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Most 'green' states are laggards in economic growth

By Bonner Cohen
web posted May 6, 2024

The vaunted transition to green energy has hit its share of speed bumps of late – from unwanted EVs piling up on dealers' lots to soaring electricity prices – but anti-fossil fuel advocates never cease to remind us that better days are ahead.

But are they?  What about those states that have taken the plunge and are at the vanguard of the transition?  And how do they stack up against states that have not turned their backs on oil, natural gas, or even coal?

The personal finance company WalletHub has just released a report, "Greenest States (2024)," in which it compares the 50 states in terms of 25 key metrics, including the number of green buildings per capita and the share of energy derived from renewable sources.

Having identified their report on states' commitment to the environment with the fashionable narrative on manmade climate change, WalletHub ranks states according to their "greenness."

Finishing at the top is California, which garnered a score of 75.75, and bringing up the rear was West Virginia, which registered a paltry score of 22.38.  Joining California in the top ten are Vermont, New York, Maryland, Washington, Minnesota, Hawaii, Maine, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

Finishing with West Virginia at the bottom of the heap are Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Alaska, Wyoming, North Dakota, New Mexico, and Arkansas.

Bureau of Economic Analysis report

As it happens, WalletHub's posting of its green state rankings coincided with the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) recent report on state GDP growth in 2023, an instructive indicator of regional industrial and economic trends. Turns out that the WalletHub's cellar dwellers by and large far outperform their greener counterparts when it comes to economic growth.  West Virginia's 4th quarter 2023 growth rate of 4.7 percent outstripped California's 3.1 percent, not to mention soundly defeating New York's 1.6 percent, Hawaii's 0.9 percent, Maryland's 1.3 percent, and Minnesota's 2.4 percent.

West Virginia, a producer of natural gas and coal, was not the only fossil fuel state to put in a sound economic performance.  Oil- and gas-rich Texas, which finished 38th in WalletHub's green rankings, came in fourth in BEA's rankings, with a growth rate of 5.0 percent. New Mexico, which shares the hydrocarbon-rich Permian Basin with Texas and finished 42nd in WalletHub's rankings, delivered a growth rate of 4.2 percent.  Oil-rich Alaska, which came in a lowly 45th in the green sweepstakes, boasted a BEA growth rate of 4.5 percent, putting it in a tie with Arizona for 9th place nationwide.  And Pennsylvania, whose Marcellus and Utica shale formations have made it the nation's second-largest natural gas producer, showed a growth rate of 3.8 percent.

"In 2023, real GDP for the nation grew at an annual rate of 2.5 percent, with the percent change ranging from 5.9 percent in North Dakota to -1.2 percent in Delaware," BEA pointed out in a press release.  Though it garnered no better than a 43rd place finish in its green score, North Dakota, powered by its oil-rich Bakken shale formation, led the nation in growth last year.

BEA includes fossil-fuel extraction under the broader category of mining and makes this observation about 2023's top-performing states:

"Mining increased in 43 states.  This industry was the leading contributor to growth in several states, including North Dakota, Texas, Wyoming, Alaska, and Oklahoma, the states with the first-, second-, third-, fourth-, and fifth-largest real increases in GDP, respectively."

While it's true that some green states – Washington, Vermont, and Maine – also exhibited respectable growth rates, the overall trend in BEA's findings favor fossil-fuel-producing states.

Meanwhile, the push for green energy continues to eat away at the disposable incomes of all Americans.  Citing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Wall Street Journal (April 2) noted that since January 2021 (the month President Biden took office), "electricity prices have soared 29.4%, about 50% more than overall inflation."

Clean air and water are essential to public health. But equating green climate policies with the overall quality of life ignores the burdens such policies impose on everyday Americans. ESR

Bonner Russell Cohen, Ph.D., is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research. This was first published at The Orange County Register.


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