On the eve of the historic, binding COP21 agreement of 195 nations committing to greenhouse gas reductions and acknowledging that we need to act immediately and collaboratively to avert the worst impacts of climate change, I have renewed hope for the world we are leaving for my son and his generation. But I am surprised to find that there are still people that believe we can’t have clean air and a healthy environment while still having affordable, reliable energy. This is evidenced by the recent opinion piece, “Evelyn Everton: Utah's ongoing energy threat.” While I wholeheartedly agree with the author that we need affordable energy, the facts show that we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to the benefit of our kids, and have a robust economy, new jobs, affordable energy and clean air all at the same time.
The Clean Power Plan, which limits carbon pollution from existing power plants, is a fair and flexible strategy for Utah to reduce pollution while still having affordable energy, a growing economy and good paying jobs. Unfortunately, special interests with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo are relentlessly pushing false information in an attempt to scare us into saying no to energy efficiency and renewable energy.
But when armed with reliable information, it becomes clear that Utah is extremely well positioned to take advantage of the benefits presented by the Clean Power Plan.
Cutting carbon pollution is an opportunity now at our fingertips. Energy efficiency is the easiest and cheapest way for Utah to reduce emissions under the Clean Power Plan. We know it works, it’s been tested and it’s ready to deploy now. Tapping into Utah’s abundant renewable energy, namely solar, wind and geothermal, and combining that with energy efficiency, will mean new jobs and affordable, long-term, local energy. It’s a win-win.
Let me pause here to correct some misinformation from the previous op-ed. Utah energy bills will not rise dramatically under the Clean Power Plan. Claims to the contrary rely on outdated assumptions around the costs of renewable energy, gas prices and energy efficiency. In fact, a study by Synapse Energy Economics shows that Utah residential monthly bills would actually go down by $39 under the Clean Power Plan.
When it comes to jobs, I’m inclined to agree with the folks at Forbes who reported that hundreds of thousands of clean energy jobs will result from the Clean Power Plan (from article, 3 Ways The Clean Power Plan Will Strengthen Our Economy). From recent trends, it’s easy to see why: In 2014, the solar energy market employed more than 142,698 Americans (more than the coal mining industry at 89,838), and the renewable industry employed more than 700,000 Americans. Furthermore, one dollar invested in clean energy today creates three times as many jobs as a dollar invested in fossil fuels.
I want prosperity for my family, my community, and Utah in general. By taking advantage of the Clean Power Plan, we can cut energy waste and pollution while boosting our prosperity. So let’s stop being wasteful. Let’s not waste money on power bills that could be cheaper with energy efficiency. Let’s not waste energy buying into false information from special interests. Most of all, we need to stop wasting any more time arguing about the Clean Power Plan, and get busy creating and implementing a smart strategy for this positive and doable plan that will help clean the air, boost our economy and provide affordable, reliable energy for all Utahns.
Sarah Wright is the executive director of Utah Clean Energy.