A devastating disconnect: While pollution worsens virus, green jobs take hit
On Monday we read how Dr. Gaurab Basu, a physician on the front lines of the pandemic, is combating not just COVID-19 but the massive air pollution that makes his urban, underserved patients especially vulnerable to the virus (“A clean transportation system is the prescription my patients need,” Opinion, Bostonglobe.com). Years of breathing concentrated fossil fuel emissions have weakened his patients’ resistance to the opportunistic virus. Basu proposes a relatively simple solution: Run our transportation systems on clean electrical power, and the chronic pulmonary diseases he sees wreaking havoc in dense urban communities would improve dramatically.
But then, in the next day’s print edition of the Globe, we read that the steady conversion of our electric grid to clean, renewable solar and wind has been stopped short by the pandemic (“In clean energy, job losses mount,” Metro). Solar installers and wind technicians in the hundreds of thousands have been laid off across the country. This thriving sector of the new economy has been largely ignored by the economic relief bills, with their trillions of federal dollars, while fossil fuel companies get bailouts.
We praise our medical providers while promoting energy policies that weaken their patients. Does this make any sense?
While David Abel’s May 26 Metro story highlighted setbacks in clean energy (“In clean energy, job losses mount”), Massachusetts solar workers are ready to help the Commonwealth build back better. Due to inconsistent state policies, solar jobs in Massachusetts were already declining before the outbreak of the coronavirus. New, forward-thinking solar policy can bring sidelined workers back into the industry, create additional jobs, and jump-start our economy.
As the state explores plans for economic and public health recovery, solar represents a win-win opportunity to put Massachusetts back to work and to reduce air pollution that is contributing to the inequitable impact of COVID-19.
The governor and the Legislature should make a stronger commitment to equitable solar policies that benefit all Massachusetts residents, businesses and organizations while keeping the Commonwealth on track to a net-zero carbon economy.
Stephan Roundtree Jr.
Vote Solar is based in Oakland, Calif.
Thank you for bringing attention to the fact that the clean energy industry is suffering cutbacks as a result of the pandemic.
Every story of job loss from the coronavirus outrbreak is heartbreaking, cuts in clean energy even more so because without major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, we guarantee that the next generation will face even worse disruptions in the future.
The litany of challenges to reaching Massachusetts’ climate goals are familiar: “tax credits expiring over the coming year, fewer consumers able to afford upgrades, and government coffers drained.” Clearly, a policy that establishes a sustainable path to achieving emission reductions is needed.
That policy is a revenue-neutral carbon fee that would put a gradually rising fee on fossil fuels and return 100 percent of revenue equally to all households in monthly dividend checks. The Energy Innovation Act would accomplish this at the federal level. Senator Mike Barrett, Democrat of Lexington, has proposed similar legislation at the state level.
We have waited too long to act on climate change. Regulations, tax credits, and goals have not delivered. We need to face facts and implement our best remaining option: a revenue-neutral carbon fee.
Co-leader, Boston chapter
Citizens’ Climate Lobby
Citizens’ Climate Lobby is based in Coronado, Calif.