Last week’s climate summit in Copenhagen has received mixed reviews. The meeting was praised by some U.S. Senators who said the negotiations resulted in China, India and some developing countries stepping forward and participating.
The agreement outlines a goal of providing funds to help poor countries cope with the impact of climate change and includes a method for verifying industrial nation’s reduction of carbon emissions.
Andrew Streit runs Sunstore Solar, which designs and installs photovoltaic panels for industry, businesses and homeowners. But even though his office is located in Greer, Streit says a lot of his sales are out of the state, in North Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
“North Carolina has renewable standards and tax credits in place supported by the legislature, up to $2.5 million per install,” says Streit. “In Charlotte there’s a solar panel manufacturing plant. Businesses are looking for locations close to where they sell their product. Georgia has a solar panel manufacturing plant. They have tax credits in place for solar power, up to half a million per install.”
Streit says South Carolina lawmakers need to be educated about the potential for growing clean energy businesses and industry in South Carolina.
Streit says when he spoke to engineering students at U.S.C., he learned that all of those interested in photovoltaic engineering plan to move out of state to get a job. He says that’s a terrible talent drain.
Streit says more government money needs to be available for clean energy investments. He notes that Exxon Corporation receives $16 billion annually in federal and state subsidies.
“If we just took those subsidies and put them in renewable energy, we would see tremendous job growth,” says Streit. “For solar power, we have the 13th best son in the nation. There isn’t a single country in Northern Europe that has the sun resource that we have, yet Germany, for four of the last five years, has been installing more solar panels than anyone else. It’s because they want a domestic renewable energy infrastructure.”
Streit says South Carolina currently only offers a $35,000 tax credit for prospective industry in the area of clean energy. He says that needs to be much higher.
Environmental activist Neal Jones is a minister at the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship in Columbia and is running as a democrat for a Richland County House seat. He says tax money can provide the necessary boost for clean energy industries to take off, and that, he said, would be a great investment for South Carolina.
Jones says a commitment by the U.S government to clean energy means job growth. “The old debate has been business and jobs verses environmental concerns,” he says. “But I think we’re learning now that it’s just the opposite. Green technology spells higher-paying jobs that benefit everyone.”
South Carolina AFL-CIO President Donna Dewitt says the more the U.S. commits to a clean energy economy, the more jobs there will be.
“It’s economic growth,” she says. “It’s essential that if we’re going to lead the world in renewable energy technology, that we use that to revitalize American manufacturing.”
Dewitt says her organization and labor movements around the world support the call for a strong pollution agreement. She says the U.S. needs to make a stronger commitment and there needs to be another meeting.