Following his national policy discussion on Meet the Press Sunday, Ohio Governor John Kasich is in Washington, D.C. this week to speak about Ohio's economic "comeback."
In addition to touting the Buckeye State's remarkable economic resilience, we hope Gov. Kasich will also acknowledge the important role of clean energy in securing Ohio's path toward a cleaner environment, healthier Ohioans and a stronger economy.
Here are two "no-regrets" steps to ensure that Ohio moves down that path in the coming years:
Restore Ohio's clean energy policy
Energy efficiency and renewable energy like solar and wind can ramp up Ohio's economic stability and create healthier communities. Re-asserting Ohio's commitment to these clean energy tools would give the state a much-needed economic boost and create more jobs.
Ohio's energy efficiency programs have saved consumers more than $1.5 billion over the last five years. And these savings are extremely cost-effective; utilities report that energy efficiency yields a 2:1 return on investment. This means more dollars in Ohioans' wallets to spend on their families.
But the benefits don't stop there. Efficiency is also cheaper than natural gas and coal-fired power making it the "lowest cost alternative," according to American Electric Power (AEP). Their efficiency programs deliver power at 2 cents per kWh. This is about one-eighth of the 14 cents per kWh that Ohio's utilities charge homeowners for power from traditional sources.
Just recently, AEP also estimated that its energy efficiency plan alone will create 4,000 jobs. And this is just one of the four investor owned utilities. In total, Ohio is home to over 400 advanced energy companies that employ over 25,000 Ohioans.
The costs of wind and solar energy have declined by more than 60 percent in the past few years. A recent assessment by PJM, the largest energy grid operator in the world, found the electricity system that includes Ohio, could support a 30% presence for these renewables--all while maintaining reliability and drastically reducing pollution and costs. This means more money in Ohio's budget to reinvest in other economic initiatives.
Prioritize healthy families by addressing climate change
The biggest source of pollution driving climate change comes from power plants--emitting 40 percent of our nation's carbon. Dirty, polluted air worsens asthma in children, and leaves people coughing and missing work. Unfortunately, Ohio's power sector currently emits the nation's 4th largest carbon pollution plume, with four cities in Ohio ranking amongst the 20 most polluted in the country.
Also hitting close to home is last summer's water crisis in Toledo, when residents were deprived of drinking water for three days due to toxic algal blooms caused in part by global warming-fueled storms. These algal blooms take both a public health and an economic toll. An estimate by Walter Dodds of Kansas State University conservatively puts the annual cost of freshwater algal blooms at more than $1 billion from lost recreation and depressed property values.
Clean air and water are not luxuries--they serve basic needs and are essential for a strong economy.
The Path Forward
In 2012, Ohioans paid $4.2 billion in federal taxes to clean up after climate change-fueled extreme weather. It doesn't take a mathematician to know that climate change is already threatening Ohio's economic growth by increasing the frequency of costly, extreme weather events that harm the productivity of Ohio's workforce and jeopardize public health.
The recent freeze of Ohio's successful clean energy policy is a miscalculation now limiting the state's ability to tackle climate change and in the process create long-term economic growth in the clean energy sector.
As Ohio rolls up its sleeves to develop its plan for meeting the federal carbon rules for power plants--the "Clean Power Plan," which will be final this summer--the choice is obvious: develop a state-based plan to limit carbon pollution. We should be fighting back against climate change with clean energy--tools already at Ohio's disposal.
In talking about Ohio's economic future, we hope Gov. Kasich will address the importance of these steps--curbing pollution and investing in clean energy are the keys to growing our economy, safeguarding our environment, and protecting our health at the same time.
Done right, Ohio will thrive.