Climate action has brought record investment, jobs to Tennessee, lawmakers should strive for more

Published 10:57 am Tuesday, August 15, 2023

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One year after a major climate bill was passed, Tennessee is flourishing thanks to an influx of clean energy investment and jobs.
When the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act was signed into law last August, it unleashed a stream of clean energy projects, with Governor Lee quickly taking the initiative to welcome at least $4,383,400,000 of investment for our state.
With our abundant natural resources and educated workforce Tennessee is well positioned to embrace the fight to reduce climate pollution. In just one year, federal policy to support a clean energy transition has helped bring approximately 3,560 jobs to our state. Meanwhile, the Department of Energy estimates we’ll see at least 77,685 jobs and $900 million of investment in large-scale clean power generation and storage in Tennessee by 2030.
All this investment illustrates how we can reap rewards for Tennessee residents while tackling the most pressing issue of our time – escalating weather extremes due to the heat-trapping carbon pollution we continue to release into the atmosphere, altering our climate.
Like many parts of the U.S., Tennessee has not escaped this summer’s climate extremes. We’ve seen below normal or much below normal streamflow levels for northeast Tennessee during July; dry and hot conditions that led to stress on pastures and soil moisture in the first parts of July; some reports of flooding (including flash flooding in Carter County) and wind damage in crops across parts of the state.
While such climate events can be overwhelming, the good news is the U.S. is rapidly embracing tangible solutions to reduce the carbon emissions damaging our climate. Even better, the solutions are boosting the pocketbooks of everyday folks. The Inflation Reduction Act was packed full of incentives for Tennessee with effectively a free “clean energy bank account” to cut emissions while reducing household bills and improving air quality. Savvy consumers are already taking advantage of savings adding up to more than $1,000 per year when purchasing electric cars, induction stoves, and energy-efficient appliances.
We can thank Senator Hagerty for the CHIPS and Science Act which aims to solve the semiconductor chip shortage as well as common sense permit reform which lowers energy bills and saves lives more quickly, but we are just beginning our journey to use climate solutions to better the lives of people in our state.
At the very least, the climate policy progress we have already made must remain intact. With an election year around the corner, it may be tempting to play politics around this legislation or around the climate issue in general, but any efforts to roll back or redirect this critical climate investment would be ill-advised. Voters like us want – and expect – these benefits to continue to flow into our state.
This summer’s climate headlines have been concerning, but the solutions to stop the escalating extremes are exciting.
As our legislators look to the future of our state, they should continue to ramp up our clean energy efforts, meeting the moment to reduce climate pollution while bringing good jobs and real-world benefits to the people of Tennessee.
(Dr. Norma Morrison is a volunteer with the Northeast Tennessee chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Mark Reynolds is the Executive Director of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.)

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