By Maurice Carter, Sustainable Newton President
Wednesday in Washington brought a flurry of environmental executive orders and policy statements from President Biden that delighted environmentalists and climate activists -- while also drawing fire from Republicans seeking to use climate as a wedge issue. Among the most significant actions the President announced, he:
Senator Ted Cruz (R - TX) was among the first seeking to leverage the economic anxiety of his state's fossil fuel sector workers to attack President Biden's announcements Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Texas Governor Greg Abbott threatened to sue the federal government "to protect the oil and gas industry from any type of hostile attack launched from Washington, D.C,” (One wonders if Abbott also plans to sue General Motors, which announced its intent on Thursday to transition to an all-electric vehicle line by 2035?)
It is reasonable and appropriate for the Senator and Governor of Texas to focus on jobs for constituents. But, that's an ongoing obligation -- not a point in time. Cruz and Abbott should level with Texans about long-term employment prospects. As Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) said In his impassioned speech from the floor of the US Senate following the Capitol riot: "The best way we can show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth. That is the burden, and the duty, of leadership." That's true not only of election results, but also the environment and jobs.
And the truth is Texas is second only to California in clean energy jobs, with 5% employment growth in that sector year-over-year. Across the US, jobs are shifting from the fossil fuel industries to clean energy technologies like wind and solar. Despite repeated reassurances under the last administration, coal jobs declined 24% under President Trump.
These trends are the result not of a "hostile attack from Washington, DC," but rather the inevitable effect of market-driven changes, as solar, wind, and storage technology prices have dropped by orders of magnitude over the past decade. Some references:
Some openings require prior experience in clean energy technology, but many do not. And skills are often transferable from conventional fossil fuel jobs.
Governor Abbott would do well to redirect Texas taxpayer resources away from frivolous lawsuits swimming against economic tides and into job training programs and a communications strategy. Senator Cruz should negotiate with the Biden Administration and Democrats to make investments in job retraining a top priority. And both men should commit themselves to telling the truth. For, as Senator Romney said: "That is the burden, and the duty, of leadership."
Thankfully, many Republicans already recognize that duty and embrace climate reality, like former Ohio Governor and 2016 presidential candidate John Kasich, former South Carolina Congressman Bob Inglis, and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Note: I've devoted the entirety of my argument to the economic realities of the clean energy transition, setting aside -- for now -- the compelling reasons America and the world must move quickly away from carbon-intensive fossil fuels that have created the current climate crisis. Because, whether you believe that or not (and 97% of scientists do), the cold, hard economics of energy mean that renewable energy is here to stay.