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As a delegate in the West Virginia Legislature serving as the minority chairwoman of the Small Business Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Committee, I have long advocated for investing in a clean energy future for our state.

Doing so will not only help battle the devastating effects of climate change and improve the public health of West Virginians, it also will be a boon to our economy and create more jobs. Recently, I worked with my colleagues in the House of Delegates to pass legislation that would help bring solar developers to the Mountain State, and I am proud of how far we’ve come in creating more jobs by investing in clean energy. But there is so much more that can be done.

Bold federal investments in electric vehicles and EV infrastructure will help create the good jobs that West Virginians need. Congress must pass a budget that would make the investments needed to put people in the Mountain State back to work and fight the climate crisis threatening our health, economy and environment.

Manufacturers account for more than 10% of total output in West Virginia, employing 48,000 workers. Bold federal investments in clean transportation infrastructure will create even more of these jobs.

In fact, there were 10,078 West Virginians working in clean energy, as of 2019, and electric and hybrid electric vehicle employment grew more than 6% in 2020, the biggest increase of any clean energy category. If we commit to investing in EVs and EV infrastructure, including building out charging stations and electricity grid updates, the manufacturing and construction jobs potential is unlimited. Without these investments, however, many of these family-sustaining jobs will wind up overseas, as the market for EVs expands. We can’t afford to miss out.

These investments also will help our state mitigate the economic damages caused by extreme weather events that are made worse by climate change.

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Earlier this summer, for example, Morgantown experienced severe flooding that caused economic damages to homes, property and small businesses. Since the transportation sector is the largest source of carbon pollution in the United States, investing in clean transportation infrastructure is one of the easiest things we can do to address the climate crisis and reduce the economic hardship West Virginians suffer because of extreme weather.

It is important, too, that we remember the negative health consequences of climate change and polluted air. Climate change is making our days hotter, which threatens the health of West Virginians. Among all states, West Virginia is facing one of the top 10 largest increases in heat wave days by 2050, and there are 60,000 West Virginians who are particularly vulnerable to extreme heat.

Pollution from cars and trucks also dirties our air and can lead to increased respiratory disease, like asthma, of which more than 33,000 children and 160,000 adults suffer from in West Virginia. Without ambitious investments in EVs, which produce zero tailpipe pollution, dirty cars will continue to pollute the air and harm the health of our communities. West Virginians deserve cleaner air.

West Virginia is taking steps to address the climate crisis, spur our economy and improve public health, but we need our elected officials in the federal government to listen to the large majority of Americans who want Congress to go further than the bipartisan infrastructure agreement to make additional investments in our clean energy future.

By supporting bold investments in EVs and EV infrastructure, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has the opportunity to serve his constituents by creating more jobs and a stronger economy in West Virginia.

Kayla Young, D-Kanawha, represents the 35th District in the West Virginia House of Delegates.

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