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Another Voice: Energy policies can be pro-business, pro-environment

By Jim Doyle and Roger Downs

Our organizations represent New York’s business leaders and environmentalists, two groups that don’t always see eye to eye. But newly elected state legislators have an opportunity to support a cause that unites our members — increasing the amount of renewable energy produced in New York.

Business Forward recently asked its members in New York what they think about the state’s energy policies. Those business leaders told us they want to keep more of the money residents spend on energy in-state and incentivize the development of green jobs that promote clean, renewable energy while growing the state’s economy.

More than 1,100 New York business leaders signed a statement calling on the legislature to help the state stop importing $50 billion in oil, gas and coal each year, and instead invest in renewable energy generated in-state.

What do New York business leaders tell us they want when it comes to renewable energy?

• Help with financing clean energy purchases, like connecting wind turbine operators to the grid or supporting consumers who want to install solar panels. Policy options include tax incentives and low-interest financing.

• Better clean energy infrastructure, including improvements to the power grid, training for clean energy workers, and increased local capacity to create wind and solar energy.

• An end to subsidies for fossil fuels. We ought to invest in the clean energy sources of the future, not protect dirty fossil fuels from competition.

• Better awareness about the promise of clean energy jobs. Only 3 percent of the energy New York produces is renewable, but that offers an opportunity. The state could create 145,000 to 160,000 new jobs per year if it made investments to achieve a 50 percent emissions reduction by 2030. By supporting businesses focused on clean energy and providing free vocational training for potential employees, legislators could ensure that New Yorkers benefit from these advances through more quality jobs, more competitive energy prices, and a cleaner environment.

Clean energy economies favor many counties that deserve a break. Mill towns and farmland upstate enjoy some of the region’s steadiest and strongest winds, and new financing models for solar create business opportunities in urban areas. A New York energy boom could create jobs where we need them most.

With a divisive election behind us, newly elected state legislators should support renewable energy policies, like the Climate and Community Protection Act, that unite rural and urban communities, business leaders and environmentalists.

Jim Doyle is president of Business Forward, a bipartisan network working to end government gridlock. Roger Downs is the conservation director of the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter.

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