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States Must Lead Us Into the Clean Energy Future

Posted June 21, 2017

The recent decision by the Trump Administration to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, though devastating for our country, was met with an encouraging response from state, local, and corporate leaders who rose up to declare their continuing commitment to the agreement’s principles.  It is clear that states, in particular, must assume the mantle of leadership to address climate change and propel us forward toward a clean energy future.

Without swift action, coastal states like New Jersey will suffer the consequences of rising seas and severe weather events.  New Jersey must reduce rising emissions from gas-fired electric plants by growing clean energy sources like wind and solar.

Renewable energy is just around the corner, already overtaking fossil fuels as the largest source of new electric generation nationwide and transforming the energy landscape.

There’s an apt metaphor in the side-view mirror of your car: “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” The same is true of clean, affordable, homegrown energy like wind and solar. That future for New Jersey is closer than a lot of people think.

With Washington trying to take us backward on energy policies, the journey to a clean energy future depends upon leadership from the states.  Now is the time for New Jersey to make investments in clean, renewable energy such as offshore wind.  It is also critical that we prevent energy projects that would delay this much-needed energy transition and harm our environment.

The proposed PennEast pipeline is an example of the wrong type of energy project for our state.  According to Oil Change International, PennEast would create the same emissions as 14 coal-fired electric plants.  It would also put consumers on the hook for decades to pay for an unneeded pipeline that threatens our state’s air, water, health, and safety.  We can’t afford to take a huge detour like this on the road to a clean energy future.

We all want to see more jobs for New Jersey, but clean energy – not pipelines – is the solution.  More than 40,000 New Jerseyans owe their livelihoods to energy efficiency and renewables, whether they are installing solar panels or manufacturing LED lighting.  And, there are already more jobs in renewables than in coal and gas in New Jersey according to a recent analysis E2, Environmental Entrepreneurs.

Investing in renewables and energy efficiency improves the health of our communities, creates more jobs, and grows our economy.  Investments in renewable energy will create three times as many jobs as the same investments in fossil fuels, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Here are some key steps that New Jersey can take to become a leader on climate change and clean energy:

  • Rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a carbon-reducing cooperative effort across nine states. (Governor Christie unwisely withdrew New Jersey from this program in 2011);
  • Require that 80 percent of New Jersey’s energy comes from renewables by 2050, a goal supported by 75% of New Jersey voters, according to recent polls;
  • Challenge and thoroughly evaluate the need for more pipelines, and use New Jersey’s strong clean water laws to stop projects that would damage wetlands, waterways, and drinking water;
  • Ensure that the Pinelands Commission and Highlands Council fulfill their mandates and don’t approve pipelines that conflict with regional plans and jeopardize the precious natural resources in these regions;
  • Increase energy efficiency, an area where New Jersey ranks second-to-last in the region;
  • Support the continued growth of solar energy and make New Jersey a leader in offshore wind.

A clean energy future will make New Jerseyans healthier and more prosperous and ensure a high quality of life for future generations.  That future is within reach and states must lead the way, not look into their rear-view mirrors.

-Tom Gilbert, Campaign Director, ReThink Energy NJ

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