Build stronger NC economy through clean energy

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Hickory Daily Record

Never has there been a greater opportunity for conservatives to lead on clean energy than right now. The COVID-19 pandemic brought our nation’s economy to a near standstill, shuttering businesses and causing jobs to disappear almost overnight. 

The clean energy sector here in North Carolina has been no exception. To date, more than 21,000 clean energy workers are still out of a job — representing roughly 19% of our state’s pre-pandemic clean energy workforce. 

These are sobering figures, representing hardworking men, women and families who have had their lives and livelihoods put on hold. However, all is not lost. This presents an opportunity for Republican leaders in Congress to support investments in our clean energy infrastructure that will help North Carolinians return to their jobs and continue the great work we have done as a state in securing clean energy. 

North Carolina is already a leader in clean energy, having committed to a 40% reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 while increasing the use of clean vehicles and implementing a range of energy efficiency measures in state government buildings, reducing energy waste while saving taxpayer money. On top of that, the North Carolina Clean Energy Plan has set an ambitious goal of reducing emissions in the electric power sector by 70% by 2030, with the ultimate goal for our state to be carbon-neutral by 2050. 

These efforts are not only helping to preserve our natural resources and protect our pristine environment for generations to come, but they also reflect fiscally and economically smart policies that conservatives should embrace and support. As chairman of the Conservatives for Clean Energy Board since 2014, I am proud of the progress we have made on these issues at the state level. We have come a long way in the march toward a cleaner energy future for all North Carolinians. 

I also am heartened by the leadership that U.S. Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis have demonstrated in advancing clean energy policies from the nation’s capital. Senator Tillis’ efforts to enhance military facilities here in North Carolina and throughout the nation with renewable energy generation is helping advance clean energy solutions while increasing the strength, resiliency, and energy independence of our military installations. While all these accomplishments are commendable, we cannot afford to stop there. 

We have seen firsthand how quickly Congress can react when push comes to shove, as trillions of dollars in COVID-19 relief has been allocated across a wide swath of our economy. These efforts were critical in protecting many of our nation’s small businesses and workers. However, throughout the various iterations of economic relief packages, we have yet to see any funding allocated specifically to support our vital clean energy industry, which before the pandemic was a rising star in America’s economy.

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