Republicans Are Leading on Clean Energy

Originally posted to Newsweek:

HEATHER REAMS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBLE ENERGY SOLUTIONS

More and more Republican voters believe in human-caused climate change. And Republican lawmakers are taking action.

Conservative-led carbon-reduction solutions continue to be offered on Capitol Hill and, combined with policies promoting clean energy jobs, could help drive our economic recovery. But more Republican lawmakers need to get on board or otherwise risk being left behind by voters—especially younger ones.

As Congress continues to grapple with meeting the ongoing public health and economic needs of a nation reeling from COVID-19, conservatives on Capitol Hill should be working to put Americans back to work in one of the most high-growth, high-potential fields—clean energy.

Even before the COVID-19 crisis hit, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was pursuing enactment of two major, comprehensive bills with bipartisan support that would reduce carbon emissions, support carbon capture projects and provide funding to build and protect sustainable infrastructure. In the House, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) unveiled a package of clean energy measures with the backing of key committee leaders.

But that was then. Today, more than 33 million Americans are unemployed. While the dynamics have changed, the urgency to create work for those who want it has never been greater.

The facts are the facts: Every state and congressional district in the country benefits from the clean energy sector, which was among the fastest growing over the past decade. Over the last five years, the clean energy sector has kept well ahead of total U.S. employment growth, adding jobs 70 percent faster than the overall economy from 2015-2019 according to a recent report from Environmental Entrepreneurs. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects clean energy to be on track to continue that growth over the next decade.

But the electoral trends also are clear: A majority of conservative Republicans believe that human activity is contributing to global warming and younger Republicans believe that the government is doing too little to fight climate change. A recent Pew study showed that 78 percent of Millennial and Gen Z Republicans say the United States should prioritize alternative energy sources over expanding fossil fuels.

This doesn’t need to be a complicated issue for Republicans—it’s a common-sense issue. As a proven high-growth sector, clean energy will continue to add well-paying jobs across America while also will improving public health, reducing pollution and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The good news for conservatives is that much of what the federal government can do to continue the growth in the clean energy sector does not require the creation of huge government programs. Responding to entreaties from U.S. Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA), John Thune (R-SD) and Murkowski, the Treasury Department has announced a reprieve for renewable energy projects that have been threatened by supply chain disruptions and workforce upheaval because the tax credits that would have made them profitable were set to expire at the end of the year.

This should give citizens of every political stripe reason to cheer. In the solar sector—a renewable source transitioning from niche supplier to neighborhood mainstay—projects in the residential and commercial markets in the second quarter of 2020 are down 70 percent, and the utility market is down 50 percent. As homeowners delay or cancel home renovations in Florida, one solar energy installer is contemplating layoffs of up to 75 percent, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

In the wind energy sector, projects that could produce 25 gigawatts of energy—enough to power more than seven million homes—are at risk. The $35 billion overall investment in these projects is in jeopardy and could result in a loss of 35,000 jobs and an $8 billion loss in lease payments and local tax revenues in rural areas of the United States.

Energy security is a conservative value, and America has made enormous strides over the last decade developing our domestic energy supply—even while reducing carbon emissions and growing our economy, all at the lowest cost to the taxpayer.

Developing our clean energy sector is the best possible scenario, it’s noticed by Republican voters and it’s a clear path toward our collective recovery. All Republican lawmakers should join with those at the vanguard embracing a clean energy future, least of all for their political futures.

Heather Reams is the executive director of Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, a non-profit organization that recently launched Clean Energy Forward to engage Republican policymakers and the public about responsible, conservative solutions to address our nation’s energy, economic and environmental security while increasing America’s competitive edge.

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