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Re-hashing the 2010 Solar Incentive Report Card: Blue States and Red States

Avatar for Dave Llorens
Published on 09/01/2010 in
Updated 02/17/2017

The chart above is the same solar incentive report card we produced in part 4 of our 2010 report, albeit with one difference: blue and red states. My main impulse was not to rustle a regional divide between people in our country, yet instead to highlight differences in legislative policy and priorities.

I was curious to understand why so many red states lag so far behind in our report and started doing some more research this morning. I figured it can’t be just because of strong oil, gas, and coal lobbies. Could it? Well, who am I kidding, of course it could.

However, I found a ranking of federal dollars spent per dollar of taxes received in each state, and that raised my eyebrows. Here’s a great graphic made by a Harvard blogger which illustrates where our federal dollars flow. I didn’t realize Harvard had blogger guys but I was thankful for this one. I marked his chart up to more clearly show the red and blue states:

All those little red dots in the upper right are red states, the little blue ones to the lower left are blue states. The higher you go up the y-axis, the more conservative the state in the 2008 election. The further across the x-axis you go, the more money you get from the government than you pay in taxes.

If you affiliate yourself with Republican conservatives, you might be surprised to see a strong statistical relationship, but that the direction is the opposite from what you would expect: The red states (those that vote Republican) generally receive more subsidies from the federal government than they pay in taxes; in other words they are further to the right in the graph. It’s the other way around with the blue states (those that vote Democratic).

The big blue outlier way to the right in the graph is New Mexico, though there are several expensive air force bases and some top secret stuff located in the state. I was interested to see the cash cows for the rest of the country are taxpayers in New Jersey, Nevada, Connecticut, Illinois, Delaware, California, New York, and Colorado. Intriguingly, those same states score very well in our solar incentive report above.

This trend in wealth redistribution in the form of subsidies is not a new one. Here’s the trend from 1981-2005 which I just compiled from the Tax Foundation’s data:

The closer you get to being ranked #50, the less the amount of federal taxes coming from your state actually gets spent in your state. Note how Red and Blue states diverge after Reagan took office in 1981 and still haven’t rebalanced? Now there’s a true conservative who got things done!

Who is ranked #50? Well, here’s New Jersey, the state with arguably the best solar incentives in the country:

Not only do the tax dollars in New Jersey flow mainly to Republican states which fare very poorly in our report solar report card, but New Jersey also manages to have the best solar incentives in the country. While those incentives start with a strong renewable portfolio standard instead of tax dollars, it is intriguing to note how money flows through the country, who is tooting what horn, and where progressive solar legislation gets enacted and where it is glossed over.

I think it’s funny that more and more blowhards are tooting the “cut government spending” horn and pointing fingers at states that have relatively strong solar policies as prime targets of ill-advised socialist expenditures and “earmarks”. After all, the more these people toot, the more they are amplified by the mainstream media. That’s mainly because a few billionaires are motivated to force feed political opinion into your eyes and ears, but we’ll save that story for another day.

Maybe the red state political establishment has become accustomed to battling for their disproportional share of handouts from the Fed. While they could be drafting new clean energy policy to spur growth in a new industry and create more jobs, there appears to be more interest in fighting for solid positioning in the dirty oil, coal and gas pork trough.

What to conclude from all of this? Well, for one I should not have been surprised to learn Glenn Beck was urging his followers to boycott the census a few months back. Maybe he didn’t want them to find out their state coffers continue to be lined with Democrat dollars. On the other hand, even without free subsidies from other states, our country’s big blue cash cows are spearheading the nascent solar industry movement. Good on them!

No matter where you live or who your representatives are, we urge you to at least get a quote for solar energy on your home. You may be very surprised how quickly you can be in the green.

Last modified: February 17, 2017

5 thoughts on “Re-hashing the 2010 Solar Incentive Report Card: Blue States and Red States

  1. Avatar for EIEIO EIEIO says:

    Readers should note that these horizontal axis values are rankings, not ratios, (50 states so values of 1 to 50) and that they are not consistent across this page. In the 1st chart a ranking of 50 means Most while in the 2nd and 3rd a ranking of 50 means Least. It should also be noted that large federal facilities (e.g. NM) and small populations (e.g. ND, SD) will skew the ranking independent of %GOP/%DEM. Numbers are tricky.

  2. Avatar for Tim Tim says:

    I Love this Chart, Reminds me of the Wendys commercial (Where’s the Beef?) But in this case we call it; “Where’s the PORK” I want to add that the amount of recovery act funding to the states shows the Democrats with a total of 1.7 Trillion received and the Red States, 1.27 Trillion dollars. Yet! The chart clearly showing the Republicans agenda. Now dig a little deeper and see where they spent their share of Pork! Was not on renewable energy!

  3. Avatar for Jon Jon says:

    This is a great chart.
    How often does this stuff change, and how do we know if conditions are getting better or worse in our state to go solar? (I’m in CT)

    1. Avatar for Dan Hahn Dan Hahn says:

      Hi Jon!

      Thanks for your comment, solar legislation changes pretty frequently nowadays. That’s why we plan to update our report card once a year. There were some significant movers and shakers since our 09′ report, it’s all a matter of leadership at the state level to push renewable energy standards and associated utility non-compliance fees forward.

      In Connecticut, expect to see some solar policy come through sometime early next year. Many lawmakers have been very impressed at what has been taking place nearby in New Jersey. It’s only a matter of time before we start seeing similar legislation across the majority of the northeastern states.

  4. Avatar for David Dunnison David Dunnison says:

    Great report card.

    BP Spill creates state of emergency in Louisiana, and a federal fisheries disaster for the – Sunbelt – states of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

    Initial cost estimates to the fishing industry alone of $2.5 billion (Source: Wikipedia). And today we have another rig explosion in Louisiana.

    Yet, how do these sun states rank on solar programs?

    Somewhere near embarrassing at 32nd, 33rd and 36th place while the slick encroached on 40th place Florida.

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