By Michele Combs and Matthew Anderson
On the eve of the Republican presidential primary in South Carolina, we would like to offer this tip to candidates vying for votes: Palmetto State conservatives believe that homegrown renewable energy is important for our economy and our national security.
Polling shows that 81 percent of South Carolina’s Republican primary voters believe energy policy that includes incorporating renewables into our energy portfolio should be a priority. And Republican leaders here – including Sen. Lindsey Graham and Gov. Nikki Haley—have already staked out leadership positions on clean energy.
At Young Conservatives for Energy Reform, we believe clean energy dovetails with conservative values. It strengthens the economy, national security, and families – all while helping us take better care of creation.
South Carolina’s economy features more than 360 clean energy businesses, ranging from small family operations to multinational corporations. These firms employ more than 16,000 people, and earn gross revenues of over $2 billion annually. America’s leading maker of wind turbines – GE – has an assembly plant in South Carolina. We also host a BMW factory powered by landfill gas and a solar-powered Boeing plant.
Demand for renewable energy is growing – global clean energy investment hit a record $329 billion last year – and conservatives in South Carolina are embracing this economic opportunity.
They also understand that homegrown renewable energy boosts America’s national security. The more energy we generate here, the less we are tied to a global oil market controlled by countries that often act against U.S. interests. And since terrorists like ISIS are known to finance their operations by selling oil, developing energy alternatives and cutting demand for oil cuts the bad guys’ purse strings.
We have a rich military tradition in South Carolina, and the armed forces understand that renewable energy contributes to energy independence and makes our nation stronger. The Pentagon is America’s single biggest energy consumer, and is working hard to boost efficiency and switch to homegrown renewables. So over at Parris Island, for instance, you’ll see Marines eating at a solar-powered mess hall while their children attend a solar-powered child-development center.
Family is another key to conservative interest in homegrown, renewable energy. Clean energy means less pollution in our air, water, and land. It means healthier children and fewer asthma attacks, heart problems, and other diseases tied to pollution. That, in turn, keeps family medical bills in check, while losing fewer school and work days to pollution-related illnesses.
Whether you look at energy through an economic lens, adopt a national security frame, or hold a family-values perspective, the way forward is clear. We need more clean, homegrown, renewable energy.
Republican candidates would do well to remember that. This is an issue that resonates with conservatives here in South Carolina and across the nation – and can also serve as a bridge to voters beyond the Republican base.
Michele Combs is the founder and president of Young Conservatives for Energy Reform (YC4ER). Matthew Anderson is YC4ER’s South Carolina state chairman. They both live in Charleston.