By Noah Ginsberg.
Across our country, in red states and blue states, in the South and across the Great Plains, renewable energy is powering American households while cutting energy costs and creating well-paying jobs. This should come as no surprise to those of us in Horry County. Almost every day we can count on the sun shining on our towering longleaf pines and revered palmettos. And when we go to the beach, up and down the strip we can feel the power of the wind when we look out at the vast Atlantic. It’s time our policy makers took steps to capitalize on this economic and environmental opportunity.
There has long been a misconception that creating well-paying jobs and economic growth is not compatible with protecting our environment and strengthening environmental security. But as the costs of producing environmentally friendly energy such as wind and solar have plummeted over the past decade, renewable energy is competing with, and in many cases becoming cheaper than, energy from fossil fuels. Just as importantly, the benefits of deploying more renewable energy have tremendous impact – creating well-paying jobs, leveraging private investment into local communities, reducing energy costs, and providing cleaner air and water to all Americans.
The solar industry alone employs over 374,000 Americans, more than double the jobs in coal, oil, and natural gas combined. This is not to mention that the solar industry is also among one of the fastest growing industries in the United States. Solar in South Carolina has grown in recent years, but our state still has a lot more to do to reap the full benefits of solar power. According to the Southern Environmental Law Center, South Carolina ranks 34th nationally in solar power. Compare this to North Carolina, which ranks third. This is unacceptable, considering South Carolina ranks in the top 10 states for solar resource potential. Surely, our decision makers can do more to create policies that attract more investment in Horry County and South Carolina solar and in doing so create good jobs and economic growth.
The wind industry also holds a great deal of opportunity for Horry County and our state. The wind industry currently employs 100,000 Americans. Jobs in the wind industry are the exact type of well-paying jobs people in Horry County want and need. South Carolina already has more than ten facilities, mostly to the west and upstate, that manufacture wind turbine components. With increased demand for wind power across America, Horry County policy makers can take steps to support economic and environmental growth right here. That would mean continuing to work toward creating offshore wind facilities by partnering with our state’s research universities and economic players to bring wind power to our shores.
Horry County and all South Carolinians should take pride in already being environmental stewards. The bipartisan support for halting offshore oil drilling off our coast is an underreported national story of how people – no matter what their political affiliation – can come together to promote environmental security and protect our economic assets. It’s time the public officials representing us in Columbia and Washington, DC take steps to join voters in Horry County and throughout the state in demanding ways to bring about a stronger local economy that also strengthens our environment. Horry County and South Carolina will be better off for it.