To me, 'Earth Day in Texas' evokes the mental image of cowboys tending to oil derricks and treehuggers advocating to protect polar ice caps from melting. In 1970, John McConnell founded the holiday to highlight environmental deterioration caused by human actions and inspire us all to protect the Earth through collective activism. In 2016, the way to broaden the reach and potential impact of Earth Day is to showcase its economic opportunity.
The best way to eliminate pollution and C02 emissions is to make it a job.
Jobs in the green economy, like solar, mean business. One out of every 83 new jobs created in the U.S. in 2014 was created by the solar industry, according to The Solar Foundation. Last year also signified the 3rd year of over 20 percent growth in the solar industry. In 2016, The Economist reports the United States will triple the 3 gigawatts (GW) of solar capacity it added in 2015.
Solar's economic growth is not just statistics, it been my experience. CivicSolar, a web-based solar equipment distributor, has made me aware of the thousands of solar installers and developers who are on the front lines cutting CO2 emissions while growing viable businesses. CivicSolar's new Austin office has created 9 jobs in the past two months.
Employment in the solar industry solves two societal problems: slowing the rate of climate change and offering gainful employment during a challenging economy. While Peabody Energy, the largest private-sector coal company, layoffs employees and declares bankruptcy, solar installers such as Revolve Solar are actively seeking job applicants. The Austin Business Journal identified Revolve Solar as the 2nd fastest-growing company in Central Texas. Catching the Sun, a new documentary that debuts on Netflix this Earth Day, follows the worldwide race to lead the clean energy economy from the viewpoint of solar workers and entrepreneurs. The movie showcases how renewable energy jobs are doing well by doing global good.
If a Texan had an oil gusher in their backyard, they would likely start drilling. Why not, right? Each day gigawatts of energy remain uncaptured from the solar system's largest battery pack in the sky--the sun. According to EnergySage, a comparison shopping site, Texans can install solar at some of the most affordable cost-per-watt rates in the nation (about $3.25 per watt). By installing solar, Texans can lock in favorable utility rates for over 25 years.
Renewable energy can compete. At the distributed, local level homeowner's throughout the nation are saving money on their electricity bills and elevating home values. In the United States nearly 784,000 U.S. homes and businesses have embraced solar. Homeowners are not only going solar to "go green," but to save the green in their pockets.
The Lone Star State is rich in oil, sunlight, and wind. By investing in the burgeoning new energy economy, Texas can provide leadership for other states to follow, just as it has in oil and gas for nearly a century. Clean energy is a win for consumers. It's a win for the domestic economy. It's a win for the environment.
This Earth Day the pragmatist cowboy and idealist hippy can celebrate job creation and their place on the right side of history. This Earth Day, think about the green.