Our dependence on foreign oil has long been a national security threat. Now our sons and daughters from Fort Bragg are risking their lives to defend our European allies from an oil-fueled tyrant.
What’s happening in Ukraine is a tragedy. Actions we are taking as a country to help Ukraine and punish Russia are justified. But fighting for freedom and against tyranny abroad doesn’t have to jeopardize American livelihoods here at home, economically or environmentally.
Frankly, the problem isn’t just foreign oil. Regardless of where they’re sourced, fossil fuels are volatile commodities with limited remaining supplies, and more drilling wouldn’t impact prices until late 2022, at the earliest. The calls for more drilling are driven by oil and gas companies’ greed as they rake in record profits, not by people who have Americans’ best interests in mind. And it’s squeezing families’ budgets when they can least afford it.
If we want to starve Putin’s war budget and save Americans at the gas pump and on their power bills, now and in the future, we have to move aggressively to a clean energy and clean transportation economy today.
Unlike oil, the sun will keep shining and the wind blowing forever. Putin and OPEC can’t shut them off or raise their price.
North Carolina is in a unique position to lead a clean global economy. We already rank fourth in the nation in solar power generation, and our solar installation industry is one of the biggest and fastest-growing sectors of our state’s economy. Likewise, the ocean breezes that attract people to our Outer Banks also give us the highest wind energy potential of any state on the eastern seaboard. We just have to capture it.
But right now, too few of the components for solar panels, wind turbines, semiconductors, storage batteries, and electric cars are made here in North Carolina or even in America.
If more of these products were, we wouldn’t be stymied by supply chain bottlenecks or tariffs. We could create jobs, diminish our dependence on foreign tyrants, bolster national security, and improve every family’s health and bottom line.
Thankfully, President Biden and Gov. Cooper recognize this problem and are acting to ramp up domestic research, development and manufacturing to shed our dependence on the foreign supply chain. But more is needed — and fast.
Our ability to harness solar and wind energy and to travel in vehicles that don’t run on gas is directly proportional to how many of the manufacturing components we can produce at home. Making them in America — ideally here in North Carolina — creates jobs, produces generational wealth, and decreases our dependence on geopolitical rivals like Russia and China.
And it saves money. The average rooftop solar installation saves N.C. families $8,000 to $11,000 on power bills over 10 years. Switching to electric vehicles cuts over $1,700 from Charlotte families’ annual fuel budgets, a 76% savings over gas prices — and that was from a national study released in December, before gas prices skyrocketed. In that study, Charlotte topped the national fuel savings list.
Sometimes a crisis brings opportunity. The next time oil supply chain disturbances or geopolitical conflicts rear their heads, our wallets don’t have to take a hit. Now is the time for bold, strategic investments in clean energy and clean transportation, at the local, state, and federal levels, to make this economic security and national security future a reality.
Jennifer Roberts is a former Charlotte mayor and State Department diplomat. She’s also a member of the NC League of Conservation Voters.