Clean Energy Can Power a Stronger NC Economy

November 17, 2020

The following commentary was provided by NC Senator Todd Johnson.
The article first appeared in The Enquirer Journal.

Like most national election years, 2020 has proven to be a politically polarizing one. However, I believe there are areas where Republicans, Democrats, and Independents can find consensus. One of those is the potential for clean energy to benefit local communities and our entire state. As we look ahead past Election Day, into 2021 and beyond, I hope that our leaders across the political spectrum in Washington will help make clean energy the priority it should be.

As both a state senator and in my previous role as a member of the Union County Board of Commissioners, I have seen first-hand the positive economic impact that developing North Carolina’s clean energy resources has on local communities.

From creating well-paying jobs suited for the 21st century to supporting local businesses, the positive economic ripple effect that occurs when we invest in clean and renewable energies, as well as our clean energy infrastructure, can help empower local workers and communities.

That is part of the reason that conservative support for clean energy development has steadily increased. In fact, according to a recent poll by Conservatives for Clean Energy, more than 78% North Carolina voters — including Republican, Democratic, and those unaffiliated — would be more likely to back a lawmaker or candidate who supports policies that promote renewable energy development. Additionally, more than six in 10 North Carolina voters believe that “some action” or “immediate action” should be taken to address climate change, the poll found.

This trend carries through to leadership, undermining the old narrative of GOP climate denial. GOP co-sponsors supporting a resolution to recognize National Clean Energy Week jumped 150% from 2019 to 2020. And in Washington, Republican lawmakers — veterans and newcomers alike — have called publicly for innovative, market-based approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Investing in North Carolina’s renewable and clean energy resources offers the potential not only to address the impacts of climate change, but also to create and support much-needed local jobs for North Carolinians while helping our state and nation build a stronger, more resilient economy.

As a matter of fact, before the COVID-19 pandemic, America’s clean energy economy supported more than 3.3 million jobs nationwide, in sectors ranging from energy efficiency to clean fuels to electric vehicles to renewables. However, as with just about every other industry, the clean energy sector was hit hard by the pandemic.

While some clean energy jobs have returned, there are still roughly half a million Americans who once worked in this thriving sector but are still out of a job today. To get America’s clean energy workforce back on the job, it is critical that Congress make the necessary investments in building out and strengthening our clean energy economy and infrastructure.

To that end, North Carolina’s U.S. Republican Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr have been pushing their colleagues to include policies that will support clean energy jobs and power innovation across the clean energy economy as part of COVID-19 recovery. Hopefully, their efforts will not be in vain.

Investing in clean energy here in North Carolina and throughout the nation can help America continue to lead in the fight against climate change while creating jobs and spurring economic growth that will benefit communities nationwide.

Congressional leadership, including Republicans, should continue work to strengthen America’s clean energy economy and help get clean energy workers back on the job.