The two main candidates running for governor of Idaho are sparring over their environmental records — all because of a recent commercial.

The advertisement, posted below, was run by Gov. Butch Otter, and boasts that he is responsible for creating green energy jobs in the state. Democratic challenger Keith Allred is accusing Otter of greenwashing and claims that Idaho’s gains in the green energy sector are a result of federal, not state, policies.

Right after the Otter green energy ad went public, Allred released a statement saying, “Only a career politician like Otter would bash the federal government one day, then take credit for federal spending on the next.” Allred didn’t stop there. “Butch Otter is trying to cover up his slim accomplishments by jumping at federal dollars. We need a leader who is looking for job growth from within Idaho, not from Washington.”

So who’s right and who’s wrong? I'm not expert in Idaho politics, so I won’t jump to any conclusions, but there are some interesting weapons in both candidates’ arsenals. The Twin Falls Times News reports that in 2007, Otter said clean energy is “too reliant on government handouts,” and that “Idaho trails neighboring states in renewables, with a tenth of the wind capacity of Oregon and Washington.” On the other hand, that same report notes that Otter has supported green energy research at the Center for Advanced Energy Studies in Idaho Falls.

Another feather in Otter’s cap is a recent USA Today report that claims Idaho and a few other states are climbing out of the current economic recession thanks to energy innovation, but it does not specifically mention if the energy innovation is green or not.

In the end, the only opinions that matter will be the opinion of voters in Idaho, but it warms an energy wonk’s heart to see a legitimate debate unfolding over energy policy. Maybe it’s a sign of things to come.

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