Republicans should lead on climate change, clean energy

clean energy

Democrats and liberals have driven the conversation around environmentalism and climate change for too long — and it has gotten us nowhere. The issue is so bogged down by partisan politics and unrealistic, radical proposals like the Green New Deal that it has effectively reached a legislative stalemate in Congress.

Republicans in Washington and in state capitals nationwide should help break this gridlock by taking up the mantle of environmental stewardship and clean energy in a way that is consistent with our conservative ideals. U.S. Sen. Rob Portman — who has long fought to strengthen Ohio’s economy and create local jobs — should help lead on this issue. It’s time to put “conserve” back in “conservative.” Portman’s support of the Restore our Parks Act is a step in the right direction, but more, faster action is required to preserve our environment and the American way of life.

It should come as no surprise that there are growing numbers of young conservatives like me who believe that economic growth and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive goals, but actually go hand-in-hand. A recent poll by the American Conservation Coalition (ACC) surveying millennial-aged GOP voters sheds some light on the importance of climate change for the younger generation of Republicans.

More than two-thirds of millennial Republicans — age 18 to 38 — believe that the GOP needs to do more when it comes to addressing climate change, with nearly half agreeing that ignoring the problem will be harmful to the future of the party. Moreover, more than three-quarters of millennial GOP voters support government action to accelerate the development of clean energy in the United States. Additionally, more than four in five agree that it is important for the United States to expand and use more renewable energy.

Republican members of Congress like Portman should keep this feedback in mind and take this opportunity to pivot the discussion over clean energy and environmental protection. We need Congress to pass free-market solutions that will secure much-needed jobs, spur our economy, and drive innovation — all while ensuring America continues to remain a global leader in reducing carbon emissions.

This is as important a national discussion as it is a local one, as Ohio is well-poised to benefit from investments in clean energy. Last year, we ranked eighth in the nation for employment in the clean energy sector, boasting more than 114,000 clean energy jobs, according to a study by Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2). We also ranked seventh nationally for solar, with more than 7,200 solar jobs in 2019 — up 1.7 percent from the previous year.

However, like many other economic sectors, the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has had a debilitating impact on Ohio’s clean energy economy. In March and April alone, Ohio lost nearly 20,000 clean energy jobs and more than 14,000 energy efficiency jobs, according to another E2 study. In order to not only bring these jobs back, but continue creating new ones, lawmakers must invest in our clean energy workers and job creators.

Fortunately, Congress has demonstrated that it can act quickly when push comes to shove, having already passed a series of legislative economic stimulus packages aimed at supporting impacted workers and businesses. However, none of these measures has included funding for clean energy, specifically. There is legislation pending, however, that could give Ohio’s — and our entire nation’s — clean energy economy the jumpstart it so desperately needs right now.

The American Energy Innovation Act (AEIA) and America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act (ATIA) are two pieces of bipartisan legislation that Congress should turn its attention to passing without delay. These bills would go a long way in expanding, protecting, and creating new clean energy jobs while powering a stronger economy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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