For those who still question the economic benefits of clean energy and energy diversification, look no further than Pennsylvania. Our energy sector has expanded tremendously in recent years, fueled by advances in technology that seemed out of reach 10 or 20 years ago. Clean energy is now cheap enough to compete economically with the likes of coal and natural gas. These economic and technological advances have created unprecedented individual freedom in energy development — and an unparalleled ability to create even greater prosperity for our communities and families.
I say all of that as a free-market conservative — and a clean energy advocate. Conservatives who have investigated the energy marketplace, as I have, believe free enterprise drives job creation and economic growth. Increasingly, that’s what we’re seeing when it comes to clean energy in Pennsylvania and around the country.
That’s why I recently joined the Leadership Council of the Pennsylvania Conservative Energy Forum, a group advocating for greater adoption of clean energy across the commonwealth. When I was lieutenant governor, I supported our burgeoning energy industries, and the Corbett-Cawley administration was deeply invested in freedom and economic development.
Now, an “all-of-the-above” energy portfolio — which includes historic commodities like natural gas and coal, renewable sources like wind, solar, and hydro, and legacy and new technologies for nuclear power — like the one we have in Pennsylvania provides a national blueprint for driving economic growth. Today, clean and renewable energy is growing at an annual rate of more than 2 percent. There are now more than 86,000 clean energy jobs in Pennsylvania, including 65,000-plus in energy efficiency, which saves businesses money, enhances conservation, and creates local jobs. Job growth and economic development in the clean and renewable sector lowers costs for efficient energy options and broadens their appeal and viability. In other words, we grow the economic “pie” for everyone.
To illustrate the new opportunities in this sector, look no further than the commonwealth’s brand-new Commercial PACE — Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy — program. Pennsylvania’s county governments, supported by the recent passage of the bi-partisan C-PACE bill, can now offer low-interest financial backing to entrepreneurs in the commercial sector who wish to invest in clean and renewable energy at the local level. This work, representing a soft government footprint and a strong business-friendly climate, will continue to create jobs and grow the economy.
A true Pennsylvania conservative leader — and one who will soon begin his first term in Congress — Sen. Guy Reschenthaler, sponsored the C-PACE bill. Our House and Senate leadership — starting with Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and House Speaker Mike Turzai, both Republicans — led their respective caucuses with overwhelming votes in favor. Why did so many conservatives sign on? Because clean and renewable energy means jobs, economic development, and more economic freedom for landowners, farmers, and communities.
It was none other than Ronald Reagan who once said that to be a conservative is to conserve. Conserving and developing our energy resources are defining characteristics of clean and renewable energy. It’s also this approach that frees us from high dependency on foreign sources of energy, often purchased from hostile regimes overseas. Energy that is abundant, locally sourced, and encouraged by favorable free-market state policies is something that all conservatives can — and should — take pride in.
Jim Cawley served as lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania from 2011 to 2015.