For decades, the American economy has run almost entirely on fossil fuels. Oil, gas and coal have been the driving energy sources that have powered the American economy, and understandably so. Renewable energy technologies were too nascent, too early in development to be able to make a significant impact, and the costs of transitioning to pure renewables was financially unbearable for all but a handful of Americans. And so we continued to rely on fossil fuels, along with the rest of the world, while developing new cleaner energy sources with the hopes of one day transitioning to them.

But that was decades ago. Today’s story on energy is different.

Recently (as of May 14, 2021), there was a cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline which resulted in the closure of the major fuel pipeline. The 5,500 mile system transports approximately 45% of the fuel consumed on the East Coast, including Georgia, and any impacts on the pipeline have a major impact on the communities that rely on them for fuel. 

While this impact is likely to have no major repercussions beyond a few weeks, it’s left many communities scrambling to fill up on gas, an image reminiscent of the gas shortages during other major disaster events like Hurricane Katrina. In some parts of the country, enormous lines have formed up near gas stations as residents rush to fill up their tanks and anything else they can find. Some places have even seen customers brawling with one another as they fight over fuel during this temporary shortage.

It’s quite incredible how much our society can be impacted or panicked by this temporary fuel shortage. It’s also a warning that a much bigger and longer lasting incident might have a devastating impact.

As a state and as a country, we need to be better prepared for fuel and energy shortages like this. While many will blame this incident on cybersecurity, we can’t afford to simply expect better cybersecurity to solve all our future energy concerns. The Texas electric grid disaster this year was caused by climate change, not cyberattacks, and resulted in at least 151 deaths. Future effects of climate change will only make incidents like these more common.

That’s why it’s so important that we take steps to do more than update our infrastructure and improve cybersecurity. We need to diversify our energy portfolio by investing more into renewable energy. Not only is it vital to ensure energy security, it’s also popular with Georgians. A recent poll by LCV and Data for Progress has shown that 76% of Georgians support President Biden’s American Jobs Plan and 79% support investments for clean energy jobs. Another 75% are in favor of expanding clean energy tax credits.

It’s not a partisan issue. More and more Americans recognize the necessity of growing and developing a large and thriving renewable energy industry. By supporting President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, we’ll not only ensure more workers in Georgia but also good, well-paying jobs that focus on clean and renewable energy. In the process, we’ll also diversify our grid, making us more resilient to energy and fuel crises regardless of where the danger comes from.

We can’t let this opportunity slip by like it did a decade ago with President Obama’s Affordable Care Act and the expansion of healthcare services. History has made it clear that Americans on both sides of the aisle are deeply in favor of the ACA and it’s mandate to expand healthcare access. Likewise, history will no doubt make it clear in another decade that Biden’s AJP was not only popular but vital for America and that the states that adopted it reaped rich benefits while the states that refused went through senseless self-inflicted pain.