Conservative Speakers at Clean Energy Summit Tout Virtues of Clean Energy

Recently, speakers at the Conservative Clean Energy Summit discussed their support for renewable energy, with a particular emphasis on solar power. Important arguments made at the summit by leading conservative voices included:

“If you’re a conservative, you should be for conserving energy and be[ing] more efficient — that’s good!…New jobs. Isn’t that what we want, job creation? Helping our families to reduce their energy costs…it also, of course, has the benefit of making us less dependent on foreign oil.” – Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)

“America needs to be energy independent,” and clean energy can help move the country in that direction. – Roberta Combs of the Christian Coalition.

“When it comes to producing power, we should think big – wind, solar, nuclear power…This shouldn’t be a liberal issue, this should be an American issue.” – Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

“When I look at North Carolina’s great pace of solar deployment right now, I look at 6,000+ jobs…I think one of the reasons we see the growth of solar in North Carolina is that solar actually makes that cost-effective formula….Our ability to make this transition over to an alternative energy future is our ability to look the American people in the eye and tell them that their national security is intact.” – Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC)

“The amount of solar energy currently installed in Nevada is enough to power over 120,000 homes. The industry as a whole, just the solar industry itself, supports nearly 6,000 jobs in the state of Nevada…[The Production Tax Credit and the Investment Tax Credit] play an important role in facilitating the development of renewable energy like wind, solar and geothermal….[There should be] parity across the renewable energy sectors so that all technologies are treated equally.” – Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV)

Note that the arguments made at the Conservative Clean Energy Summit by the people quoted above, plus others including Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), don’t emphasize climate change or environmental protection, per se. Instead, the conservative leaders’ arguments focus strongly on creating jobs, saving families money on their energy bills, protecting U.S. national security, and creating a level playing field across energy technologies. These are all strong arguments, of course, in favor of clean energy, as well as towards solving environmental challenges like climate change. And they are all grounded firmly both in empirical evidence as well as in the conservative leaders’ core values.

With regard to solar power creating jobs, by some estimates solar now employs more people than the coal industry in the United States. And, solar jobs are growing rapidly, while coal jobs are shrinking. Also worth noting is that the Solar Ready Vets program seeks to employ 75,000 veterans in the solar industry by 2020. The bottom line here is that solar is a jobs creator, a major selling point for Americans of all political persuasions.

Creating jobs, of course, feeds into a powerful conservative narrative — that free-market competition and increased consumer choice is the means to prosperity and freedom. Today, with new technological developments making renewables more affordable and efficient, Americans across the political spectrum are increasingly interested in seeing market competition — and consumer choice — between and among traditional energy sources and renewables. Add in the national security and international trade benefits of producing more clean, made-in-the-USA energy, and you’ve really got a winner.

Note that in making the clean energy sales pitch to a diverse audience, one can do so effectively without even touching on climate change. The fact is, whatever someone’s values, they still can enjoy lower utilities bills from a solar array or a more energy-efficient home. They can also accrue the benefits of enhanced national security, a stronger economy and a healthier environment that come about by moving from fossil fuels to clean energy.

Of course, many Americans of all political persuasions are concerned about climate change and environmental protection, with polling indicating that:

  • among conservatives, 80% want cleaner air and less pollution;
  • 72% want to accelerate the development of clean energy; and
  • more than half believe that climate change is both real and caused by human activity.

Given these poll results, it’s no surprise that groups, such as the Young Conservatives for Energy Reform and the Evangelical Environmental Network, emphasize the need for environmental stewardship and sustainability.

So, as a player in the cleantech industry, should your marketing focus more on things like jobs, the economy, and national security, rather than on environmental protection or the dangers of climate change? As we’ve discussed previously in our article above about research on “green marketing myopia,” the key for marketers is to “tap into the audience’s values and align green attributes with sought-after consumer benefits.” Certainly for conservatives – and for many other Americans – a focus on the benefits of clean energy with regard to jobs, consumer savings, free-market choice and national security continues to look like a winning combination of arguments.

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