Congress Blog

America's clean energy future cannot stop at state lines

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

Nevadans' way of life is increasingly subject to the whims of mother nature, which have been tapping us on the shoulder for decades and are now hitting us over the head to address climate change. From drought that threatens our water and food supply to wildfires that choke our air, we must face our challenges head on and turn them into opportunities. Here in my home state we have done just that with innovation, spirit and grit.

Nevadans are leading the clean energy and clean transportation transition with modern infrastructure, built and supported by a homegrown clean energy workforce. Our clean energy efforts are certainly bolstered by the recent passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill in Congress. However, the additional investments laid out in the Build Back Better Act are necessary if we are to be successful in meeting our pollution goals and addressing the threats of climate change: worsening droughts, increasingly dangerous and destructive wildfires, and sweltering record temperatures. Importantly, the investments still to come in the Build Back Better Act will address these hardships while also improving our quality of life by cleaning up the air, bringing modern, electric transportation options, and growing clean energy jobs. 

Our Nevada Statewide Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory and Projections showed that transportation is THE top source of climate emissions for our state over the next decade. As a result, clean transportation solutions were a centerpiece of my Nevada Climate Strategy. One of the best ways to reduce this pollution is by adopting clean car standards that increase the sale of electric and zero emission vehicles, and I'm glad to report that The Clean Cars Nevada Initiative just approved in Nevada with broad support from industry, consumer, and conservation groups. 

This program is an essential step toward President Biden's goal that half of all vehicles sold by 2030 will be zero-emission models. This new policy to get more electric cars and trucks to Nevada dealerships will bring us closer to this national goal and inspire even more states to follow. We know there is more work to do, including addressing heavier duty vehicles like buses and semi-trucks that also put out large amounts of pollution, especially in low income and marginalized communities. These communities, who historically have been left behind, should be at the forefront of the next phase of our work. They deserve freedom - freedom to drink clean water, to breathe clean air, and to live and work in healthy communities.

Supporting the clean transportation sector will not only help fight climate change but also will bring economic growth to Nevada. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, clean energy jobs were growing faster than the economy as a whole. As of 2019, there were 33,788 Nevadans working in clean energy. 

Clean car standards are just the latest in a series of actions I've taken along with our Democratic legislature. I also signed bipartisan legislation that will support increased electric vehicle usage by developing $100 million in charging infrastructure over the next three years. I appointed a new senior climate advisor to my administration to tackle these challenges in my office directly. We've signed back on to the U.S. Climate Alliance. We've invested and grown our green energy sector and now we have more solar panels per capita than any place in the country. And we're maximizing our water supply by banning ornamental grass which is estimated to save 12 billion gallons of water a year. 

While we've done tremendous work in my home state to address climate change, pollution doesn't know borders, the long-term effects of drought don't get fixed unilaterally, and traveling on electric highways and byways shouldn't end at the stateline. We need partners in the federal government to step up and help this transformation to a clean energy economy reach its full potential. We must make sure Nevada is an example of what's possible, not a dead end road. I'm proud to work alongside leaders like Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), and I know we can count on them to help us deliver the strongest possible clean car standards and incentives in the Build Back Better Act. The framework of this historic legislation will allow us to reach our state climate goals faster, which means a better future not just for my state, but our country and our planet.  

Nevadans are true to our "Battle Born" spirit and I am proud to be leading the way as their governor who prioritizes experts and science over extremism. Climate change is real and it's here, but so are the technology and resources to combat it. Let's bring this Build Back Better Act home.  

Steve Sisolak is the governor of Nevada.

This piece has been updated.

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