Guest post by Secretary Collin O’Mara, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, originally published in The News Journal
Imagine if our nation missed the greatest economic opportunity of this century.
While the Congressional climate and energy debate has devolved into gridlock, nations around the globe are positioning themselves to dominate the $6 trillion energy market and seize millions of related manufacturing and research jobs at America’s expense.
In the U.S., we have been presented with a false choice that pits economic prosperity against environmental sustainability. This dichotomy could not be further from the truth. Embedded within the great challenges of our time — addressing climate change, achieving energy independence, balancing our trade deficit, and reducing global conflict — are incredible market opportunities that can help revitalize the American economy, expand domestic manufacturing, and rebuild our middle class. This is the promise of climate prosperity.
The consequences of inaction could be catastrophic. If we allow greenhouse gas emissions to continue unchecked, global climate change will raise sea levels, exacerbating flooding along Delaware’s coast. Climate change will also cause drought and crop losses, intense storms, habitat destruction and geopolitical conflict. Not to mention the billions of dollars in domestic health-related costs each year that can be attributed to the burning coal and oil.
The transition to a clean-energy economy represents a critical part of the solution to these interconnected issues as well as an unparalleled opportunity.
The average American family and business spends nearly 10 percent of their income on energy-related expenses. We send $250 billion abroad each year to import foreign oil and other fossil fuels. Fortunately, we have technologies emerging that will reduce the amount we spend on energy dramatically and keep more dollars here at home.
Yet despite the gridlock in Washington, nimble and close-knit states like Delaware can seize opportunities today and lay a strong foundation for long-term prosperity. Delaware’s competitive advantages of innovation, a skilled workforce, and responsive government position the state to seize emerging market opportunities.
Key markets for Delaware include energy efficiency and building materials; renewable energy such as solar, fuel cells, and offshore wind; plug-in electric vehicles; and sustainable chemistry.
Under Governor Markell’s leadership, we have found common ground and strong bipartisan support for market-based mechanisms that achieve environmental outcomes while spurring private sector competition, investment, and growth. With innovative policies supporting energy efficiency and renewable energy, we are establishing Delaware as a national leader.
Over the past year, we have seen inspiring advances and growth by cutting-edge companies, such as DuPont, Ashland Hercules, WL Gore, Motech, Ion Power, Air Liquide, Fisker, Autoport, SolarDock, White Optics, and numerous efficiency and renewable energy providers. These great companies are already employing thousands of Delawareans in research, manufacturing, and deployment of next-generation technologies and serve as the building blocks of our clean energy economy.
Now, we must integrate the great work occurring across Delaware into a coordinated statewide effort. In addition to strong leadership from the private sector, creative initiatives are being launched by committed local governments, advocacy organizations, religious institutions, and citizens. Bold sustainability campaigns are underway on the campuses of UD, DelTech, DelState, Wesley, Wilmington, Widener, and secondary educational institutions. Delmarva, the Electric Co-op, municipal utilities and the Sustainable Energy Utility are implementing innovative programs. DelTech, local labor unions, and non-profit organizations, have launched innovative energy workforce training programs.
With so much activity, we must form new partnerships and work together towards strategic priorities that both make business sense and produce tangible environmental benefits.
A common commitment to maximizing energy efficiency, adopting cost-effective renewable energy, transitioning to cleaner transportation alternatives, and expanding recycling, for example, could produce immediate cost savings and local manufacturing opportunities, serving as models that can be replicated nationwide.
Many of the pieces are in place for Delaware to spur significant job creation and emerge as a leader in the global clean energy economy. Thank you to the University of Delaware for hosting the “Creating the Clean Energy Economy” conference, as well as the many other organizations involved. I’m looking forward to working closely with the community to take our efforts to the next level. By seizing the opportunities today, we will build a prosperous economy for years to come.
Click here to read Governor Markell’s recent post on combining innovation and manufacturing to drive Delaware’s clean energy industry.