In September, the U.S. Senate began deliberations on the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, following passage of a comprehensive climate and energy bill by the House of Representatives in June. Regional energy experts led by Sen. Maria Cantwell and people I trust from Avista and Itron have convinced me that now is the time for the Inland Northwest to stand up for a clean energy economy. We have the resources and technology; we just need the national leadership to do what is right and begin a transition to a clean energy economy.
For those of us in Eastern Washington, the need for this legislation is clear. Temperatures in Washington are expected to rise 5 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050, which will result in snowmelt occurring earlier and faster each year. Early snowmelt means more water resource problems for our dry region, including limited water supplies for drinking, agriculture and forest fire mitigation. Given these damaging consequences, we need to make sure that we’re at the forefront of the conversation to shift our nation to a clean energy economy.
Not only do we stand to gain by mitigating the impacts of climate change, we also stand to benefit significantly from investments in a new clean energy economy. Washington has what it takes to be the future powerhouse for clean energy. We currently rank fifth nationally in wind power and fourth nationally in clean energy venture capital investments. Under the national legislation we would receive $680 million for expanded energy efficiency investments.
Eastern Washington is home to some of the most dynamic leaders in clean energy innovation, and some of the nation’s foremost clean technology research and development capabilities are at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Our universities are joining smart researchers together with free enterprise leaders to find workable solutions. We have an abundance of renewable resources here: sun, water, wind and, most of all, the human resources to lead the way.
A strong national commitment to a bold clean energy transition will spur a flurry of investments that will accelerate economic recovery and drive solutions that pay dividends for years to come. Arguing against clean energy will shortchange our community’s future.
It’s also an argument against our national security. Our foreign affairs and defense are linked to our energy policy through our dependence on foreign oil. There is no doubt we as Americans rely on foreign oil reserves controlled by countries whose interests are at odds with our own; currently, we are sending billions of dollars overseas to pay for oil, leaving us and our military personnel vulnerable to unstable or hostile regimes.
It’s not just the threats to our national security. In these tough times, families are clipping coupons, buying in bulk and pinching pennies any way they can. As costs for everything from groceries to gasoline climb, the costs of not solving our economic crisis grow. However, if the Clean Energy Jobs bill passes, the average family in Washington is estimated to save over $5 per month on their energy bills and nearly $10 per month on vehicle fuel costs. Nationally, the legislation would create 1.7 million new clean energy jobs, of which at least 34,000 would be right here in Washington. The Clean Energy Jobs bill will help revive our nation’s struggling economy while protecting our planet; now is our moment to seize that opportunity.
Here in Washington state, we have the opportunity to help our nation lead. Our senators are both accomplished leaders. Sen. Cantwell has established herself as a clean energy champion and Sen. Patty Murray is an influential member of the Senate’s leadership. Now it’s up to these senators to ensure that the U.S. Senate passes the Clean Energy Jobs Act this year. We need them to do more than vote for the bill; they must speak loudly for the people of Washington and actively work to advance the bill.
In these challenging times, we need immediate action by the Senate to create jobs. We need the Senate to put us on a path to a clean energy economy and shift away from the carbon-based fuels that threaten our environment, our economy and our national security. We need Sens. Cantwell and Murray to take on their leadership roles to advance this legislation so that Washington state will reap the benefits of energy independence and building a clean energy economy. The future will be much brighter when Congress steps up to this enormous opportunity.
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