As reported in The Wichita Eagle. As climate change effects are felt across the nation and the national government considers combative action, a recent study found that investment in climate policy would only help rural communities, boosting the numbers of jobs and economic investment dollars.
Like many rural states, Kansas already has a robust clean energy workforce, but with federal climate policy, they would see an addition of more than 5,200 jobs. The study was conducted by the U.S. Climate Team at the World Resources Institute, an international research nonprofit, and looked at how climate policy would impact rural counties.
“Rural America is really indispensable to the success of U.S. climate policy,” said Devashree Saha, lead author of the study and senior associate who researches the economic impacts of climate action. “As the U.S. moves to ramp up on renewable energy deployment, it’s more and more likely to happen in these rural counties where we have the land to host these projects.”
The study looked at potential outcomes of a federal investment of $275 billion or $55 billion per year for five years. The investment was focused on seven key areas:
- Renewable energy
- Energy efficiency
- Energy transmission, distribution and storage
- Environmental remediation of abandoned fossil fuel infrastructure
- Tree restoration on federal lands
- Tree restoration on non-federal lands
- Wildfire risk management“It is modeling the impact of policies that are being talked about currently by Congress, by different green groups and think-tanks,” Saha said.
Saha and her team looked at the number of abandoned oil and gas wells and coal mines and estimated how much it would cost the federal government to plug and clean them up. Their data found that Kansas was a top-five state in terms of benefiting from an initiative like this.
More than half of the estimated 5,200 jobs Kansas would gain under these investments, would be plugging and cleaning up these oil and gas wells.
“Many of these rural counties have been dependent on fossil fuel technologies for decades,” Saha said. “That has really powered their economies but as the low-carbon transition happens and the use of coal and other fossil fuels is slowly ramped down, what are the other economic opportunities available for rural counties? So the environmental remediation of abandoned for fossil fuel infrastructure really stands out for Kansas.”
Across the nation, this investment would add $21.7 billion in value per year and create almost 260,000 jobs in rural communities, over half of which would be under-served or economically stress counties.
“Our analysis actually showed that nearly 45% of all rural jobs that are going to be created by the federal investment in the seven areas of our analysis, would actually go to economically disadvantaged rural communities,” Saha said. “That was really good to see because these are counties that really need federal investment, and especially in a political climate package, where you’re talking about equity and building back better, we have to make sure that federal investment is specifically prioritizing equity.”