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Energy and climate innovation a building block for the future

People love to say United States Senate is incapable of doing much of anything these days, least of all tackle tough issues like climate change. And yet, here we are, with the Senate passing the most significant climate and energy package in more than a decade. This is legislation that will catalyze energy innovation, creating new jobs and cost savings at a time when they are needed most.

Why is this so important? The reality here in the Mountain State is that our entire economy, like the rest of the nation’s, is transitioning and adding new and cleaner forms of energy, such as solar energy. This transition brings focus on the research, development and demonstration of new technologies. With the right policies, we may leverage this focus to create new jobs and cost savings for West Virginians. The Energy Act of 2020, which passed Congress this week as part of a larger spending bill, is one right policy.

This legislation provides much needed support for the development and commercial deployment of technologies that reduce emissions. It fosters the development of carbon capture and storage and advanced nuclear systems that can ease the transition. It helps build a modern electric grid with increased battery storage that makes it easier to adopt more renewable power sources, like wind and solar, and provides more resiliency to disruptions. This legislation also initiates a phase down of hydroflourocarbons, one of the most dangerous greenhouse gas emissions.

Most importantly, this legislation will save West Virginians money. The bill contains provisions to support energy efficiency, which not only reduces how much energy we use, but also cuts costs. The reauthorization of the Weatherization Assistance Program, which has helped over 8,000 West Virginians upgrade their homes and save money, will continue to allow homeowners the opportunity to save on average $283 a year.

If our presumption of Congressional gridlock is ever to change, we must start with a practical focus on solutions. The Energy Act of 2020 is a good, solid foundation that offers West Virginia options to continue to work toward solutions to support energy and economic diversification, as the world transitions to a low-carbon future.

Our best information indicates that in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, America needs to take action quickly. The current political climate should not prevent us from taking actions that are clearly in our interest and necessary for our future. Senator Manchin, in his role as Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, refused to accept gridlock and partisanship as an excuse to avoid taking steps on climate and energy.

We congratulate Senator Manchin and Senator Capito on this important accomplishment and appreciate their leadership in getting this important legislation across the finish line. This is a building block to a more prosperous future for West Virginians.

(Thomas Minney is executive director, and Beth Wheatley is director of external affairs & strategic initiatives of The Nature Conservancy in West Virginia)

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