In the future, South Dakota will face more extreme heat, drought, and flooding. 2021 was a drought year for much of our state while 2019 brought us severe floods. Although both have happened before, the climate change risk is increased regularity and severity that imposes significant costs in human life, livelihood, and security.
Widespread drought decreases crop yields and increases livestock feed prices for farmers and ranchers. Wildfires threaten total destruction of homes, businesses, and livestock. More frequent and heavier precipitation increases floods harming livestock, crops, homes, and businesses. These types of changes require coordinated federal and state action as costs are growing. After 40 years of self-sufficiency, the National Flood Insurance Program has relied upon billions in taxpayer subsidies since 2005 due to more frequent and severe hurricanes. Indeed, Florida governor Ron DeSantis has advocated for legislation to address the risk from rising sea levels. Even the Department of Defense treats climate change as a threat multiplier and is planning accordingly.
American energy independence is first and foremost a national security issue, but it overlaps substantially with the climate issue. Oil is a global commodity so its price is determined by global events no matter how much is produced here. In fact, export of American oil was banned from 1977-2015 but that did not insulate gasoline prices from global events. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is simply the most recent in a string of events dating back to the 1973 OPEC oil embargo that highlight our dependence upon foreign actors. In contrast, electricity is not a global commodity because it cannot be put on a ship and taken elsewhere for sale so its price is only impacted by events here. Protecting our economy from the adverse consequences of overseas events is best accomplished by reducing our reliance upon oil as much as reasonably possible. Thus, maximizing development and implementation of clean energy sources offers a unique two for one return on our investment.
In South Dakota, the sun shines bright and the wind blows hard (third-most-active winds in the US). It is precisely those attributes that give our state the potential to be a 21st century American energy leader. As senator, I will support actions such as tax incentives to improve the energy efficiency of buildings and for clean energy vehicles, investments to speed the transition of our economy from fossil fuels toward renewable sources, and more funding for renewable energy research. When I think about clean energy, I see Americans – South Dakotans – with good paying jobs and more money in their pockets due to lower utility bills. American ingenuity has changed the world in the past and it can do so again if we support the effort.