On this Election Day, most of us can probably agree on one thing: we’re tired. Tired of divisiveness in particular. Perhaps your views of an old friend have changed, or you’ve been dragging around a low-level anxiety with you for weeks or months. Uncertainty and charged emotions can be a destructive combination.
In many ways, these same conditions have been a part of the energy conversation for years. There are those who are adamant that we should maximize fossil fuel production, especially of the domestic kind, to keep energy prices low, protect our national security, and support employment in established industries. Then there are those who are equally adamant that we should rapidly adopt clean energy technologies to decrease our carbon emissions, reduce other pollutants, stimulate new job growth, and provide more consumer choice. The voices of energy “fact checkers” are often drowned out among shouts of half-truths and rhetoric.
Yet there remains a path forward where environmental progress in energy isn’t in opposition to economic progress in energy. Examples include large-scale wind developments providing construction jobs, stable income to ranchers, and guaranteed revenue to local governments. Or rooftop solar providing employment to installers and cutting electricity bills for consumers. Even electric vehicle charging stations located near retail present the opportunity for EV owners to charge while shopping, benefiting local businesses while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
CSU Extension works to explore energy opportunities that have the potential to benefit both the environment and the economy. Examples include conducting community energy assessments for small, rural towns to identify funding, financing, and educational opportunities around energy efficiency and renewable energy and conducting solar and wind financial feasibility assessments for farmers with center pivot sprinklers.
Of course, as clean energy sources begin to replace fossil fuels at greater scale, communities that rely on fossil fuels for employment can suffer. (Note that this even happens within the fossil fuel world, as cheap natural gas has replaced just as much (or more) coal than renewables.) For clean energy at scale we also have to wonder about things like where the materials for batteries come from and how much land we’ll need to dedicate for utility scale solar.
So instead of digging in to preconceived notions and shouting louder than the other side, we can be willing to ask questions. How will an energy project affect both the economy and the environment? How can we identify and create projects that have both bottom lines in mind?
We may not always find easy answers, but at least we know where to look.