All of these diverse entities have made one particular bold commitment to our future well-being: Cleveland, Walmart, Scotland, Rome, Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, California, Bank of America, Denmark, New Jersey, St. Louis, Oregon, 3M, Denver and New Zealand.

All are among 101 U.S. cities, 174 large corporations, several U.S. states, and cities and countries worldwide that have made this public pledge: “We are switching to 100 percent renewable energy to supply our power.”

Ohio? Hardly, although, in 2008, an enlightened General Assembly did pass, almost unanimously, Ohio’s Renewable Portfolio Standard. That required Ohio’s largest electric utilities to build their supply portfolios with clean, renewable sources like solar and wind, until renewables would contribute 12.5 percent of their supplies by 2025.

But ever since the partisan re-mapping of our legislative districts in 2011, Ohio’s legislature has acted recklessly when it comes to mapping our energy future.

Just as other states have charged forward to build their renewable energy standards — to 25, 50, and yes, even 100 percent — many Ohio legislators have tried repeatedly to throw the state into reverse and exterminate our meager renewable energy standard of 12.5 percent.

Now, in a bizarre twist, some legislators are pushing a bill to provide $150 million annually to FirstEnergy Solutions (now going through bankruptcy) to keep its two Ohio nuclear plants operating — with the justification that nuclear is a carbon-free source of energy. House Bill 6 would also reward coal-burning power plants that become less dirty.

At the same time (here’s the bizarre part), H.B. 6 would exterminate Ohio’s renewable energy standard.

Given their recent actions, it’s no surprise that Ohio’s legislative majorities are trying, once again, to wipe out our modest renewable energy standard. (Yes, in a bill ostensibly intended to boost carbon-free electricity generation.)

What is surprising, though — and significant — is that they are finally acknowledging that carbon-free energy is indeed beneficial, something worth pursuing. Is bailing out bankrupted nuclear plants, throwing money at coal-burning power plants and exterminating our modest renewable energy standard the right approach? That’s a head-scratcher.

One who has led the backward charge away from renewable energy is the senator in my gerrymandered 27th District, Kristina Roegner.

Four years ago, when Roegner represented my 37th Ohio House District, I met with her to discuss Ohio’s approach to renewable energy. “What is your perspective on climate disruption?” I asked her. “And what should we do about it?”

“Well, I’m not a scientist!” she declared, somewhat gleefully, as if finally able to utter that newly concocted soundbite du jour.

But there is a glimmer of hope. At a coffee shop last week, I joined seven fellow Hudsonites to discuss H.B. 6 with now-state Sen. Roegner. I asked her again about her perspective on climate disruption.

“Is it fake news, a Chinese hoax? Can’t you say, because you’re not a scientist? Or is climate disruption happening, is fossil-fuel burning principally the cause, and must we do something about it?” I asked.

“I do believe that climate is changing, that human activity plays a significant part,” Roegner declared. “I do think we need to do something about that. It’s driven by carbon emissions. We’ve got to change that, or we’re in big trouble as a planet.”

What a stunning turnabout from a legislator who has vehemently opposed Ohio’s renewable energy standard.

Of course, real opposition to renewable energy comes from predictable corners — big beneficiaries of the long-running power game rules, electricity monopolies, fossil-fuel extractors. Both have spent millions contributing to sympathetic legislators’ election campaigns, millions more lobbying them.

Denying the existence of climate disruption to squash renewable energy efforts might no longer be in their playbook. That denial, given the stark evidence, now appears preposterous. So, how about opposing solar and wind power based on economics and employment? Almost equally preposterous.

The U.S. solar industry’s eye-popping job growth is still accelerating. In 2017, U.S. employment in solar surpassed that in coal. The 50 percent price-drop in solar power systems the past five years and the simultaneous increase in solar panels’ efficiency are to thank. Solar power is quite compelling now for business, industry, households and even utilities.

As cities, states and corporations all over the United States and the world make the bold commitment to switch to 100 percent renewable energy for their power, Ohio legislators insist that we cling to the old buggy-whip energy technology, the extract-and-burn economy.

Open your eyes, Ohio legislators. You will see the sun rising at this dawn of the Sunshine Economy. A bustling, thriving economy running on the immense power of the sun. An economy that no longer depends on the intensive extraction and burning of fossil fuels for our energy, spewing toxins into the air and water and disrupting global climates.

While you’re at it, look at the recent surveys of your constituents regarding renewables and energy policy. Citizens of the Buckeye State (your employers) insist that we move forward now toward a clean, renewable energy future. Our planet as we know it, our children and their children depend on it. We have no time to pussyfoot around.

 

Ennis is the founder and president of Sun Lion Energy in Hudson.