How the Oregon Clean Energy Opportunity Campaign Will Help the State Recover

2020 was one of the worst years that most people can remember, filled with hardship, loss, and devastation. The COVID-19 pandemic, followed by the recent huge wildfires, hit the communities and the economy of Oregon hard. A record breaking number of people lost their jobs when the initial shutdown at the start of the pandemic caused businesses to close, some of which sadly never reopened. The wildfires then destroyed entire neighborhoods, including businesses, leaving families homeless and even more people jobless. Unfortunately, many families are now finding it more difficult than ever to pay bills or even afford basic necessities like food and adequate housing.

On January 12, 2021, a coalition of leaders from across the state hosted The Oregon Clean Energy Kick-Off, a virtual Facebook Live event, to announce a campaign for renewable energy. The Oregon Clean Energy Opportunity Campaign is an initiative with the goal to transition to 100 percent renewable energy by the year 2035, while decreasing energy bills and creating good, local jobs to help the struggling citizens. They are working to pass three bills in the Oregon state legislature during 2021: Energy Affordability (House Bill 2475), Healthy Homes (House Bill 2842), and 100% Clean Energy For All (House Bill 2995). These bills have the potential to aid in the rebuilding of the state as a whole, as well as contribute to a healthier future for the environment.

First off, the Energy Affordability bill will establish a Low-Income Utility Rate Class that will lower utility costs for families that are struggling due to the economic recession. Lowering high-expense energy bills will allow people who have lost jobs since the pandemic began to have time to recover. This bill will especially benefit the rural and minority communities in the state that were hit particularly hard. These groups were affected more than others due to the fact that they generally were lower-income before the devastation and loss that the pandemic and wildfires caused.

Additionally, the Healthy Homes bill will work to improve the overall health of families in Oregon by supporting home upgrades. Over half of the population in Oregon currently lives in housing that was built before 1978. Because of the age of the homes, inefficient energy and the need for a variety of repairs is often an issue. People who live in homes with inefficient energy face the predicaments of mold, cold weather, and a lack of protection from the outdoor elements, for example, the atrocious air quality caused by smoke from wildfires like the ones from the summer of 2020. This leads to a greater number of asthma issues, hospital visits, and sick days from school or work compared to individuals living in more energy efficient homes. Subsequently, promoting health across the state has never been a more prominent issue, as the world is currently fighting through a global pandemic. It has been found that breathing polluted air worsens COVID-19 symptoms and puts people at risk for more severe cases of the virus.

Finally, the 100% Clean Energy For All bill will make strides towards achieving completely renewable energy at the earliest possible day. Furthermore, this bill will create local, well-paying jobs in the renewable energy sector, therefore helping both families and improving economic resilience. These jobs will pay prevailing wage, offer benefits including healthcare and retirement, and give way to apprenticeship opportunities. Community-based projects for clean energy will also lead to independence and disaster resilience within individual communities across the state. Plus, replacing fossil fuels with renewable resources, such as solar and wind, will also drastically reduce the air and water pollution that contributes to the climate crisis. Renewable energy is also cheaper than the current primary energy sources, so making the transition will make energy bills less expensive.

Energy sourcing is both an environmental justice issue, as well as an issue involving the climate crisis. Affording energy bills should not be a problem to people in such a developed country, especially to minority groups that tend to suffer from low-income situations at a much higher percentage than other groups. Continually, with climate change emerging as one of the most prominent worldwide issues, it is crucial that action be taken to reverse the damage that it is causing. The United States is the second leading country in carbon dioxide emissions, therefore it is essential that this country moves towards a more sustainable future. Fossil fuels are the cause of a vast amount of carbon dioxide emissions, which in turn are released into the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. Even mining and drilling in order to extract coal and oil is detrimental to the environment. Much of the future of the planet depends on making the transition to clean, renewable energy in the upcoming years.

To educate the public about the campaign, the coalition behind it has recently launched a website that can be accessed here with information and news updates. They also are building a presence on the social media platforms Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to spread awareness about the campaign’s goals and achievements.

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