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Marshall Plan for Middle America:

Peduto joins mayors from W.Va., Ohio, Ky. to call for public/private support in climate-friendly industrial growth

Lauren Lee

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto joined mayors from cities in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia virtually Thursday to call for federal support in a plan that would provide more climate-friendly industrial growth — including jobs — across the upper Appalachian region and the Ohio River Valley.

The initiative, coined the “Marshall Plan for Middle America,” was described as a proposal filled with “independent, non-partisan, data-driven research” from academic and policy researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Sustainable Business, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the city of Pittsburgh, the Steel Valley Authority, the Heartland Capital Strategies Network and the Enel Foundation.

Research from the initiative already has projected that the Ohio River Valley region could lose 100,000 jobs in the coming years as the fossil-fuel industry continues to decline “in the face of the economic and environmental realities of superior, cost competitive renewable energy development,” according to a press release from the city.

The eight cities involved in the initiative say they have made their own contributions to fighting climate change, but they added that they need federal assistance to help their economically challenged neighbors in rural and suburban areas of the Appalachian region.

The plan calls for:

  • $15 billion in federal block grants to local governments for “energy efficiency measures for commercial and residential building stock retrofits and conversions and public and private vehicle fleet transitions available annually from 2021-2030.”

  • $15 billion in low interest loans and guarantees for zero carbon energy generation production.

  • $15 billion in tax incentives for manufactures and labor cooperation for private production of clean energy equipment and supply chain development.

  • $15 billion for workforce training, education and research and development of advanced clean energy technologies and applied materials science.

During the virtual meeting Thursday, CB Bhattacharya, the H.J. Zoffer Chair in Sustainability and Ethics at the Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh, emphasized the importance of a public and private partnership.

“Partnership is the new leadership,” Mr. Bhattacharya said. “We want to be at the center of this social change that’s happening and to be able to bring these parties together to make change happen on the ground.”

Added Leslie Marshall, associate director of the Center for Sustainable Business, “If we don’t make an investment in our community right now, then the communities that are reliant on fossil fuels will fall further behind, because we know that fossil fuels are going to increasingly leave the global economy as we move toward addressing the catastrophic effects of climate change.”

The $60 billion would provide “tremendous potential” to create 270,000 direct and indirect jobs in renewable energy industries, Ms. Marshall said. And another 140,000 “induced jobs” could come as a result of growth in those industries.

“So — top line — we are looking at the potential for 410,000 new jobs annually, across our four-state region on average as a result of this investment,” Ms. Marshall said. “That’s a huge impact on our region — it could represent 2.7% of our regional workforce.”

Without the effort, “Analysis suggests we could be looking at the loss of up to 100,000 jobs in fossil fuel-related industries by 2030 across the region that includes about 40,000 jobs in fossil fuel related industries in West Virginia alone,” Ms. Marshall said.

Mr. Peduto thanked his fellow mayors from Huntington and Morgantown, W.Va., Youngstown, Dayton, Columbus and Cincinnati Ohio, and Louisville, Ky., emphasizing the importance of the private/public partnership by citing how more than 100,000 jobs may be lost if nothing is done in the next 10 years.

The partnership is named after Gen. George C. Marshall of Uniontown, who led the post-World War II investment strategy to rebuild Europe and its economic and democratic institutions. Mr. Peduto said there is an immediate need for a similar type of investment strategy in Middle America.

Referring to how the Pittsburgh region was impacted just a few decades ago by the demise of steel, he said of the fossil fuel industry: “If we decide to shut it down tomorrow, we will have learned nothing from 1979, when we lost our industry and how we got knocked down on our knees and families had to leave Pittsburgh and young people had to leave Pittsburgh and for 30 years we struggled to create new industries.

“We must not make the same mistake twice. We have to be proactive. We need investment. We need to be able to create partnerships — and instead of [breaking] down bridges, we need to start to learn how to build them.”

Read the original article here.


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