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December 10, 2016
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Today, many conservatives embrace the idea that the government cannot afford to spend public money to invest in our future. For them, this political ideology trumps any recognized need for a long-term, public-financed energy policy that fosters the development of alternative and renewable energy. However, we would all do well to remember that government defense and space-race investment brought us computers and other technologies that grew the economy and created jobs. The interstate highway system, too, was built with public money and helped bring prosperity to the nation.

Spending public funds for infrastructure that benefits the public at large and the economy, rather than relying entirely on the marketplace and private investment, is a good idea. This is particularly the case where the marketplace is dominated by a fossil-fuel-driven economic system that cannot see an alternative future yet, a system that values present-day profits over long-term sustainability.

And the public is coming to this same conclusion. Two recent polls, conducted this election season, are worth noting. One shows that 92% of today’s voters believe it is important for the U.S. to develop and use more solar energy. Further, 78% of respondents said the federal government should provide financial incentives for solar, including 63% of Republicans surveyed. (Hart Research conducted the poll for the Solar Energy Industries Association.)

A second poll finds that 90% of Republicans believe it is important for America’s future to be a leader in developing, manufacturing and deploying advanced energy products including batteries, solar photovoltaic (PV) modules and turbine components. (The poll was conducted for the Advanced Energy Economy Institute.)

In the light of these numbers, political leaders, especially some conservatives, appear increasingly to be swimming against the tide of public opinion. It is time for these leaders to step up and lead.

We salute Sullivan County officials, who are not only talking the talk about developing a sustainable energy future, but also are walking the walk. We urge other local municipal officials to take note and consider doing the same.