Posted August 4, 2021, on ColoradoPoltics.com
The U.S. Congress has
an opportunity this summer to seize an unprecedented, once-in-a-lifetime
opportunity to “build back better” from the pandemic.
Colorado U.S. Sens.
Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper and our Colorado delegation in the House
of Representatives should all vote yes on and champion an infrastructure bill
and budget reconciliation bill that center investments in a national clean
energy economy while also battling climate change and ending environmental
injustice. Together, these two bills are the jolt needed to jump-start Colorado
and our nation into a new, post-pandemic economy.
We must see ambitious
action on climate and investments because these will lead to a more vibrant,
more equitable economy and end the economic upheaval that impacts the
communities on the front lines of climate disasters.
I personally know that
we can build back better by stubbornly focusing on developing a clean energy
economy because we have been here before, we have seen it happen in Colorado,
and we continue to reap the benefits.
I became governor just
over 14 years ago, having run in part on the promise to build a New Energy
Economy. The work we did from 2007 to 2010 — tripling the state’s renewable
portfolio standard, recruiting clean tech businesses and passing dozens of
bills designed to incentivize new ways to provide power — laid the groundwork
for Colorado to become a model for others to follow.
Then we were hit by
the Great Recession. From late 2008 into 2009, as the economy spiraled deeper
into recession, we scrambled to stabilize Colorado’s budget and economy, not
knowing where the bottom was or when we would hit it. At the same time, we were
working with the incoming Obama administration to develop a rescue package that
would stabilize the nation’s economy and set the state for growth.
When President Obama,
with then-Vice President Joe Biden at his side, signed the American Recovery
and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science on Feb.
17, 2009 — after touring the solar panels on the museum’s roof — we knew that
brighter days were ahead.
critically important investments in transportation, airports, broadband, water
systems, housing, education and research facilities. It also included billions
for energy efficiency and renewable energy, alternative fuels and fuel cells.
continued action here in Colorado — a total of 57 New Energy Economy related
bills were signed into law during my service as governor — ARRA helped lead us
to where we are today: robust and reliable wind and solar powering our homes
and businesses, tens of thousands of Coloradans working in clean tech
industries, taking meaningful action on decarbonization, showing the world what
can be done and how.
to electric vehicles, building electrification, renewable energy jobs and
decarbonization remains a model for other states.
This summer and fall,
our members of Congress should prioritize the development of a 100%
clean-energy standard in the electricity sector; the manufacture and sale of
zero-emitting cars, buses and buildings by 2035; justice and equity for
low-income communities and communities of color by ensuring at least 40% of investment
benefits go to these communities; and creating good paying, family-sustaining,
The beauty of these
proposals is that they take on myriad challenges at once — the climate crisis,
economic opportunity for all, the need to strengthen the middle class, a long
overdue overhaul of our infrastructure, and the need to position America for
global leadership once again.
In the wake of the
Great Recession, Colorado showed the country what was possible with the right
mix of sound policy ideas, private sector innovation, bipartisan commitment,
and federal government investment.
In the wake of
COVID-19, we can “build back better” on the foundation we laid a dozen years
ago. We have a partner in the White House and need supporters in Congress who
share our state’s commitment to transforming our economy in a forward-looking
and equitable way.
Bill Ritter, Jr.
served as Colorado governor 2007-2011. He is now director of the Center for the
New Energy Economy at Colorado State University.