Memo to GOP: join the clean energy revolution

Suppose you have been ingesting toxic substances for years and find yourself dangerously ill. Although you suspect the obvious, you decide to consult 100 qualified doctors for their opinion. Ninety-seven agree that your illness is caused by the toxins and urge an immediate change in diet. The remaining three are less sure, although they agree a change in diet wouldn’t hurt. 

What do you do? If you value your health and life, you change your diet.

Now suppose your planet’s atmosphere has been receiving toxic emissions for decades and is becoming dangerously hot. Ninety-seven percent of qualified climate scientists agree the buildup of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, released by fossil fuels, is the primary cause. They prescribe an immediate change in energy diet to slow the pace of climate change and prevent melting ice caps, rising sea levels and catastrophic weather events. Meanwhile, your state is still grappling with the worst drought and hottest temperatures on record, and economists estimate the total cost of climate change on the next generation at $8 trillion. What do you do?

If you are the Republican presidential nominee or a Republican politician backed by the fossil fuel industry, nothing.

At a gathering last month of top fossil fuel executives, Donald J. Trump proclaimed that he will scrap federal regulations designed to slow the pace of catastrophic climate change and usher in an open season on fossil fuel extraction.

“Oh, you will like me so much,” he promised the executives, whose multinational corporations have already contributed a record $119 million to federal elections in 2016 on top of the $270 million they spent lobbying Congress last year.

Sadly, the problem does not end with Donald Trump and the Republicans in Washington, D.C. 

The single largest fossil fuel contributor to political campaigns, Koch Industries, has trained its sights on state races where it sees a strategic opportunity to block action on climate change and advance other anti-government priorities to pad its bottom line.

For a troubling case in point, look no further than the two most senior Republican state officials, Executive Councilors Chris Sununu and David Wheeler. Although both men have seen the effects of climate change up close as the owner of a ski resort and Christmas tree farm, respectively, Sununu and Wheeler have used their position to block New Hampshire towns from installing solar arrays, at no cost to taxpayers, and rejected federal money to study commuter rail, the largest economic development opportunity in a generation. 

The benefits of these programs extend far beyond addressing climate change. The Capitol Corridor Rail project to extend Boston commuter rail from Lowell, Mass., to Nashua and Manchester, would transport an estimated 700,000 passengers each year and add 5,600 permanent jobs to the New Hampshire economy. Not only that, the project would add approximately $750 million in new real estate development and bring in $174 million in federal construction investments to our state, a staggering return on the estimated $4 million to 7 million-per-year total cost to Granite Staters. 

Instead of acknowledging climate science and allowing smart investments in renewable energy to grow our state economy, Republican leaders have willingly taken the Koch brothers pledge, put forward by Americans For Prosperity. Such policies impose staggering costs on future generations and do disservice to a proud Republican tradition of environmental stewardship dating back to the Weeks Act of 1911, a tradition in which I was raised.

For the sake of our people, our planet, and our economy, I urge Republican leaders to reclaim their party’s proud tradition of conservation and join Democrats in making smart investments in a clean energy future. 

Dan Weeks of Nashua is the Democratic nominee for Executive Council against David Wheeler, R-Milford.

Categories: Opinion