits from the IRA, keeping up may become the new case for climate legislation.

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