By ACORE Interim CEO, Michael Brower 08/22/2013
It should be no surprise that when Gallup asks Americans to choose between economic growth or protecting the environment – during a time when too many Americans are still out of work, living paycheck to paycheck, drowning with college debt, and underemployed – they choose improving economic growth. But even as the economy remains America’s number one priority; more and more Americans are calling for action on climate change. Most Americans see the environmental and economic challenges climate change poses, but they also recognize--as the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) does--that clean, renewable energy is a solution to both environmental and economic challenges.
Choosing between policies that drive economic growth or policies that address climate change is a false-choice and one that is not always fairly presented to Americans. Certainly Americans feel the burden of a slowly recovering economy everyday whereas they might not yet feel the daily effects of climate change. But that doesn’t mean they don’t see the present and future challenges related to climate change. In fact most Americans already see the economic loss of climate change, especially in 2012 when 11 storms attributed by many scientists and meteorologists to climate change each required the federal government to spend $1 billion or more for recovery costs, as well as the $50 billion price tag for Superstorm Sandy recovery.
Take a recent poll by George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communications which found that a majority of Virginians think that extreme weather is becoming more common in Virginia as a result of climate change. Or look at Yale’s Project on Climate Change Communications which found that “concern about the effect of climate change is high across political groups and there is support for taking action to reduce global warming.” Luckily for all Americans, taking action to reduce climate change is equally a move to improve the state of our economy and ensure future economic growth. We at ACORE suggest that this concept is something national policymakers ought to more often embrace.
There are myriad economic benefits of implementing policies that aim to combat climate change by boosting the deployment of all types of renewable energy technologies from biofuels and waste heat to power to solar and geothermal. Renewable energy invigorates multiple—and creates new value chains that are integral to the U.S. economy. For example, take manufacturing, a segment of our economy that has been hit hard in recent decades, which has experienced consistent growth in wind turbine manufacturing and now supports thousands of jobs at over 500 manufacturers across the country. Renewable fuels, which 75% of Americans want more of, support over 400,000 jobs and could support up to a million jobs by 2022. Policies like state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) have leveraged well over a hundred billion dollars across 29 states, creating tens of thousands of jobs by deploying all types of zero and low carbon footprint renewable energy resources. With “bankable,” consistent policies aimed at bringing more renewable fuels, heat and power online, America’s economic and environmental challenges can be mitigated and lead to exciting, new American successes.
Now is the time to realize the economic potential and power of renewable energy and how it promises a cleaner, brighter future. In 2012, we saw 49% of all new electrical generation capacity come from renewable energy – showing how economically competitive renewable energy is in the American marketplace; and it’s only getting stronger. As the prices of renewable energy comes down, American policymakers ought to follow the wisdom of the American people and implement policies that aim to increase the deployment of this climate change-mitigating and economically-invigorating energy source. Renewable energy is truly an all-encompassing solution to two of Americans' major concerns; the economy and the environment.
This piece was published on the National Journal Energy Insiders before being published on the ACORE Blog.