The transition to clean energy is necessary, popular, and doable

The spirit of the United States is young – full of innovation and entrepreneurship. Indeed, millions of Americans recently marked Earth Day by petitioning their governments and patronizing companies that reduce their carbon footprints.

Ken Silverstein

Ken Silverstein

The naive may mock this move. But times have changed, and the warming trend is apolitical. The green economy is booming across the country, influencing the American way of thinking. Reversing course is unsustainable – and uneconomical.

“There are natural leaders in every sector,” said Tim Lenton, professor of climate change at the University of Exeter in the UK. “And there are those who resist change. But you don’t have to change all of them at once. We have to reach a tipping point for a specific group and everyone else will follow. Early adopters and leaders make the difference.”

Modern green technology companies have usurped jobs in old factories and mining. In other words, coal mines may be closing in West Virginia, but battery storage facilities are opening there. This is progress that requires employees to improve their professional qualifications and the government to invest in 21st century infrastructure.

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Enter the Inflation Reduction Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law in 2022. The private sector has announced at least 210 significant green energy and clean vehicle projects across the country. If they come to fruition, they would create 74,181 jobs and generate $86.3 billion, according to findings by the nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs.

It was preceded by the CHIP Act and the Act on Infrastructure Investments and Employment.

According to the Energy Information Administration, the American economy is becoming increasingly green. Coal once provided more than half of the country’s electricity, but it now accounts for 16%. Natural gas, which emits half of carbon dioxide, accounts for 43%, while renewable energy sources account for 21.5%, and this number will grow.

The clean energy case is similar to that faced by rural America after the Great Depression in the 1930s: as part of the New Deal, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Administration to bring electricity and economic development to isolated parts of the country.

Rural America has benefited from forward-thinking policies – in the same way that the hardest-hit countries are gradually evolving.

For example, Duke Energy is building one of the most extensive solar systems in Kentucky — 5,600 solar panels on the roof of the 800,000-square-foot Amazon Air Hub. Form Energy is building a battery warehouse in West Virginia that will employ 750 people.

“West Virginians are ahead of their leaders,” says James Van Nostrand, author of “The Coal Trap.” “The transformation is already underway and we need to create some clean energy jobs from it. Otherwise we will go down with coal.”

Climate change is not so much a partisan issue as it is a generational issue. While some older Americans long for a return to the past, younger Americans are moving forward. They want lasting and sustainable jobs that improve their quality of life.

Some may ridicule climate change as a hoax. However, most of us want to deal with it. Consider this: Canadian authorities have just warned of another disastrous wildfire season that hit the US East Coast last year. In 2023, there were more than 6,500 wildfires in Canada caused by drought and higher temperatures.

Moreover, we are losing two ice sheets: Greenland and West Antarctica. In addition, there is the loss of coral reefs. The lives of hundreds of thousands of people depend on them, not to mention snorkelers. Sea levels are rising.

But don’t lose heart. Consumer demand and technological advances have forced the corporate world to respond. Volvo is phasing out the internal combustion engine and only producing cars powered by alternative fuels. Tesla has open-sourced its advanced electric vehicle battery technology.

Even the most stubborn political leaders will back down when they realize the voices are here.

Silverstein has been writing about energy and the environment for for years.