By Steve Fortenberry and David Moyar
Clergy members and CEOs don’t always speak in a unified voice.
But no one should remain silent about the misguided legislative attacks against Ohio’s clean energy policies – attacks that ultimately threaten both the health of our children and the health of our economy.
In his ongoing attempts to rollback Ohio’s Energy Efficiency and Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard, state Sen. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati has called those who want to preserve the policies “envirosocialists,” and suggested that “liberty loving Ohioans” rise up and seek “judicial redress.”
How sad is it that name calling, rhetoric and legal threats have taken the place of democracy and constructive dialogue?
How unfortunate is it that politics and special interests have closed the eyes and deafened the ears of some to the real reasons why we need to reduce our unhealthy and unsustainable dependence on dirty energy?
We are a pastor and a business owner, both with deep Ohio roots. Here are some of the commonsense reasons why we – and the majority of Ohioans – think our state should not become the nation’s first to repeal its clean energy standard:
*Ohioans breathe more toxic air pollution than residents of any state except Kentucky because of its preponderance of coal-fired power plants, according to EPA data from 2012. Mercury, hydrochloric acid and other toxics released by coal-fired power plants cause birth defects and brain damage in the unborn, and increase risks of asthma, respiratory infections and other health problems.
*Ohioans’ pocketbooks would be hard-hit by repealing the standard, by which 25 percent of all electricity sales by Ohio utilities would come from solar, wind or other renewable sources by 2025 (50 percent from wind and solar and 50 percent from other sources). Since the standard was passed, consumers have saved 1.4 percent on their energy bill and Ohio has seen increased investments in the energy sector, which stimulated GDP by $160 million in 2012 alone, according to Ohio State researchers. Repeal it, and Ohioans will pay nearly $4 billion more for power over the next 12 years, according to Ohio State.
*We have a moral obligation to reduce pollution from power plants. If we care at all about future generations, we must take steps today to be better stewards of what’s been given to us.
*Clean energy works for Ohio. Our state’s forward-thinking stance on clean energy has attracted more than 160 solar industry manufacturers and has made Ohio a leading supplier of wind turbine equipment. Last year, nearly 2,000 clean energy and clean transportation jobs were announced in the state, according to the nonpartisan, nonprofit business group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2). Ohio would lose more than 6,500 jobs in the renewable and energy efficiency sectors if the clean energy standard is repealed, according to Ohio State.
Ohio’s clean energy standard was approved by a bipartisan group of lawmakers – including Sen. Seitz – in 2008. They’ve worked well since then, helping to level the playing field and giving alternative energy companies a chance to compete against coal-powered utilities and giving us more freedom of choice for the electricity we need.
The standard worked so well, in fact, that fossil fuel industry backed groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – of which Sen. Seitz is a board member – now want to repeal it in Ohio and other states across the country.
Doing so won’t help Ohioans, it will hurt Ohioans.
In addition to killing jobs and raising prices, repealing the standard will effectively give big utilities a free pass on reducing the pollution they spew into our air – at the expense of us, our children and our businesses.
Collectively, we need to raise our voices and let our lawmakers know this as businesspeople, as clergy members, as parents, as Ohioans.
David Moyar is CEO of Cleveland-based MEI Hotels Inc. and a member of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2).