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Fulfill EV promise, define low-carbon economy

Transportation is undergoing a major shift around the globe. The rapid pace of technology continues to make low-carbon alternatives — like electric vehicles — more efficient, more accessible and, truth be told, far more desirable. If expert opinion holds true, up to one-third of new cars sold will be electric-powered by 2030.

The Mahoning Valley has a sustainable, competitive advantage to become a powerhouse feeding growing consumer demand for electric vehicles and technology. Lordstown Motors, Ultium Cells, organizations such as BRITE Energy Innovators and the Ohio Turnpike & Infrastructure Commission and community as well as business leaders are committed to fulfilling the promise of “Voltage Valley.”

But ultimately, meeting the opportunity at hand relies on a bigger picture. The nation desperately needs infrastructure updates, which is why the Youngstown / Warren Regional Chamber supports the nationwide “Build by the Fourth of July” initiative.

Cracks in the country’s infrastructure — from crumbling bridges and roads to outmoded water systems — long have been a topic of conversation but so far have failed to elicit appropriate reforms. It’s past time America takes action to revitalize our infrastructure. Kicking the can any further only compounds costs. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, over the next 20 years, cost of infrastructure inaction will rack up losses of $3,300 a year for the average American household, due to unreliability or inefficiencies. Never mind the costs to businesses, manufacturers and the economy as a whole.

Consider what happened just earlier this year in Texas. I happened to be stranded in that state on Feb. 14 because of a snowstorm. The real fright was experiencing the failure of its energy system to keep up with unprecedented demands and conditions. As a result, much of the state fell victim to power blackouts when they needed energy most (wind chills as much as 20 degrees below zero), and businesses’ productivity stalled. It was a tragic reminder that not upgrading our infrastructure has real consequences and underscored the urgent need to modernize it.

But rebuilding our infrastructure also is about more than preventing disasters. It’s about building a pipeline of opportunity. At first, we’ll see a wave of job creation to physically outfit the national infrastructure upgrades and from there the spin-off and hospitality industries needed to support them. But infrastructure investments also are a down payment on ensuring our economy is competitive in the decades to come.

Investing in our infrastructure — including developing energy efficiency, cleaner energy generation and storage capabilities — will usher in a new wave of job creation in a field with an exponential growth trajectory. Prior to the pandemic, clean energy was one of the largest and fastest-growing employment sectors in the U.S. economy. It skyrocketed more than 10 percent between 2015 and the end of 2019 to support more than 3.3 million jobs nationwide.

Investments in infrastructure that create a solid foundation for growth in EV and low-carbon tech will yield untold benefits for our country and our economy while unlocking and powering new innovations, such as autonomous vehicles, that will continue to transform the transportation sector. As Congress moves forward, legislators on both sides of the aisle should come together to pass practical, forward-thinking solutions that help America update its aging infrastructure to accommodate these and other 21st-century technologies and innovations yet to come.

Over the years, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, has worked to advance a comprehensive energy strategy for America, including supporting initiatives to encourage adoption of electric vehicles, improve energy efficiency and leverage new, emerging technologies like carbon capture. Together they’ve helped states like Ohio continue to take advantage of our abundant natural resources while reducing our environmental impact.

Moving forward, I hope Sen. Portman will continue to build on his record of supporting smart energy policies that create jobs and move the country forward. He can do that by working with his colleagues in the Senate to pass bipartisan policies that invest in modernizing our infrastructure and developing the clean-energy technologies that will transform our entire energy landscape.

Guy Coviello is president and CEO of the Youngstown / Warren Regional Chamber.

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