by Delegate Joey Garcia
A man climbed to his roof to escape a dangerous flood. He rejected offers to ride to safety in a rowboat, a motorboat, and a helicopter, responding “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he will save me.” When the man drowned, he asked God why he had forsaken him. God answered “Come on, man, I sent you a helicopter. What more do you expect?”
In the most recent U.S. Census, West Virginia’s population declined more than any other state. Our families have prayed for divine intervention, for good paying jobs and opportunities for young people to stay, rebuild and succeed in West Virginia. Fortunately, a helicopter may be on its way across the Appalachian Mountains.
The $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package could be a game-changer for West Virginia. It has a distinct West Virginia flavor with Sen. Joe Manchin facilitating the bipartisan compromise for a bill which reflects Sen. Shelly Moore Capito’s early negotiations with President Joe Biden. This federal legislation will prioritize investments in bold energy innovation and technology, along with much-needed funding for critical infrastructure like broadband internet, roads, bridges and clean water systems.
West Virginia has always been at the forefront of America’s energy economy. We mine the coal that powers the world, and the coal and natural gas industries will remain at the heart of our economic potential. Why can’t we also lead the way with the next generation of energy innovation? This includes electric vehicles, solar panels, carbon capture technology, hydroelectricity, wind turbines and battery power. We must capitalize on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring new energy jobs and industries to West Virginia through the bipartisan infrastructure package.
A substantial investment in energy innovation, technology and infrastructure would create quality jobs in engineering, construction and manufacturing in West Virginia. Our young men and women would have an opportunity to stay in West Virginia to build their lives as they rebuild our state. Abandoned mines could be reclaimed and retooled as new development projects. New technologies for electric vehicles, wind turbines and solar panels could be manufactured locally. We could replace lead pipes to ensure safe water for our children and retrofit schools and public buildings to make them energy efficient.
We could do all these things in West Virginia, using West Virginia workers.
Pursuing new jobs in energy innovation, technology and infrastructure does not mean leaving coal jobs behind. America’s energy future must take an all-of-the-above approach. The development and commercialization of carbon capture technology must be a centerpiece of energy innovation. West Virginia steel will also be required to construct roads, bridges and buildings across America. With West Virginia’s economic future at a crossroads, we have the potential to rebuild our infrastructure and economy so the jobs of the future will be locked into West Virginia. But the jobs of the future will not wait on us forever.
The bipartisan infrastructure package is like that helicopter sent from God. This is the opportunity that West Virginia has been praying for. And when God sends a helicopter, you climb on board, strap in and get ready for the ride.
Delegate Joey Garcia (D-Marion) is an attorney at Manchin Injury Law Group and a member of the House of Delegates from Fairmont. You can reach him at (304) 340-3124 or email@example.com.