Clean energy helps strengthen Arkansas’ economy

by Jay Bunyard ([email protected]) 1,429 views 

Arkansas must continue to foster a positive business environment that encourages economic development in order to create new jobs and support stronger, more resilient communities. We can achieve this by investing in and expanding our clean energy economy. Surveying the growing sectors of the economy and the potential for our state to expand and grow into new levels of prosperity requires we lead and not lag in the new energy sector.

Clean energy and job creation are not mutually exclusive; in fact, they go hand-in-hand. By continuing to develop and expand our clean energy resources—like wind, solar, hydropower, and natural gas—as well as clean energy technologies, like carbon capture and energy storage, we will be able to create new opportunities to advance critical climate and job creation goals.

Arkansans have long understood the importance of conservation. In fact, no one takes better care of our environment and the beauty of the Natural State than our farmers and hunters. Arkansans also has a long history of innovation. Arkansas business leaders have embraced and pioneered new economies before in trucking, food, retail, defense, finance and more.

New energy jobs are no different. The innovative leaders in Arkansas’ private sector will forge successful paths in the new, unfolding economy in the energy sector and we must all support their efforts.

Nationwide, 3.2 million Americans work in clean energy—including renewables, energy efficiency, clean-energy vehicles, and more. Clean energy workers account for more than 40% of America’s entire energy workforce. If we continue to invest in expanding our state’s own clean energy economy, then we can help attract new businesses in this rapidly growing industry in order to continue creating 21st century jobs for hardworking Arkansans.

As the booming clean energy economy continues to grow and create new economic and job opportunities, it is critical that Arkansas not get left behind. Advancing our clean energy capabilities will not only help attract new businesses and create new clean energy jobs, it will also help strengthen and support our entire economy—from manufacturing to agriculture to transportation equipment to aerospace and defense.

As a member of the state’s economic development commission I am very encouraged by Gov. Sarah Sanders’ proactive approach on all fronts. Her determination to see Arkansas lead the nation in every category is exactly the kind of energy and leadership we need at a time that new markets and tectonic shifts are happening in our economy. It isn’t a time for passive efforts but a time for bold leadership and strong efforts.

At the same time, further building out our clean energy economy and workforce will help support an all-of-the-above approach to energy production for our state. That, in turn, will help increase domestic energy production in order to strengthen our nation’s energy independence, reduce our reliance on foreign nations to meet our energy needs, and enhance America’s national security. This all-of-the-above energy strategy will also help keep energy prices lower and more stable for Arkansas businesses and consumers. Our nation’s reliance of foreign energy is an unsustainable burden we mustn’t saddle the next generation with.

Further common sense permitting reforms will help expedite all of these efforts. The EPA and other federal agencies have an important role to play but they shouldn’t be allowed to unnecessarily stand in the way of innovation, investment, and job creation in the private sector. The permitting process for almost every kind of project from infrastructure to agriculture is too cumbersome. I’m thankful our federal congressional delegation understands this and is working towards critical improvements.

It’s critical that Arkansas is always looking ahead to identify new ways to create economic opportunities in our state by attracting higher-paying jobs, expanding and diversifying our state and local economies, increasing incomes and investment, and generating positive growth in communities throughout the state. Continuing to invest in and expand clean energy across the state can help us achieve these critical goals.

Arkansas cannot afford to miss out on the new clean energy economy that is growing rapidly and creating new jobs nationwide. We live in the Natural State, after all, and we can continue protecting the precious natural resources and attractions that make our state great while creating new opportunities for all Arkansans by expanding and developing our clean energy capabilities and resources. It’s time we seize the day.

Editor’s note: Jay Bunyard is a commissioner on the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and an Arkansas broadcaster, who owns 18 radio stations, a newspaper, and five online media outlets in the state. The opinions expressed are those of the author.