Op/Ed: Environment, economy & COVID-19

The effects of COVID-19 dramatically emphasize the urgent need to address climate change in Pennsylvania, both to protect our environment and to rebuild our battered economy.

While it feels like this crisis came out of nowhere, environmentalists have been warning us for years that global pandemics will increase in frequency and severity as long as humans keep encroaching on wildlife habitats, stressing those populations and species, and forcing them into contact with humans.

The climate crisis, which our leaders have ignored for even longer, is likely to be more harmful and more expensive. Climate change already displaces approximately 62,000 people every day and costs our economy over $250 billion per year.

Both of these crises point towards a single solution: expanding and expediting the growth of clean and renewable energy. Doing so is imperative for both dealing with climate change and rebuilding our economy with stable, good-paying jobs.

Clean and renewable energy represents a huge job creation and economic development opportunity and will only grow in importance as the natural gas industry sheds jobs in response to market forces and the decreasing demand for fossil fuels which has been exacerbated by the global economic shutdown.

Invest

Expediting the growth of clean and renewable energy requires significant targeted public investment--the same kind of public investment that has benefitted the fossil fuel industry for decades.

Regulate, Enforce & Tax

Because of the lack of public investment, current capacity in the renewable energy sector is nowhere near sufficient to meet the commonwealth’s energy demand.

So as we work to expand our clean and renewable energy infrastructure, we must ensure the natural gas industry--which is currently meeting much of that demand and powering our economy--is held to the highest safety and environmental standards.

We have to enact a severance tax on the value of natural gas being extracted, like the extraction taxes in place in all other natural gas-producing states.

This revenue is desperately needed to fund enforcement of safety standards and remediation of negative environmental impacts. It is also a source of revenue that can be used to encourage growth in the renewable sector.

Who will lead the way?

Creating this plan will require a coalition of stakeholders including organized labor, environmental and energy policy experts, and representatives of companies directly involved with the development and distribution of both fossil fuels and renewable energy.

Republicans and Democrats in the state House and Senate must put aside their ideological differences to create a full-scale, wide-ranging plan to facilitate and expedite the transition to clean and renewable energy. Such bold action is right for the economy and right for the environment.

If there is a silver lining to this epidemic, it is that it has shown us what is possible and what is essential. Fighting climate change and building a strong economy are both essential. And if we join together, both are possible.

Anton Andrew
Candidate for Pa. 160th Legislative District

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