Climate Corner: Climate change urgency that creates jobs

Jun 11, 2022

George Banziger

Many thanks to Sen. Joe Manchin for his efforts at bipartisan solutions on climate legislation. Up to this point these efforts have not been successful, yet the importance of addressing climate change is still compelling. The recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicates considerable urgency for the need to deal with the effects of climate change. Residents of West Virginia are particularly vulnerable to extreme weather and abnormally high rainfall events, given the topography of the state. The expense of dealing with emergencies created by these catastrophic weather events is considerable; after-the-fact resources to deal with extreme destructive events would be better spent on programs and industries to prevent them.

The transition to green energy in West Virginia need not be a sacrifice but can, on the contrary, be constructive to the economy of the state and of the region. New jobs can be created through manufacturing of products for renewable energy like solar panels and wind turbines, plugging orphaned oil and gas wells, solar panel installation, and wind turbine technicians. The latter two occupations are, in fact, among the top five fastest growing jobs according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Creative juices are flowing in Appalachia about how to move the economy in this region from the exploitative, extractive industries around fossil fuels to more sustainable activities and products. There is the idea of “eco brick,” which look like the conventional clay brick but can be complemented with used plastic or with fly ash (the byproduct of the coal industry). There is “mass timber,” a sustainable alternative to concrete and steel, which can be used to construct buildings as tall as 12 floors; mass timber is made from solid wood panels nailed or glued together; they are fire resistant, strong, sustainable, and cost efficient. There is industrial hemp, an alternative to plastic, which can be grown on damaged lands. And there are many options for industry around waste recovery, such as using recycled glass to make insulation. The science of battery technology is growing rapidly, and large batteries are in great demand for the rapidly expanding production of electric vehicles.

All of these ideas can be developed in West Virginia and throughout Appalachia with locally owned businesses and with the help of federal stimulus programs that are currently available.

There are two “i” words that have entered our vocabulary as a result of recent events: invasion and inflation. The unprovoked and devastating invasion of Ukraine by Russia is an important ingredient of the rising prices of oil and gasoline at the pump. Gasoline prices and other energy costs are driving a serious episode of inflation and causing misery and anxiety for many American families.

The volatility of energy prices and the boom-bust cycles that fossil-fuels create for our economy are unsustainable in the long run. A green economy, which relies on American-based sustainable energy is the best long-term solution for the economic health of Appalachia.

As Senator Manchin and other political leaders become re-engaged with the Reconciliation legislation that will come before Congress, we urge them to respond to the urgency that the science of climate change requires and to support creative ideas for economic development and job creation which a greener economy can deliver.


George Banziger, Ph..D., was a faculty member at Marietta College and an academic dean at three other colleges. Now retired, he is a volunteer for the Mid-Ohio Valley Interfaith, and Harvest of Hope. He is a member of the Green Sanctuary Committee of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Marietta, Citizens Climate Lobby, and of the Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action team.