Millennial. Conservative. Environmentalist. These terms are not mutually exclusive, and the numbers prove it.
According to a poll conducted by The American Conservation Coalition (ACC) and the Conservative Energy Network (CEN), 92 percent of millennials think an all-above energy policy is the best strategy to move America forward toward energy independence. And more so than ever, millennial conservatives are now pursuing a pro-environment agenda that doesn’t tread on entrepreneurial freedom.
From 2011 to 2016, conservative support for clean alternatives to oil and gas rose from 46 percent to 51 percent. These numbers are even higher among younger conservatives. Within the College Republicans organization, there are now CR Clean Energy Coalitions in 30 states.
ACC President Benji Backer explains, “Young voters are embracing clean energy because it is strengthening economic competitiveness, offering consumers greater choice and a more diverse energy portfolio. With the growing moral and economic implications of environmental issues, conservatives must lead if they hope to garner support from the youth demographic in future elections.”
It's true that young conservatives are supporting alternative energy sources in growing numbers - but they're doing so in conservative ways. A full 79 percent said they want people to have a choice as to where they buy their energy. They're more likely to back expanded energy sources, but on a market fueled by open competition and innovation rather than government subsidies and mandates.
"Conservatives don't believe that the government should mandate the use of clean energy, but want to see greater action taken to prioritize wind, solar, hydro, and other innovative technologies," ACC explains.
And this passional for the environment is translating into votes. Candidates that support deregulation, innovation, and clean energy have overwhelming support from 79 percent of the millennial conservative voting bloc, who are more likely to say that candidate cares more about their family and community. A full 58 percent of young conservatives said a candidate who doesn't support clean energy is unlikely to get their vote.
But conservatives are also notorious for pioneering freedom and creating jobs, and the environmental sector is no exception. The sustainable energy sector is one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy. Jobs in wind and solar are expanding 12 times faster than the rest of the economy. The renewable energy industry employed about 4.5 million people in 2017, and is growing. Environmental engineering alone is projected to have a 8 percent job rate increase from 2016 to 2026.
Young conservatives are changing the game when it comes to environmentalism. They care about jobs, the economy, and conservation efforts. They want sustainable energy without the government subsidies. And it looks like they are turning the elephant from red to green.