Clean Energy Is Good for America, Whether You Believe in Climate Change or Not

Book cover

On Wednesday, Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, the head of the fourth largest coal company in the nation, said in an interview that "I deny that there is any science that supports global warming."

While it baffles me that flat-Earthers like Blankenship still exist, my response to the last few deniers is simple.

If you don't believe in the science, that's your problem. But the need for America to generate jobs and strengthen our national security is paramount, and clean energy is the fastest way to achieve that.

Blankenship, a major proponent of mountaintop removal coal mining, will likely continue to doubt the science. After all, he has been known to equate energy efficiency measures in America to life in Communist Russia.

But the rest of us Americans have a choice to make: which worldview are we going to stake our future on. One that makes America more competitive and more secure, or one that is grounded in a 19th century approach to energy and makes America fall farther behind in the global market place?

I know where I'd place my bet. Read my book, Clean Energy Common Sense, and you might make the same choice. The book is a quick, accessible read aimed at people who are still on the fence about climate action. I draw from the most authoritative voices in the fields of economics and national security to illustrate what clean energy can do for America.

I explain, for instance, that shifting to clean energy is first and foremost about jobs, jobs, and more jobs. Combined with the economic stimulus package, the clean energy legislation now before the Senate would create 1.7 million jobs spread across all 50 states, according to a 2009 study by the Political Economy Research Institute at University of Massachusetts. Meanwhile, researchers at the University of California found that employment would rise by 900,000 to 1.9 million jobs between 2010 and 2020 if we passed climate legislation. 

That is why, despite Blankenship's insinuation to the contrary, several of America's leading labor unions, including the United Steelworkers and the Utility Workers Union of America support the clean energy bill.

At the same time, reducing our reliance on dirty fuels will enhance our national security. Retired Navy Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn has told Congress that "Our growing reliance on fossil fuels jeopardizes our military and affects a huge price tag in dollars and potentially lives." That is why the Pentagon, the CIA, and the State Department take the threat of climate change very seriously.

On the same day of Blankenship's interview, Tom Friedman's column in the New York Times acts as an excellent counterpoint to it. He says that whether or not you believe in global warming, it is impossible to deny that the world's population is skyrocketing and that developing nations need more and more oil. What happens as this trend continues is "that the price of oil goes through the roof--unless we develop alternatives. The petro-dictators in Iran, Venezuela and Russia hope we don't. They would only get richer."

Like Friedman, I believe the path out of this costly and dangerous scenario leads straight through clean energy technology. China and Europe believe that too, and they are already trying to dominate what will become the biggest market of the 21st century.

If Congress passes clean energy legislation in the next few months, we can secure America's leadership in that marketplace. But if we let voices like Blankenship's distract us, we will be left behind. Which future are you going to choose?